Do Not Let Cancer Control Your Mind As It Can Control Your Body
There are a few phrases that we may hear in our lifetimes that take our breath away. One of those is, "You have cancer." I recall my appointment in 2014 when I was told I had aggressive bladder cancer. I am thankful that one of my daughters had accompanied me as those were the last words I actually heard during that visit,
You can do too much research
It is so easy after hearing that you have cancer to immediately go to the worst-case scenario. I recall my doctor saying, “While it is normal to research your disease, please do not overdo the research and let it control your life.” I can honestly say that for a few weeks, I did exactly what he said not to do. I was online constantly reading up on treatments and procedures, survival rates, and everything in between. I went on sites where people with bladder cancer posted questions and received a plethora of widely varying responses. I spoke to survivors who I found online. I let my bladder cancer control my every thought and every part of my life.
Deciding to take control
On my next visit, I spoke to my doctors about options, treatments, etc. I was first told to take a breath and understand that as a team, they would get me through this disease and to please not let it consume me. As difficult as it was to understand from someone who has not been diagnosed with cancer, that is exactly the best thing to do. It was at that moment when I decided that I needed to be in control, not my cancer.
Look for the positives and hang onto them
If I had to do it all over again, I would not spend endless hours online reading everything. Unfortunately, along with the good information comes the bad. I read about positive but also the negative outcomes - people who just said it was a death sentence, the horrors of the treatments, and how life would be forever changed and not in a good way.
Staying mentally strong
Honestly, I should have honed in on the positives only, immediately reached out to find the good endings, the survivors who have moved on with a great life because that certainly was my end goal. The ability to mentally power your way through a disease such as cancer and come out okay at the end is not a talent, but should be a goal. Believe me, those people are out there and I consider myself one of them.
Limiting the negative thoughts
I let myself wallow in self-pity and said, “Why me?” for a few weeks. I was depressed going to tests and having procedures, but my friends and family always managed to sway the subject away from cancer. For that I am forever grateful. While we certainly understand and would find it normal to have cancer affect you mentally and emotionally, it is so important to work to have those negative impacts on your life be temporary.
See yourself as a survivor with that outcome in mind
Set a goal: a trip, returning to work, splurge on a “survivor gift.” I did all of them. A vacation to the Rockies, returning to work 4 weeks post-op, and a beautiful Brahmin handbag. Good for me.
Suggestions to take care of your mental health
As difficult as it sounds when you find out you have cancer, your mental health is just as important as your physical health. I highly suggest some of the following:
- Keep in touch with those friends who are supportive of you and make you laugh.
- Do not talk about your cancer all the time.
- Decide who you can confide in/who will be supportive, and take a break from those who may not be.
- Do not spend your time reading about the horrors of cancer. There is nothing pretty about it, so why torture yourself?
- Reach out to survivors such as myself and get the real story about the disease, treatments, and getting your life back.
- If at all possible, meet survivors in person at a local support group or one online. If the first group does not work for you, try another.
- Make decisions for treatments based on what works best for your life and lifestyle, not your family, friends, etc.
- Reach out when you are down or need help. Understand that even if you never knew anyone with bladder cancer before, there are literally thousands of us out there.
- Most importantly, believe that you will get through this challenge and stick with that belief.
Cancer has been my biggest "speed bump" in life
I often refer to my cancer as the biggest speed bump I will ever face. You can get your life back, and I am living proof of that. No one ever said that life is fair, and while we may not be able to control the things that impact us physically, we do have some control over how we react to those things and how they affect us mentally and emotionally. Take a breath.