One hand reaches out to a group of other hands that are touching.

Finding Peace in the Distance

A cancer diagnosis is never easy. It changes everything. Upon hearing the words and realizing, "I have cancer," it can feel as though time has stopped completely. Or alternatively, the days and weeks can fly by so quickly, as though time will not slow down.

Focusing on the present moment and putting the right support networks in place will help immensely. But so will coming to terms with what is and isn't possible, depending on your situation.

When my mother was diagnosed with bladder cancer, I wanted to rush to her side. But living in another country and with covid regulations removing the possibility of actually being there, I had to come to terms with what I could and couldn't do. I hope sharing my experience may help anyone in a similar situation.

The importance of living in the now

The importance of living in the present moment and not getting overwhelmed by worries about the future (or regrets about the past) can help promote a sense of peace and resilience. This is much easier said than done when someone you love is fighting a battle against cancer, and you cannot be there to support them.

But eventually, after a lot of unsuccessful attempts at mindfulness, focusing on the present did help me come to terms with being so far away during my Mom's cancer journey.

Understanding what you can and can't do

If you live nearby, there are many ways you can offer support. If you live far away, you may need to get more creative in how you offer support.

But the biggest challenge I had to overcome was to come to terms with what I could and couldn't do. Of course, I wanted to be by my Mom's side, but that just physically wasn't possible. So what was I meant to do?

Accepting what you can and can't do - no matter how much you want to

This eventual acceptance of what was and wasn't possible in my situation was difficult to digest. Of course, I understood what was possible then, but accepting it took a lot longer.

If I could go back in time, I would give myself this advice: Don't feel guilty about things out of your control.

As I read this now, it seems so logical. But in those first few weeks and months, I just couldn't accept that I couldn't be there. Eventually, I came to accept what was and wasn't possible. I just wish I hadn't spent so much time focusing on something I had no control over to change.

Create a support network

To be able to find peace in the distance, I needed to create a support and information network from those who could be around my Mom. What this provided was unedited updates on my Mom's progress. I mean, I got updates from my Mom, sure. But whenever I talked to my Mom, I could hear her putting on her bravest face. She wanted to paint a rosy picture of her reality to make it easier for me. But that wasn't what I wanted or needed.

I needed real updates. This sugar-coated reality tasted bitter. I wanted the truth. That's when I started reaching out to those around her. And that's when I felt like I was more in control of my emotions and the situation because I was getting more viewpoints on my Mom's situation.

Hope is powerful, even in the darkest of times

Eventually, I came to accept the reality that I couldn't be at my Mom's side during this trying time. However, understanding and accepting what I could and couldn't do took more time than expected.

Building support and information networks were one way of staying in control. It also made me feel that I was getting "real" updates, not the rose-tinted version. Looking back, from the initial shock to 5 years later, I can confirm I am more resilient, hopeful, and optimistic.

I now know what I can and can't do and can accept that much quicker than before.

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