The Opportunity to Change Your Perspective on Bladder Cancer
Before you read this, I would like to ask you to take a moment. Think about that moment when you realized you were experiencing symptoms. That moment when you received your diagnosis. When you started treatment or went into your first procedure. And for those of us fortunate enough to be further along, the moment you found out you were in remission. Think about how you feel about bladder cancer right NOW.
If you're like me, I'm guessing that you have felt different ways at different points along the road. That is completely normal.
Constant reminders of bladder cancer
However, bladder cancer can sometimes drone on. Bladder cancer survivors don't always have moments or periods of time where you can "forget" that you had cancer. Most of us have constant reminders.
If you still have your bladder, you will likely have continuous visits to the urologist for cystoscopies. You likely always check for anything abnormal or blood on your toilet paper when you urinate. If you have had a diversion of any kind, there are constant reminders in your life that remind you that you no longer tinkle the same way as most others. You may have to go to the bathroom every couple of hours, even through the night. You may have to catheterize yourself or live with an ostomy appliance attached to your abdomen constantly.
How self-reflection helps me
The jarring reality of bladder cancer is always there. For better, but especially for worse. It will never leave you.
Every January, I take time to self-reflect. I've always had challenges in my life, yet somehow have remained fairly optimistic in my life despite them. I think self-reflection (and the practice of gratitude) has helped me accomplish this even in the toughest times.
The brutal experience of chemo after surgery
In January 2016, I was 5 months from my diagnosis, 4 from my radical cystectomy, and smack-dab in the middle of chemo. Chemo made me continuously nauseated. I would spontaneously vomit, even without a trigger or anything on my stomach. I could barely walk well enough to go to my chemo and hydration treatment. Due to my compromised immune system, I chose not to be around many people to avoid catching the usual winter illnesses that made the rounds in my area. It was a truly brutal time in my life.
Choosing to change my perspective
Even so, I stopped and took a look at my life and reflected. It was not easy that year, yet I still chose to change my perspective on bladder cancer. It was a mental turning point for me. It was far from easy. I had a lot of work to do to get beyond the point I was at the time, but it was necessary. Choosing to change my perspective helped me retain my life and improve my health.
From that moment on, I chose to change my perspective on bladder cancer. I chose to accept the realities. I had embraced my ostomy from the beginning, but I struggled with the scarring and exterior changes to my body. I chose to start looking at them as blessings. Yes, they are constant reminders of bladder cancer. They are also constant reminders that I survived.
It's not easy
Changing your perspective is work. It is not easy. Changing your perspective doesn't happen overnight, either. It takes time. However, it is completely worth it.
In changing my perspective, I was able to move on from bladder cancer and into survivorship. I was able to see some silver linings. (Yes, there are silver linings.) I was able to find the motivation to pull myself out of my funk and start taking action on improving my health, getting stronger physically.
Practicing gratitude and continuing to adapt
Changing my perspective on bladder cancer is something that I occasionally need to renew as well. Things change. Secondary issues fluctuate. Follow-up scans and appointments do not always go as I want. Changing perspectives has allowed me to expand my practice of gratitude and make improvements in my life to embrace survivorship and help others.
I am grateful for where I have come from as well as where I am going.