(This is the sixth in a new series of blog posts, the focus of which is keeping yourself sane and healthy in the face of Real Trouble. The photos for this series may, or may not, have anything to do with the subject matter. Just some nice photos from Mexico taken during this time. This is a picture I took of an angry bird…sort of a picture of me when I find myself around negative people.)
I don’t want this post to feel like I am scolding you, but I think this needs to be said. Also, keep in mind that I am only speaking for myself, and my own experience. This is certainly true for how I personally feel, and, as far as I know, has never been said. At least, it hasn’t been said enough.
The hardest thing about the cancer diagnosis is the immediate fear that grips your heart. To me, cancer has always been the very scariest of diseases. The reason for this fear is that all I have ever heard about it has been how completely awful it is. In many cases, I have thought that it meant a series of extremely destructive treatments, and then you die. If I had not had all those thoughts preprogrammed into my mind, I think it would have been much easier for me to have faced my own diagnosis.
One thing that people do that is extremely not helpful is that “copy and post if you hate cancer” thing. People who have never had cancer really have no idea what it feels like to hear the diagnosis. Yet they copy and share these kinds of posts like they are the very gospel. “Cancer sucks, cancer is hell, I hate cancer, this is awful,” etc. In fact, some of these kinds of posts go on to list all the horrible things that cancer patients must endure…in graphic detail. Stop, just stop with all this. Maybe you do hate cancer. I mean, really…who loves it? Who loves any disease? But, lighten up. This is just not helpful to a person who is actually dealing with it, or facing the journey of treatment. It only adds to the fears, and it only makes the person feel more separate from the healthy humans who are so actively appearing to be their advocates, but who are, in fact, scaring the shit out of them with all these gory details.
Another one is all the posts that find the worst possible pictures they can find of suffering people, and then go on the tirades about how horrible cancer is. Yes, it is a pretty horrible disease, and people do die from it, but this is not helpful to a person who is trying to go through it with as little drama as possible. The last thing I needed to do was to identify with these pictures. Just stop doing this. It is not helpful.
Then there are the people who have gone through it and continue to see themselves as victims. They can talk for hours about how bad their experience was and about how their life will never be good again. This is not helpful either. My god. You got through it. You have survived. Focus on that. Stop with the lists of all the bad things it has done to your life. I am not making light of your experience. I know that cancer does, in fact, suck. But, this playing the victim thing is very much not helpful…especially to you. Stop it now. If you think that hearing all this is helpful to someone who is in the middle of treatment, you are very mistaken.
Stop with the statistics. And, if you are faced with this diagnosis, don’t get online and look for statistics. I was diagnosed with Stage 4 liver cancer. My surgeon didn’t give me much hope. The last thing I needed to do was see what my “statistical chances” were. I knew they weren’t good. But no one is a statistic. Everyone is an individual. Another thing I didn’t need to focus on was my age when all this happened, and how much harder that was going to make my survival. The only information that was important to me was that I was not ready to go, and that I was going to do everything I could to live. That was what I needed to know, and that was all I needed to know.
Then there are those people, some of them are in the alternative medicine fields, who want to discourage people from traditional treatments. I know without a doubt that if I hadn’t done chemo I would most likely not be around to write this post. Anyone who tried to discourage me from doing what I needed to do was taking a very risky route with me. Every alternative person I dealt with was asked how they felt about chemo and radiation. If I got a negative answer, I did not work with that person. I had one person, early on, who billed herself as a “healer.” After she found I was was going to do chemo, she really freaked out on me, and told me some of the scariest things I have heard. I never saw her again. She was not helpful at all.
I am a very progressive, whole food, kind of person. I believe that there are many very good alternative treatments and I used several of them. But, while I believe they were extremely important to my overall well-being, I don’t believe that doing these approaches without the chemo would have saved my life. So, save your extreme ideas for when you need them yourself. If you want to play around with someone’s survival, let it only be with your own. Just stop all the negative things about chemo and radiation. If someone needs it, they are not helped at all by your opinions about it. If you are responsible for talking someone out of it, be ready to feel responsible for whatever happens to them. I’m not saying that there aren’t people who have been cured by alternative means. I’m just saying that I know that I needed to do exactly what I did. In the abstract, I believe in faith healing. But, you had better be completely sure that you have the kind of faith to receive it. Sometimes you might just have the faith to believe that your treatments will work. Faith played an important role in my own process. The thing I had to do was locate my own faith, and then be comfortable in that place.
I have gone through both chemo and radiation. It was not a walk in the park. There were some days that I didn’t feel good. There were some days that I looked like shit. But, it really wasn’t nearly as horrible as it is cracked up to be, at least for me. What I am sure of is that all the alternative things I did to support my healthy cells really did help me get through it as easily as possible.The whole thing would have been so much easier if I had not been programmed to think it was going to be really, really terrible. In the fight for my life, the biggest battle was with the dark thoughts and scary words that I had to get out of my head.
I have believed for a very long time that we create our reality by our thoughts and our words. People sometimes act like they believe this, and give lip-service to this concept, then they sabotage themselves by turning around and thinking negative thoughts and speaking negative words. This also applies to the thoughts, vibrations, and words of the people around us. I am fortunate to be in a situation now in my life where I can choose the people I am going to be around. I have done my best to eliminate people who project to me, either by their energy or their words, that I am pretty much screwed. I got a comment recently from someone who said, “I know you have been through hell.” The fact is, no one but me knows what I have been through. If you think you do, you are only projecting your own fears and negativity on to me. In fact, in the midst of this crazy year I have come to realize that it has been a pretty amazing time. I have learned a lot about myself, and I have learned a lot about life in general. I have been set free of so many things that have always bound me. I won’t go so far as to say that cancer is a gift, but I will say that sometimes what has been meant for evil can be used for good. (More about this concept in a future post.) I choose to be around people who see me as I see myself…healthy and whole. And, yes, you can see yourself that way even in the midst of cancer…It just takes a lot of discipline and determination. And it is not helpful to receive any information to the contrary.