A caterpillar creates a cocoon and emerges as a butterfly

Will I Ever Be the Same Again?

Last updated: January 2023

Many people dislike change. As a result, they plan their lives intending to maintain the status quo. They may even look for ways to keep things the same when change might be the better option. They want to be in control and prefer not to test their ability to adapt. Nevertheless, just as the Earth rotates on its axis relative to the Sun every 24.0 hours and the Sun rotates on its axis approximately once every 27 days, we are in a constant state of change.

Change is inevitable

The seasons change despite our best effort to hold onto the warmth of summer. Our politicians make new rules and laws. Medical research advances, and we are all offered new solutions to the same problem. Therefore staying the same on all counts is hardly a desirable option.

My own experience is that change is inevitable for those of us diagnosed with cancer. Yet, at the onset, we face the decision to bury our heads in the sand or seek out help. I seem to choose life every time. Since 2018, the same news of changes in my PET scan prompts a decision to restart months of chemotherapy infusions.

My thoughts

With change happening all around us, we can become active participants. Know yourself, your needs, and your wants. Allow yourself to live a life believing in yourself. Complete an inventory to reveal all of your engaging qualities and own those that get in your way. If possible, take steps to acquire qualities that encourage positive relationships and support. Gain confidence in your judgment. Enjoy the riches life can offer while preparing for occasional unfavorable consequences.

Be prepared to embrace change

Ignoring the fact that cancer has changed my life simply no longer works. When this all began, I was fully employed as a consultant and traveled weekly to various hospital settings. I frequently served in a role where I maintained responsibility and accountability for ongoing projects. The person I have become no longer can travel, plan and execute solutions.

I firmly believe we all need to be prepared to embrace change. If possible, reduce the unexpected in your life as a cancer patient. Most importantly, gain a better understanding of the chain of events that occur while undergoing chemotherapy or radiation.

Address all parts of you

The physical

You are a highly complex human being that requires care from many aspects. First, be aware of the physical parts of you. If necessary, change your routine to allow for periods of rest. Remain well nourished and hydrated, as nutrition depletion can add to fatigue. Include your treatment team in finding solutions. Acknowledge the many side effects are a response to your treatment. Openly communicating may be the start of reaching a solution. For example, you may learn there are medications to reduce nausea or stimulate your appetite.

The emotional

Be sure to monitor for signs of depression or grief. Severe illness can easily prompt feelings of depression. I call it depression with a little "d." For example, it is common to feel sad or depressed after living with cancer. Loss can be prominent. Likely you grieve the many parts of your life that no longer exist. At the very least, you may experience anticipatory grief, the awareness that cancer may shorten your life. However, it does not necessarily mean you are suffering from a psychiatric disorder called Depression.

Continue to do your best and try not to let it frighten you. There may be times when you need to withdraw, shed some tears or even express anger and frustration. In truth, psychologists tell us a significant difference in those experiencing grief is that it allows for times of sadness and joy. However, with Depression, an individual cannot experience any pleasure.

The spiritual

As a woman of faith, I find myself at a great advantage. I realize I am never completely alone. However, I have moments of questioning, "Why me, why us, and why now." To this, I answer, "Why not me? Having faith, I know we all have a beginning and an end. What we do with our life in the middle provides the essence of meaning and purpose to our lives.

Will I ever be the same again?

The simple response is that people respond instinctively to the total of their life experiences. The good news is that humans never truly regress. On the contrary, we constantly learn and adapt to every challenge that comes before us. So, no, you will never be the same.

While I never asked for this disease to be part of my life, it taught me much. As a result, I no longer wait to express my thoughts and feelings. Instead, I swallow my pride and let my family and friends know that I acknowledge things I have failed and ask forgiveness for times that created pain.

Death is now a given. It is no longer possible to deny the end will never come because cancer has given closure. It is a matter of when. As a result, the gift is to make every day count. Find ways to be present. Recognize the perspective of others and honor yourself and all you do to remain brave.

Seek opportunities to express your love for what you send out; you will get back.

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