By Sharon Anderson MSW
“The most resilient people on Earth are people with cancer, because they are masters at adjusting to unwanted realities and uncertainty from the moment of diagnosis. People with cancer have looked death in the eye and are still finding their way.” from Dr. Shelly John in Cure 3/28/20.
This explains the strange confidence I’ve been feeling about the Covid 19 virus. I take the health risks very seriously, especially for those in chemo treatment right now. I prepared for the worst but I’m not that anxious. I thought maybe I was just in denial. But I just feel like after everything I’ve been forced to go through with LMS and my other life events, this is just not as bad as having cancer. For me, nothing will ever be as bad as having cancer. Cancer has grown me a bigger perspective and some coping skills.
For one, I don’t worry about stuff as much as I did before. Worry is just my imagination running wild, seeing the worst pictures of the future in my head. I realized that is all just make-believe. It has not happened. I can instead imagine a different future if I want to. Here’s an example:
Winnie the Pooh and Piglet were walking in the forest. Piglet asked, “Pooh, what if one of these trees fell down on us?” Pooh thought carefully and said, “What if it didn’t?” And Piglet was comforted by this.
If I do get all caught up in other people’s anxiety, I have learned that I can take charge of my body and tell it to relax. I can take deep breaths, slow down my racing heart, mindfully feel my feet planted firmly on the Earth and soften my muscles. If needed, a hot bath, calm music and a cup of tea do wonders for me.
I have learned to focus on what I can control and let go of what I can’t. I can prepare for the quarantine with groceries and make a list of my favorite activities at home. I learned how to use video conferencing to stay connected. I cleaned the house. I finished a few old projects. I got rid of some stuff that made me feel bad, like clothes that don’t fit anymore and that darn spot on the rug I keep walking past. I brought in good energy with wild flowers I picked on my mountain and I give my dogs an abundance of belly rubs daily. I turned the news off.
Resilient people reframe bad situations as much as possible. This quarantine gives you a new opportunity to take the time you needed for what you want to do. What can you do with all that time back from commuting to work and running errands? Here’s your chance to play with your children. Learn new recipes, exercise at home, write that blog, or just relax and read a good book. The world has slowed down. Take advantage of it.
And last but not least, cancer survivors have renewed appreciation and gratitude for life. It’s true that you need to count your blessings every day. Find opportunities to be grateful because they are everywhere. Notice nature more, be kind to someone and nurture your connections with others to bring more peace and fulfillment into your life.
Yeah, we got this.