What Can You Learn from Cancer Survivors? The Inside Track!

by Barbara Cunnings-Versaevel

Those of us who have gone through the cancer journey have much to share. I know when I was first diagnosed, that is exactly where I looked for answers. I scoured the library (no internet in 1990) for books by those who had survived searching for clues to what made the difference.

What I Learned

Along the way, I found great tips and pieces of advice. One of them found early, before surgery, made a huge difference. This was the knowledge that prior to going in for a lumpectomy, I could request on the Release Form for Surgery Permission that I wished to be woken up and aware if they decided that a mastectomy was needed. This I did much to the consternation of my surgeon.

It was a good thing I had that written and signed on the Release Form because had I not done that, I would have woken up with a mastectomy. My surgeon advised on my post surgery check up that he was not confident he had clear margins and recommended a mastectomy. At my first assessment at the Cancer Clinic, I was advised that it wouldn’t be necessary as the treatment – radiation and chemotherapy – would get it all. So, I never did have a mastectomy. I’ve never had a reoccurrence since that date in the Fall of 1990.

There were suggestions about what to expect such as the drainage tubes. Being forewarned, I made sure I had pajamas that opened in the front for ease of dressing. In those days, we were only discharged from the hospital when the drains were removed, not like today, where women are discharged shortly after surgery.

More Tips and Advice

The tips and advice went on:

  • No bras for a while so soft T-shirts
  • Hair loss would come with chemotherapy, so make sure I had a wig that matched my hair before I lost it.
  • Diet considerations for healing were explored – many choices and options, but eventually I found what worked for me.
  • Create a team to support you. This includes your doctors, nurses, etc. They are on your team and you are in control. It is way too easy to lose this sense of control when you get drawn into the treatment cycle.
  • Create a support team at home. This is important if you have a family to take care of. You’ll need the kind assistance of friends and family to help with driving, maybe cooking on days when you’re feeling off from treatment, errands, and being the point person for keeping others up to date on your progress.
  • Some worked through their treatment but at considerable expense to their ability to let their body heal. If it isn’t necessary and you have coverage or some other way to sustain yourself, give your body the chance to heal from within.
  • Learn new ways of being – explore journaling, meditation, creative visualization. It’s time to go inside and source your core of strength.

Further Learning

Today, there are many resources out there available in libraries, online, in the book stores and we have technology now that allows us to access these resources on iPhones, iPads, computers. However, there is nothing like being quiet and listening to the voice within. Sometimes simple is better.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the information that will come to you from doctors, clinics, to well meaning friends and supporters. Everyone wants to see you get better – to get through this and come out the other side with no cancer. It does get a bit tough to sift through what works for you and what is just not in your comfort zone. In the beginning, you are focused on treatment, but as treatment ends, the time comes to explore these other healing modalities.

You are not the same person you were when you went into surgery. The impact of cancer strikes much deeper. It drills through to your soul and levels your emotions. There are days of feeling lost and not sure what has happened to you. It’s impossible to go back to what was, and the future is far from secure or predictable. It’s a major realization of our mortality. Our innocence has been shattered.

This part of the journey is very personal. It’s a journey only you can take and by yourself, although there is support in many places now to guide you through the process.

Where to Go From Here

Now is the time to learn new life skills. You will not be going back to your old norm as most people will expect. A ‘new norm’ is shaping your path going forward. This is unsettling for those around you. They are unsure of who this new person is and how they will react. Quite frankly, you don’t know exactly either.

You’ve been given a chance to open new doors in your life. By sourcing the stories of other survivors, you will get encouragement to believe in any rumblings of where you might take your life. Survivors have chosen a multitude of options to transform and emerge into a new reality. Some are incredibly simple, some are inspirational, some are courageous,  some made minor adjustments and reaped calm. Their stories are as different as the individuals themselves. You will be enchanted and inspired by what they have learned and what they have accomplished.

Moving forward through cancer is not necessarily all about finding the cure. When you really get down to it, it’s more about healing a life. None of us know how long we have to live; even those who are hale and hearty in this moment. Life offers no guarantees.

Cancer just brings this realization to the forefront and hands us an opportunity to grab what time we have and live life to our fullest. It’s about learning new life skills, healing relationships with both others and most importantly, ones self, being aware of what your whole body (body, mind, spirit) is telling you, and then taking action.

Reading stories and talking to those who had survived cancer for many years, gave me the hope and the knowledge that I could survive. They had done it. So could I. That mindset is critical. Our body will follow our mind. Body/mind/spirit – they are connected. We are not just a physical body that needs to heal. There is so much more.

Announcing a New Resource and Guide – “Survivor Secrets – Empower Your Life”

My friend, fellow breast cancer survivor Gai Comans, has just released a new guide called “Survivor Secrets – Empower Your Life”.  And, yes, I’m one of the 21 inspirational survivors interviewed.  I was so impressed with all the interviews, I arranged for you to get a copy for free.

It features interviews with leading breast cancer survivors who reveal their insights and “secrets” for what they wish they had known when they were diagnosed and going through treatment.   This Guide is the first in a new series.

Some of the chapters include:

  • How To Find Rainbows In The Breast Cancer Storm
  • Believing It’s Possible, Surviving Cancer 3 Times
  • Tools To Help You Heal Your Feelings Of Not Belonging
  • Giving Yourself Choice – Exploring Your Fertility Options Before Treatment
  • Looking For Beauty Everyday Can Help You Feeling Sexy After Cancer
  • Focus On Self-Care For An Holistic Outlook On Life
  • Coping With Anxiety – Finding Tools To Better Manage Stress

You can get your free copy of this guide by clicking here http://goo.gl/Y1P0iw

I hope you enjoy this inspirational gift.  And I know it will give you the information you need to empower you through life as a cancer survivor.

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