Hearing the dreaded words “You have cancer” inevitably leads us into the most testing and life changing experiences. Our bodies get ready to battle as we aim to put up a strong fight against the illness. We use every bit of our physical and mental strength to the highest degree possible just to hear the most relieving words “ You will be fine”. But are you fine? We often ignore the effects of a cancer stricken body and mind. Look around and you will find no shortage of invaluable support to those suffering from cancer. There are numerous institutes, organizations and even individuals out there fighting to eradicate this disease and actively engaging in the initiative. I was extremely lucky to have been able to attend a highly educative and informative annual conference in Stowe, Vermont. The two days called the Stowe Weekend of Hope, is really just that. People from all over America come together and educate, inform and create awareness about all types of cancers. From doctors, to fitness experts to nutritionists and various organizations provide their support and encouragement to all those suffering from the illness.
I managed to attend a specific lecture on dealing with the fear of reoccurrence. What an interesting topic! So undervalued and neglected yet so important. As I listened to this extremely well versed Oncology Psychologist who comically managed to shed a glimmer of light on some very dark areas, I realised this not only applies for cancer survivors but those around them as well. The fear of reoccurrence happens to everyone who has experienced cancer in themselves or through a loved one. We all fear it coming back and end up playing a waiting game with the illness. In extreme cases and also very often it ends up wrecking ones life, known as the Damocles Syndrome where the fear is embedded within us at all times.
As I value every bit of support and help that is given towards cancer survivors, I also feel the need to emphasize the importance of providing the same amount of support to those who have recovered. Below are list of coping tools suggested by cancer survivors and their loved ones. These tools sound pretty basic but it has helped them and can most definitely help us all.
- Busy – Keeping yourself busy and distracted is one of the most useful tools in ignoring the fear and eventually overcoming the fear.
- Tai Chi – Movement based but has profound positive impact on the mind as well.
- Sing – Sounds silly? Not when you actually start to realise the power in this simple yet extremely essential tool. You can take it a step further by indulging in music therapy. I don’t have personal experience but I have heard many positive reviews.
- Meditation – This is a no brainer but just like me, you might not be the one for still focused breathing techniques. I find meditation in running, others maybe in cooking. Find yours and do more of it.
- Exercise and movement – This does not mean burning yourself out. Listen to your body and just move the way you feel like. That’s it.
- Yoga – Of course!
- Build a support team – I completely acknowledge the fact that cancer is a private ordeal and one that you might want to keep within the confines of your home. But communicating with those who are going through the same can help in relieving stress, fear and creating a support group for yourself and others.
- Cancer support group – There are many support groups that provide the help you need when dealing with cancer and the fears that come with it.
- Focus on what is in your control – We often tend to focus on the negatives and these negatives are mostly things we might not be able to control. You can control the cancer from reoccurring, but not by fearing it, but by focusing on factors such as your diet, physical movement and surrounding yourself by happy thoughts and happy people. Yes this is stronger than any medication in the world!
- Use cognitive tools to regain control – Similar to the point above. Recognize the waste of energy in focusing on unwanted thoughts and understand the importance in making active changes right now which will eventually eradicate those thoughts and fears altogether.
Try any one of these if you’re going through what I went through (sometimes still do) and share it with those who need the helping hand. You fought for those words just to live, now truly live!