I have always been a person of deep faith. I don’t go to church like I should, to say the least, but my faith is very strong. When I was diagnosed with lung cancer, I guess the idea that I would likely be meeting my Maker sooner rather than later caused my faith to become even deeper. Whatever the cause, my faith runs deep and it is very important to me. Studies find that many people find that their faith strengthens in the face of a cancer diagnosis.1 But, certainly, not everyone with cancer shares the same belief system.
I hear this question all of the time, “How long did it take for you to regain your energy after treatments?” or “I finished treatments a month ago and I am still exhausted. Why?” Have you asked that question?
Bouncing back after treatment and cancer
The sad reality is that our bodies often do not bounce back nearly as quickly as we wish they would after being assaulted with chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. And, don’t forget. Not only did we have to fight the treatment, but we also fought the cancer itself. Double-whammy!!
When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is.
Have you seen this meme floating around on social media? It really spoke to me.
It reminded me of my friend Jane. I first met Jane about a year ago when she sent me a long email after reading a blog I had written. Jane has a couple of kids, a loving husband, and a thriving business. And cancer. Her cancer, unfortunately, overshadows everything that is good in her life.
Remembering my son this season
It is also a time of reflection and sorrow, especially if you, like me, have an empty chair at the table this season. The holidays take on a whole different dimension when we’re celebrating all that is good in the world when it doesn’t necessarily feel like anything is.
I got a post from someone new to the lung cancer world today. I was struck by how much smarter she is than I was when I was first diagnosed.
Trusting my astute PCP
After I was diagnosed by my primary care physician (PCP), I simply did what she told me to do. By the time she delivered the bad news that I had lung cancer, she already had an appointment set up for me with an oncologist for the next day.
I generally begin November by listing, day by day, that for which I am grateful. Some days, the only thing that really strikes me is that I got up that morning or that the sun is shining. Other days, I have a long list of things for which I am thankful.
My reasons to be grateful
Some people think I am crazy when I begin to list the reasons why I am grateful for my current situation. It isn’t that I would not rather have never had cancer. No one is foolish enough to wish cancer on themselves or anyone else.
I always look forward to October. It usually brings cooler, wetter weather to our parched city after a summertime of high temperatures and little rain. I love watching the trees change colors, even though in Texas it isn’t nearly as dramatic as it is in many parts of the country. Halloween isn’t my favorite holiday by a long shot, but I do enjoy watching the children get excited over it. October also means that two of my favorite holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, are just around the corner.
Cancer treatments completely zap our energy. I get nivolumab treatments now and they do not leave me as exhausted as traditional chemo treatments did. But I remember being so tired I could barely lift one foot after another to walk to the refrigerator. Radiation treatments also took away most of my energy. I’m sure most of us have found us in this place.
So, what can you do when you’re physically exhausted, but you don’t want to just stare mindlessly at the television set? Here are five ideas that other cancer patients and I have found to keep us occupied and involved.
For some reason, every time one of my friends knows someone with lung cancer, they turn to me for comfort. I don’t really know why, except that they know I have “been there done that.” I’m very happy to help in any way I can. More often than not, the person with cancer doesn’t want to talk to me, but their loved ones do. I guess I give them some perspective on what it is like to live with lung cancer.
I always look forward to November. I love this month. Temperatures are mainly cooler … and when you live in Texas, that’s a very good thing. We are scorched for way too many months out of the year.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love the food (we go traditional with turkey, cornbread dressing, green bean bundles, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, a family tradition of banana salad, corn, pies, yum!). I love the whole idea of concentrating on what we’re thankful for – purposefully thinking about what’s good in our lives, even things that don’t always seem so good.
Our family is very patriotic and many of my family members have served in the military. I love to celebrate Veteran’s Day and the USMC birthday and the day my son graduated from USMC boot camp.
And, it is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. It probably drives people crazy, but I post every single day something about lung cancer for those who are my friends on Facebook. This year, I’ll be also posting something to the WhatNext pinboard. Everyone there has been touched by cancer of some kind so maybe it is overkill, but I’ll do it anyway.
Six years ago, November was a month full of firsts for me – first PET scan, first visit with an oncologist, first biopsy. I guess those aren’t firsts most people want to experience. Nevertheless, November of 2012 was full of those things for me. Lots of new memories. They seem like so long ago now.
So, I celebrate November and all I love about it. And, I celebrate that I am here another November to enjoy all that I love. I am among the lucky ones. I don’t know why and I am well aware that one of these days my time will run out, but until then, I thank my God and carry forward.