International Womens Day

Diagnosed With Cancer

Have You Been Diagnosed with Cancer?

February 6th is World Cancer Day!  Every day, every hour, every minute someone is diagnosed with cancer!   No matter who you are, how prepared you are, those words ‘You Have Cancer’ are life-changing!  Those three words often come ‘out of the blue’ as the result of routine tests, or a check-up that you thoughtcancer treatments you should ‘make time for!’   The words deliver disbelief, fear, panic and a bundle of other emotions, which muddled into the verbal response – are you sure? But you said it’s nothing serious? Can you fix it?  And similar words of disbelief.

Being diagnosed with cancer puts your life on hold for a moment.  We all know of someone who has had cancer.  Cancer is the ‘threat’ advertisers use to persuade us to eat better; take this vitamin; or to avoid eating, doing or not doing something.  Cancer is scary.  And when you hear those ‘words’ you are scared.

How Do You Handle a Cancer Diagnosis?

There are 5 stages you will go through.  The length of time that you stay in each one will depend on you, your specific diagnosis and your Mindset.

Stage 1: Denial

In around 75% of cases, a cancer diagnosis comes as a shock.  Even if there were weeks, months of tests and biopsies, the possibility of ‘it’ being cancer is pushed away, not thought about.  Denying the possibility, until the reality of the diagnosis is normal.  Almost any other diagnosis is preferable.

Stage 2:  Anger

When things go wrong in our lives, we tend to get annoyed.  When we have no one to blame or nothing we could have done to prevent what has happened we get angry.  The biggest question that pops into your mind is, why me?  Why wasn’t it picked up sooner?  It’s unfair.  When I was diagnosed with cancer, I blamed the Doctor – he told me it was all good; nothing to worry about!  He was wrong.  1% chance and I won the prize.  I was scared, frightened and angry because I had done all the right things.  If I knew what caused cancer, maybe that would take away the anger.  Still today, I have anger.  Anger because of that diagnosis my life can’t go back to how it was.

Stage 3:  Negotiation

If only I had ……. Done or not done…. How different things would have been.   I have ‘second guessed’ myself hundreds of times since my cancer diagnosis.  My Doctor didn’t think it was serious, but could I/should I have pushed for my appointment to be earlier?  Did the 6 months I waited to see the specialist make a difference?  Should I have looked for a second opinion or had a different operation?  Would my ongoing issues be lessened?  Hindsight is a pain in the bum.  There is no point on dwelling on, or even thinking about the alternatives or imagining different outcomes – it is what it is and that’s just life!   I am sure I am not alone with the fantasy of ‘what if!’

Stage 4:  Sadness and Depression

Depression and sadness are two very different emotions and it essential to understand the difference between them.

Sadness is a very normal and understandable emotion to feel after a cancer diagnosis, especially as you start going through treatment.  You will be missing out on activities, you will likely experience discomfort, enduring a stay in hospital, being away from friends and family and missing important events to name just a few.  Cancer treatment means you miss out on important stuff.  Its also hard to deal with the treatment and side affects with a smile on your face.  Some days its impossible to stay positive.  Sadness, anger and the odd ‘hizzy fit’  sort of goes with the situation.

But, depression is different.   Depression interferes with your everyday activities.  Being depressed sucks the joy out of living, it takes a barely tolerable situation and makes it really shitty.   When you suffer from depression it is harder to do anything.  At its worst, life is like walking through treacle 24/7.

Depression requires professional help to assist a balanced recovery.  If you feel life is getting too much for you to deal with, ask for help.   Talking to friends, family via Facetime, Whatsapp or Zoom – even other patients – will boost your resilience and lift your mental health.  Remember, most things in life are temporary and, as such, this too will pass.  This doesn’t mean I don’t experience those feelings of sadness, anger, fear and confusion, but they are now occasional rather than a daily event.

Stage 5:  Acceptance

I was terrified when I was diagnosed with cancer.  Suddenly, my plan of living to 93 was in doubt, in danger.  I might die.  I couldn’t imagine life without me in it!

Even you have been diagnosed with cancer similar to someone else, your journey is different.  Your emotions, fears, concerns, and questions will be completely different. And that is fine, it’s OK.   Everything that has happened throughout your life makes this experience deeply personal.  But it does not mean International Womens Dayyou have to fight the battle alone – ask your friends for help.  Your parents, siblings, nurses, doctors are there to help you, let them support you.  Regardless of what emotions are stirred up by your cancer diagnosis, don’t try to do it alone, please.

Acceptance was for me, the most important step of all.  I realized that fear, stress, anxiety, and anger all feed cancer.  It gave this ‘thing’ power over me.   To beat it I needed to starve it of everything it fed off.  I needed to be mentally strong.  I needed to accept my new normal and set about planning my future post-recovery.  The places I would visit.  The things I would do.   My whole outlook on life changed.  My cancer was treatable.  Although my life isn’t the same, I have made a full recovery.  Many others are not as fortunate.   My experience left me with gratitude for life and a concern for living each moment to the full.  We only get a designated number of days in this World, make the most of every one of them.

Chicks In Pink Charity Fun Run

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