October 16, 2013
Lessons Learned During Cancer Treatment
The other day at breakfast, Greg asked me what I've learned from going through my cancer treatment. When cancer presented itself, my goal was to find "Zen" during my treatment, but I had yet to stop and really consider what I've learned. Maybe it's still too early in the process and my lesson has yet to present itself, you know, "hind sight is 20/20". I have to admit, I expected the heavens to part and some great epiphany to hit me at the end of chemotherapy. Well, that never happened. Now I feel like a dolt!
So after the question was posed, I pondered for a while and know that I have learned some lessons touring chemotherapy. None of them grand by any means, but they are lessons I've stumbled upon nonetheless and might be helpful to others who are going through cancer treatment. Here they are ...
- Chemotherapy nurses are angels sent from God. Yep, they are intuitive, wise and immensely caring people. Honor and respect them always! And bringing them treats once in a while is a great idea too!
- You may feel like you're dying, but you'll be treated like a rock star. People will shower you with gifts, bend over backwards to help you out and give you oodles of encouragement. Take it all. Feel blessed. The love from others, however it's presented to you, is given to get you through this hell on earth.
- Someone always has it worse. I learned this from my gracious guest bloggers. Cory, Ray, Tom and Belle. I applaud their wherewithal and courage. They have been dealt some hefty cancer cards and are embracing life in spite cancer. They are my heroes and I am proud to call them friends!
- Don't be stubborn, seek help! I am fortunate enough to realize there are some issues in life that are too big for me to take on by myself. I am not Wonder Woman. Hence why I reached out to Imerman Angels and requested an earthly angel assistant. My wish was granted with Lee. She too is a gift sent from God. She is open and very responsive to all my questions. She pays attention to where I'm at in the chemo process and knows the right questions to ask. She has many helpful suggestions for dealing with aliments during treatment. And she's just an all around sweet person who I can call my angel and my friend!
- Put it in low gear and keep it there. If you're a type A personality, like me, you'll have a hard time letting stuff go and operating at a snails pace during chemotherapy, but it is necessary! Most times you'll be forced into submission as your body will now allow you to do anything but be bed ridden. But when you get that rare feeling like you can get up and do something, just take it slow and don't over do it. REST as much as you can!
- It's OK to melt down. I had more than a few melt downs over the last six months. It's daunting to find out you have a disease that can end your life. It's also a tremendous physical and mental burden to take on chemotherapy! At some point you'll need to cleanse your heart and soul with tears so you can rid yourself of the negative thoughts and hopefully move toward the positive mindset you'll need to fight the battle of your life. Mind you, it IS a roller coaster ride ALL the way through treatment and even during the recovery stage. Just know it's OK to succumb to the anger and sadness once in a while so you can get it out of your system and move on to a better state of mind.
- Kick your caregiver(s) out of the house. OK, not permanently, just for a few hours now and again. It is important to be cognizant of the toll chemo takes on those close to you. It took some minor meltdowns between Greg and I before we realized he needed to get out of the house so he could recharge. Seeing a loved one endure cancer treatment is very stressful. So Greg finally took in a few baseball games, some long bike rides and started hitting the gym again which I think was a big help.
- Life is too important to be taken seriously. I look at some of the intense stuff that I've had to deal with over the past decade and wonder if I could have got through it in a less dramatic fashion? Some of it, probably not. Other issues that were less intense, probably so. Cancer has taught me that I need to lighten up. I tend to take some things too seriously. Am I there yet? Hell no. I am a work in progress. All I can do is be present in each moment and try to remember there are more important things in life.
- Lighten up your load. (This may not be for everyone.) I had a lot of time to lay around and ponder my life during chemotherapy. I thought about some of the amazing experiences I've had with Greg since we reunited in 2010. I wouldn't trade those for anything. Then I got to looking at all the 'stuff' I've accumulated over the years. Stuff I now believe was purchased to fill a void in my past life. Recently I've started purging my stuff and it feels good. Every year I try to unload more and more until I can get down to the bare essentials and that is NOT easy. My new motto, clear the clutter and clear my mind! I want to lighten my load so I can put my energy (and cash flow) toward experiences. If nothing else, my goal is to go out of this life with my boots on!
- The only people you need in life are the ones that need you in their life, even when you have nothing left to offer. I was warned that some of the people you thought for sure would be there for you and be supportive through chemotherapy are some times the ones that are quick to abandon you in your time of need. I really couldn't fathom that idea until it happened to me. However there is a flip side to this … there are people you never expected to step up and be uber supportive who do so in a heartbeat. I was blessed enough to be on the receiving end of that experience and for that I am grateful. This experience is how you find your true friends for life!
- Spread an attitude of gratitude. I feel blessed that my stage 3 cancer was caught probably at the earliest possible moment that you can diagnose stage 3 cancer. If you recall, my doctors thought I just had some benign polyps to remove. Then when one was cancerous they thought we'll remove that section of the colon (due to my family history they wanted to treat aggressively) and then I'll be done with it. THEN when they removed lymph nodes along with the section of the colon, they found cancer in two of fifteen the lymph nodes! I am not a doctor, but to me that seems pretty damn early to catch a stage 3 cancer and I'm placing me bets that chemo knocked out any other rogue cancer cells floating around my body! I am grateful for my primary physician who all but walked me to the gastroenterologists office! I'm grateful for my surgeon, my gastroenterologist, my oncologist and all the caring nurses I met along the way. I'm grateful for family and friends who supported me, I'm grateful for my true love who put up with more than his fare share of Linda the last six months. The list goes on and on, but you get my point - PROCLAIM your gratitude to those who helped you and anyone around you who will listen. It's a great manifestation of positive energy!
- Live life to the fullest every chance you get! You know the saying, "dance like no one is watching"? That is what I'm going for! You shouldn't give a shit what others think about how you choose to live your life. Wear your freak flag proudly! Do the things that bring you joy! I am pondering some changes in my life that I am sure will make many scratch their head and wonder why, but I don't give a rat's ass. I believe I was given the gift of more years on this planet and I don't want to squander them! Face it, whether you have cancer or not, everyone deserves to find their bliss! No get off the computer or smart phone and go uncover yours!