I Have Cancer
What Should I Do Now?
Breast Cancer Awareness month is quickly approaching its end. Perhaps, like me a few years ago, you or someone you know is facing a cancer diagnosis. As a thirteen-year cancer survivor, I can certainly commiserate and would like to share a few suggestions on how to face this situation.
As a great-granddaughter, granddaughter, daughter, and mother of others with this diagnosis, I am all too aware of what lies ahead. But aside from the initial natural fear, a likely bout of pity, and physical/mental struggles it’s important to share the faith, hope, and love of a cancer diagnosis.
What Can Others Do To Help?
I have written much about the experiences of the five affected generations of women in my family. My collection of posts, however, is found lacking in tangible advise and support. It seems that only the surface has been scratched. The widespread pandering, betrayal, and exploitation of cancer victims have come across clearly. Yet, there seems to be a great need for comforting and informational words to fellow members of the Cancer Club. Hopefully the following will help fill that gap.
Cancer Isn’t a Death Sentence
As frightening as it is to hear the words, “you have cancer”, it isn’t a death sentence. The amazing advances in the medical field have made me a 13 year survivor while all those sharing the BRCA1 cancer gene before me survived no longer than 5 years.
Aside from morally bankrupt embryonic stem cell research, a vast array of ethical cancer treatments are now common. Even medications for symptoms, as well as surgical techniques have seen amazing advancement. There really is much hope for a full recovery and a long, healthy life.
Fear is a Natural Initial Reaction
Who among us isn’t afraid of the unknown? Only a handful can claim that type of bravery. Most of us like the security of our comfortable, familiar lives. When an element of the unknown is introduced, our natural reaction is fear. Until we inform ourselves with what’s going on, this feeling may well persist.
Fortunately, this fear can also be a great catalyst for action. When we fear for our physical body, we’re more likely to decidedly seek safety and good will. Use this natural inclination to your advantage by pursuing the best course of action for you.
Feeling Hopeless Can Be Normal
Fear may be followed by hopelessness or a feeling of pity. Perhaps both. When given such a stark reminder of mortality, it’s natural to go through a full range of emotions. Even our animal friends have the instinct to run from danger. As creatures of God with an immortal soul, however, we can bring ourselves back to our gift of reasoning.
A helpful response might be to count your blessings. Do you have a loving family, caring doctors, and experienced medical staff? Is your relationship with God what it should be? If you have the advantage of any or all of these blessings, be sure to bring your focus back to them. If not, pursue others who will help. Encourage friends and family in their efforts to help. Consult a priest or spiritual adviser in an effort to bring your immortal soul back to full health. Grace is a mighty, strong medicine for an ailing body and soul.
Share Your Feelings
Those who love you need to know how you feel in order to be there for you. It’s okay to reserve a bit of panic solely for ourselves, but allowing others in will empower them to console you. Lay your fears on the table for yourself as well. Face them, head-on, and become familiar with the details of your fears. Can you rationalize some of the fears by identifying and then diminishing them? Give it a try. Put a name or face on what it is you’re feeling. An unidentified feeling of foreboding may be conquered by bringing your fears to the light of day.
Acknowledge the Fear Others Feel
Acknowledge that your loved ones are frightened too. A cancer diagnosis is shared with everyone with whom you have a relationship. You may be the sole physically affected person but your family and friends are afraid on your behalf – because they love you. Don’t deny them their feelings or the opportunity to offer the balm of comfort.
As you join with others in facing your diagnosis, teamwork can help alleviate some of the negative feelings you may be experiencing. Your common bond of love can make facing the next few months of treatment much more tolerable.
Fiercely Face the Reality of a Cancer Diagnosis
Don’t live in denial. While it’s advisable to refrain from doing your own research on the internet (big no-no), do ask questions from your healthcare professionals. They know your unique case and can offer information based on you as an individual. No cancer patient is the same as another. No cancer diagnosis is either. Let your specialists employ their vast education and rely on them for answers. Who knows, the cancer of diagnosis you’re imagining might be much more formidable than the reality.
Facing your diagnosis head-on might also diminish the fear of the unknown. There will be power in knowledge, once the details, treatment, and prognosis are known. Facing a known entity removes many doubts and replaces them with firm resolution to do battle. If your medical team doesn’t seem up to par, don’t hesitate to seek a second or even third opinion. You’re worth getting the best care possible.
Settling for local, generalized care with a cancer diagnosis can mean the difference between life and death. When dealing with the subtleties of various forms of cancer, relying on a specialist, especially trained and focused, is the proactive choice. You may even share the experience of hurt feelings from local doctors who have been replaced with out-of-town specialists but remember, you are the patient and when it comes to aggressive treatment, you are in the driver’s seat. Don’t let personalities get in the way of foolish pride or fear of conflict. This is your life!
Rely on God
The most important action is reliance on God. He, Who made you, knows you and what you need. Find peace in knowing He wants what’s best for you. Put yourself at His mercy and allow Him to work through you, to find your best path. When you’re feeling the strain, go to Him for comfort. In need of answers? Petition Him to guide your way to finding them. He will never let you down, even when others (or you, yourself) are less than helpful. No one knows your heart like He does. Pray unceasingly and ask others to do the same. Know that the Communion of Saints is there, kneeling beside you, and interceding on your behalf.
Many faithful, from all corners of the world prayed for me during my cancer journey. Their prayers were felt and heard. As a 13 year survivor, I owe my life to Him. The same is true for our daughter. Nine plus years later, she is cancer free and her healthy little girl will turn 9 on Thanksgiving. The prayers of the Passionist nuns in our county even brought a miracle. We three – daughter, granddaughter, and I – are living proof that prayer is the most powerful medicine for the healing of body and mind.