Like many of us, I have been through the mill physically and emotionally. The initial prognosis was not hopeful. I had an extensive surgery, followed by chemo. Now there are two years of clear scans.
In that time I have developed a toolkit of mental health techniques I trust to return to peace. These tools help me cope with the after effects of cancer, like the fear cancer will return and infertility. There is failure. Tests and trials come often. I find a lump…and things come crashing down. But with the right tools and willingness, it is possible to use an outward challenge to fuel self-love, inner peace, contentment and stability.
Here are a few things that may help you cope with cancer and/or it’s after effects.
Accept Where You Are At
You are where you are emotionally.Feel all your feelings. There is nothing wrong with you. You have reason to feel angry, afraid, to grieve, to feel ashamed or guilty. I’ve learnt there is darkness in us all. Acknowledging this is part of the healing journey. Be wary of forcing positivity. I noticed feelings of positivity were often followed…eventually…by feelings of doubt. This was draining. Of course, if you are riding an emotional rollercoaster, accept that is where you are at. Instead of trying to fix things, can you begin to recognise these internal ups and downs?
Aim for Neutrality
Suffering comes from judgements we make. Does cancer have to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’? What if it were entirely neutral? Neither good or bad? You can experience the peace of neutrality anytime. If negativity is to the left (I am going to die) and positivity to the right (I am going to beat this), can you hold your mind in the middle? (I don’t know what is going to happen.) There are lots of ways to practice neutrality with cancer. When I wait for scan results, there is no ‘good’ news or ‘bad’ news, there is just news. This keeps me on an even keel internally. If you are interested in spirituality, this moment of non-judgment, of not knowing, of surrender, is a great time to let go of your own plan and ask for help.
Can you find something to enjoy about this experience? Maybe you are spending more time with your family? Or taking a break from work? If you are struggling to keep going, can you use this experience to learn how to ask for help? If you are interested in science, can you learn about treatments and clinical trials? Maybe you can use this experience to make mental health strides? Or focus on diet or fitness? Or let go and let God? This is your path. What feels good to you?
Prioritise Inner Peace
When your life is threatened, it’s normal to cling to survival. The need to survive made me feel desirous to be here for loved ones, controlling, fearful, angry, a bit tragic. When I focus on the need to survive, my mental health suffers. I came to the realisation I wanted inner peace more than anything else. The survival instinct and seeking for security outside of myself – in the body, in the world, in experiences, in roles or relationships, in the future – is a barrier to peace for me.
Find the Right Mental Health Tools
A cancer experience inspires us to seek support. There are family, friends and doctors to lean on. There’s also an opportunity to develop your inner resources. If you are interested in mental health, pick up books or seek information online.
A cancer experience inspires us to seek support. There are family, friends and doctors to lean on. There’s also an opportunity to develop your inner resources. Anything that triggers a reaction in you, is an opportunity for healing. It’s helpful to find tools that help you on a bad day. If you are interested in mental health, join War On Cancer where you can use proven coping tools, such as sharing your story, connecting with others who know what it’s like, and learning from them about how others cope with the mental health effects of being diagnosed with cancer. Read books to inform yourself or seek information online. Trust you are being led to the right material. Explore counsellor options, a friend, the War On Cancer community for support, or spiritual teachings if they appeal. Trust you will be guided to the right resources at the right time.
The information shared does not constitute a medical consultation and is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult with your doctor or other qualified health providers for questions regarding a medical condition, especially during the active period of Corona / Covid19. Please do not disregard professional health provider advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here. In the event of a medical emergency, call a doctor, 112 or 911 immediately.