Dear Fellow Traveler,
How has your week been? My highlight of the week is that I did something that I had promised myself I would never do. I gave in to a minimal and natural amount of highlighting to camouflage my more than average amount of gray hairs…and to my surprise, it boosted my feeling about myself more than I had anticipated! I even purchased a few hair accessories which helped me to feel human and feminine.
Sometimes our health struggles can make us feel less attractive or desirable. In fact, sometimes I feel crooked! Crooked, because I feel that my body must be broken since it developed cancer to begin with and then was further damaged by therapies. It may seem that cancer is the gift that keeps on giving in terms of nature and frequency — even though it may be hard to tell whether your medical issues developed due to your genes, environmental exposure, cancer treatments, etc. You may feel like your list of medical issues is never ending and continues to grow with late- and long-term effects. You’re probably tired of constantly going for testing and seeing doctors. (If you’re like me, your health care team has grown drastically.) Do you find yourself wondering when this will slow down, stop, or just normalize?
Some of you may be more like Tigger, trying to be proactive and on top of your health, while others may prefer to be more like Eeyore, forced to react when things hit him in the face. (Ignorance is bliss.) Both perspectives and anything in between are what make all of us different, unique, and human. As with everything in life though, it’s best to pursue moderation and avoid being on the extreme end of the spectrum which may lead to paralysis from anxiety or procrastination.
You’re only human. We all find our own illusionary balance in managing our medical issues. What works today, this week, or this month, may not work forever. The trick is to keep an eye on the big picture by remembering that you don’t live to go to the doctor, you go to the doctor to live! Your health may control many aspects of your life and at times may try (and succeed) in making your mind become your own worst enemy. Illness can bring you to a dark place of anger, sadness, and frustration. In that case I hope you will be open to getting professional help (yes, adding another provider) to help you grow through the rough spot to arrive at a better space where there is room for little joys, new memories, and the pursuit of meaningful activities, regardless of how small your world has become due to your health and the amount and severity of medical issues you are juggling. It’s the little things that matter and can bring a gorgeous smile on your loved one’s faces that will brighten your mind and warm your heart!
This balance will allow you to be more resilient when life throws yet another inevitable curveball! And remember that the opposite holds true. The darkness and rain allow you to be more appreciative and grateful of the sunny periods in your life. The good and bad go hand-in-hand, keeping us in line and life in perspective.
You may feel guilty that you are complaining while you should be grateful for being alive, but the cancer journey can be complicated and overwhelming. It may help if you make it simpler by breaking it down into smaller steps, asking your health care team members to prioritize your appointments and testing, and asking loved ones to help you schedule your appointments, as well as drive and accompany you so you can have some distraction while there. Perhaps you can combine a doctor’s visit with doing something that touches your soul or makes you smile, no matter how small!
Learn and Think:
This week, since we are about to head into Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I would like to recommend a few resources that might help the women amongst us. (Sorry, men. However, parts of these books may be helpful to you who have women in your lives.)
- The Vagina Bible, written by an experienced board certified gynecologist, in an amusing manner, as highlighted in this NPR piece.
- Breasts – The Owners Manual, written by a board-certified breast surgeon, whose writing aims to empower you about cancer prevention as well as breast cancer treatment decisions.
- Oprah’s Ultimate Guide to Dealing with Menopause. Please remember that survivors of hormone responsive cancers should avoid usage of hormones.
Live and Feel:
- Olivia Newton-John explains about “being realistically upbeat” and her cancer journey in a heart-warming profile by CBS.
- The Atlantic Festival has just been completed, but some of the content is accessible online to view from the comfort of your home – conversations, experiences, connections!
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