By Melissa Russell 2/5/20
Six months ago my husband John was diagnosed with Leiomyosarcoma. It has taken all of this time for me to get my head around this diagnosis, and I have finally been able to write something about it. Sometimes I write words I need to read. It’s a long post, but I hope you’ll discover some words you need to read too❤️
My husband was already a cardiac patient having experienced a heart attack, stent placements, and a successful triple bypass surgery. We are not strangers to the medical world, but cancer treatment seemed to involve a lot more guesswork with equal parts art and science. Fighting cancer became our new full time job. It required a drastic change in lifestyle and thinking. I knew we had a lot to learn from a medical perspective, but it turns out I was naïve in many other ways.
Things I didn’t know about cancer:
- No matter how awful cancer looks on TV or in the movies it’s worse in real life. That said, a diagnosis is not a death sentence! It is a call to live life more fully and deeply.
2. You don’t have to fear cancer. Read that again. Fear makes everything 100 times harder. It is a paralyzing force. Fear is a poor decision maker. It is loud and obnoxious. It tries to steal your attention every waking moment. It robs you of joy. But I have discovered when the initial shock wears off, it is possible to replace fear with faith and reclaim joy. (Admittedly it can take a quite a while for the initial shock to wear off!)
3. Cancer-induced fear is best managed one day at a time. It helps to look at life in 24-hour segments. Sometimes the next 12 hours is all you can handle. If the next 12 minutes is all you can manage without freaking out, start with that. I have found when fear is taking control of my brain it is because I am thinking ahead. I have to bring my mind back to the present by asking myself: “What do I have to focus on today?” Or “What is the next right thing to do?” Or “What do I know to be true right now?” Projecting into the future with ‘what if’s’ is a guaranteed way to bring on anxiety and worry.
4. It’s good to have a battle plan against cancer, but things don’t always go to plan. You have to be ready to switch gears when an infection pops up, emergency surgery is required, or chemo is delayed due to low white blood cell counts.
5. Cancer can make you stronger. As family and friends pray for us, we have experienced peace and renewed strength to keep pushing forward. We are discovering strength and tenacity we never knew we had!
6. Cancer is humbling. It tries to steal our modesty and dignity. It puts us in a position where we need help from others. Accept help gratefully. Those who bless you will be blessed!
7. Cancer is a liar. The best way to come against the lie is by speaking the truth to yourself. Our words are powerful weapons and we can speak LIFE to our bodies. Our youngest daughter posted life-affirming messages all over the house. I like to speak affirmations aloud. If it feels strange for you, do it in the shower. Something powerful happens when we hear positive messages delivered in our own voice.
8. Whatever type of cancer you have, there is a support group out there. Surround yourself with people that can educate you and cheer you on even if it is an online community. (We are SO thankful to have found the LMSdr Facebook Group!)
9. There is a lot of misinformation about cancer out there too. The internet is a handy tool, but it is no substitute for professional medical advice. Do your research, but be careful what you consume online.
10. People can live with cancer. Decide to live. Keep living, keep planning, keep hoping, keep celebrating, keep doing whatever you can that brings you joy and delight.
11. Care-givers can also get chemo-brain! The stress created by caring for a loved one with cancer can decrease mental acuity and take a toll on the body as well. If you are a caregiver make sure to give yourself care, extend yourself grace, treat yourself to relaxation and allow yourself the gift of sleep. Melatonin and magnesium powder are safe natural sleep aids.
12. Cancer causes intense emotional as well as physical pain. I have found that physical activity can help combat emotional pain. I have peddled many miles on a stationary bike in the wee hours when I was too upset to sleep.
13. There is more than one way to fight cancer. It is a very personal choice. You don’t have to listen to every relative, neighbor or co-worker who has strong opinions about the latest and greatest cancer cure. Politely thank them for their input, and then make your own informed decisions. It should go without saying that we also need to refrain from judging others for the way they have chosen to fight their health battles even if it seems foolish to us.
14. Cancer does not have a sense of humor, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose yours. Try to find a reason to laugh every day. We have discovered there are a lot of smiling and laughing people in cancer treatment centers. If you don’t see one, be one!
15. Cancer can bring on depression. If you can’t laugh, ask for help. If you are driving your family crazy or they are driving you crazy, get help. You need your team more than ever now. You can’t afford to isolate yourself. There is help. Do whatever you need to do to get it.
16. Cancer wants you to dig your own grave and it will hand you the shovel. Take it and hit cancer right in the head!!! Seek out stories of people who have beaten the odds. (We call these ‘even if’ stories). You can choose to be an overcomer! KEEP LIVING, REJOICING, AND CELEBRATING LIFE!!!