Finding the Words to Say
No matter where you are in your health-illness journey you have so much to offer. You have carefully developed engaging qualities that keep people coming back to you over and over again. Regardless, the news of cancer changes a person's perspective. Some dwell on the treatment ahead, and some worry about the end of life. Many are flooded with all of this at once.
For me, I became numb and disorganized. We had just retired. Suddenly, instead of the anticipation of all the joy we planned, we started to grieve. All I could think about was what the future may bring. My husband and I had worked hard to be able to relax and enjoy a long life together. Instead, we felt a heightened state of fear and anxiety depending on the outcome of one test after another.
The big search was on
Living the life of a nurse and therapist, l practiced what I preached. On a daily basis, I encouraged others facing crises to take a personal inventory. I recognized the advantage when people had the courage to express themselves, offer their perspectives, and be open to feedback. I would often say, "Know yourself. Understand what this event means to you. Consider what you need to survive?"
Despite my experience, I wanted to be the person in touch with my fears. I hoped I could continue to support myself and my family by encouraging communication. In fact, I felt a strong need to connect. I began to consider what to tell my children and how to encourage them to express their thoughts, and feel their feelings openly, so we could problem-solve together.
I also had a desire to express gratitude to all those who paved our way. Most of all I wanted to be clear with the people who I love. Specifically, I felt an urgency to begin saying goodbye.
Finding the words to say
Communicating on the phone or in a text can be an onerous task. Yet it seemed important to let people know what they meant to me and the place they held in my heart. We needed time to cry with each other and state our many regrets. We also needed to remind each other of the precious times we had. In a few cases, there was an unresolved conflict that could easily be put to rest.
An especially important part of opening up communication is to be clear about boundaries. Not everyone has them for themselves. In hoping to be helpful, some folks want to suddenly increase their contact. At times, it became a teaching moment to explain that I could only communicate for short periods of time and only some days in between treatments.
Taking time to write it down
While it is easy to become overwhelmed and obsessed with everything about cancer, I encourage you to step away for some time.
- Consider a journal and begin to write about your experience each day, each week, or once a month. When thoughts become too great to manage, writing them down lets them live outside of you. You no longer need to own those thoughts or the feelings attached to them. Later you can take them on one at a time when you feel better able to manage a solution.
- Realize that life goes on and cancer is only a part of life. It is possible to have differences with people in the same way you did before. Take a risk and clear things up. Try not to let things fester. If it helps ask yourself, "Is this how I wish to be remembered."
- Prepare your goodbyes, especially with those you find great pain in leaving. Speaking your words directly allows you to receive feedback. However, if you can only achieve this task by writing, do so. Leave letters if this works.
My talk with God
Being a woman of faith, I would be remiss in leaving this segment out. I had many words to say to God. I started with "Why Me and Why Now." As always, my internal voice said "Why not you. You are only one of many who experience this crisis in their life."
Whether you call out to God, Allah, Buddha, or the name of your personal higher power, this may be the time to reach out on your own behalf. There was no arguing, asking for support is a powerful step. I believe I am perfectly imperfect and ask for forgiveness for all the things I failed to do, or for any pain I brought to others. This intention makes it easier for me to forgive others.
I always speak about love and gratitude. The feelings and memories that flow from these two words are energizing. Most of all, remember to love yourself.
In the words of Louise Hay remember to allow yourself to find peace.
"All is well in my world. Everything is working out for my highest good. Out of this situation, only good will come. I am safe!"
I was diagnosed with...