A woman stands on the top of a mountain with light illuminating her in the darkness

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

My code throughout life includes accepting responsibility for my words and actions. I see this way of being as an essential virtue at home and work. As a therapist, I often said, "If you fail to take responsibility, it's almost impossible to take credit."

Once our thoughts and behaviors align, others count on us as credible and trustworthy. Accepting responsibility and taking credit for our actions allows us to build confidence and competence as we relate to others.

This new process may happen subtly, without being boastful or needy. However, accepting responsibility is one way to show others we are dependable. In today's world, with so much out of our control, most of us long for people and things we can count on.

Cancer changes things

When cancer arrived in my world, I suddenly found myself falling into patterns of unrecognizable behavior. I no longer had the energy to join when family or friends suggested a new opportunity.

Was it not feeling safe being out in public? After all, we are in a Covid pandemic. Most of the time, my white cells left me immunocompromised. Or had I become so internally focused that nothing outside interested me?

I started to hold cancer responsible for everything. Instead, on occasion, I even used my cancer as an excuse to avoid situations I did not care to address. I went from being a high achiever to someone doing the bare minimum. Then, finally, I could hear a voice saying, "You are not your cancer; remember who you are and what you can still accomplish."

Accepting responsibility and learning

One day, a colleague recommended I present at a regional health education conference for women facing chronic conditions. It took me some time to respond. I was so angry and felt misunderstood. I could barely get out of bed some mornings, and I wondered, "What was she thinking when I was so unbelievably sick from chemo."

Even today, I hold as a truth that my friend was in denial about how sick I was. Instead, her goal was to encourage me in ways that previously stimulated my interest. Whichever it may be, as always, I prepared my PowerPoint slides and presented them to a room of interested participants. My level of responsibility for my profession took precedence.

I was exhausted but learned some lessons that day. First, I realized I still wanted to share information that could promote healing. However, I also need to accept I am not the same person I used to be.

The answer

We need to honor who we are. For example, my gifts and talents, which I have held as an essential part of my identity, are still quite present. However, I need to incorporate any new limitations imposed on me as a woman trying to survive advanced ovarian cancer.

Some days I can see quite clearly. Accepting a diagnosis is essential as finding a way to live through this process. I am grateful and in awe that others still use me as a voice of wisdom. It is satisfying to know that despite all my losses, I can still review a situation without bias and state it back in a way to promote a different understanding.

Trying on different perspectives

A skill that I developed along the way is called polarity thinking. I am sure many of our readers have set this skill instinctively without realizing it is based on a solid theory:

  • When struggling to cope, a crucial element is to see the situation from many views. Ask others you trust to give you their perspective. Please encourage them to help you understand how they got there.
  • Try looking at things from the opposite side or at least a 180-degree turn.
  • We no longer have to carry the burden of having all the answers.

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