The past 7 months have without a doubt been the hardest months of my life. In November 2015 I was diagnosed with Triple Negative breast cancer. I can still remember sitting in my doctor’s office and hearing those words: “You have breast cancer“.
A dark cloud descended that day and it took some force to push it away and keep going. It hasn’t been easy, that cloud has come back time and again and it’s been the biggest wake-up call of my life.
There are things I’ve learned from Cancer that I never would have, had I not had this experience and believe it or not, it isn’t all bad.
I hear people saying this all the time, that good things come from Cancer and I agree that they really do. Some good, some bad. What is apparent though is that there are so many things I’ve learned in the past 7 months about myself and others and I’m grateful for that opportunity, despite the circumstances.
So here are the 7 things I’ve learned from Cancer (so far!):
1. It’s ok to be scared
Fear alone will not kill you so if you’re scared, that’s ok and it’s completely understandable. Cancer alone is scary but when you add to that the relentless appointments, blood tests, scans, waiting for results and treatment, there’s a lot to potentially be scared about. It’s ok to be scared, lean on your support network. It’s their job to help you through.
If your diagnosis or the treatment plan ahead scares you, ask your Doctors and Oncologists to give you more information. Share your fears with them because they will likely have a solution.
2. It’s ok to ignore the world
There will be days when you want to shut everyone and everything else out. To quiet the noise. That’s ok, take time out, step away from other people’s problems and focus on yourself or anything else that gets you through.
If it takes you days or weeks to reply to messages and emails, those people will understand. Go at your own pace. You can control that.
3. It’s ok to hate the world
If you’re faced with feelings of anger, it’s understandable. There is a lot to be angry about with a cancer diagnosis. You might feel “why me?”. Your friends and family will be thinking this for you too.
It’s ok to be angry, to scream and shout if that makes you feel better. There have been many times since my diagnosis when my husband has held me as I’ve screamed and cried. Often, just having that opportunity to vent and let it all out has been enough for me to then pick myself back up and keep going.
4. It’s ok to be self-indulgent
If you have people depending on you, this isn’t always possible of course. When you can though, make some time just for you and don’t feel bad about being selfish and doing whatever you need to do to get through. Your family and friends are there to support you and love you and they’ll be more than happy to allow a little self-indulgence if it makes you feel better in a difficult situation.
5. It’s ok to cry
By this I mean it’s ok to cry in front of other people. Sometimes, things are going to get on top of you and you might feel overwhelmed. If you want to cry, then cry. It doesn’t mean you’ve given up or you’re not coping. It means you’re human.
I gave my husband a warning early on that if I cried, it didn’t mean I was defeated, it just meant I was crying! But knowing that I was just having a “moment” rather than our world falling down around us gave him the confidence to let me cry, knowing I’d be ok afterwards.
6. It’s ok to laugh
Oh and as they say, laughing is the best medicine. For me this couldn’t be more true and in a sea of sadness, a rare chance to find laughter is wonderful.
When times get tough, call a friend who always has you in stitches, watch a funny TV episode or a comedy show, look at *YouTube videos of cute animals or babies or whatever you need to do just to laugh! (* I don’t do this!)
7. It’s ok to make plans
I struggled for months to even consider planning for the future, as if I might jinx things if I looked too far ahead. Of course the rational side of me knew this wouldn’t make a difference but when faced with a life-changing diagnosis, it’s sometimes hard to let yourself think of the future.
When you’re ready, perhaps at the end of your treatment, ease yourself back in gently to planning again. Whether it’s planning to do something later that day, that week, that year. It’s one of the best things I’ve found to make me feel ‘normal’ again.
As much as I would love a crystal ball sometimes to see what my future holds, it probably isn’t wise for any of us to know too much.
Nothing I could have done in my past would have prevented me from getting my cancer. It’s happened and we’re dealing with it.
As much as I would love for none of this to have happened, it’s now going to be one of the biggest events of my life story and one that will likely revisit my thoughts every day.
All I can tell myself, and others, is to live for each day and to do whatever I need to do to get through this and to the other side.
The things I’ve learned from Cancer have made me a stronger version of myself. I am grateful for the treatment I have undergone, for everything that I have and for the days I am still here with my family.
As always, thank you for your support and love x
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