Surviving and Thriving

Last updated: April 2023

I am oh so happy to report...I overcame the hardship of GI symptoms and lethargy by stepping away from a plan that included two additional chemotherapy sessions. After a serious conversation, my oncologist trusted my intuition and realized I was entering a devastating state. The ability to speak up and be heard is a major comforting factor in my care.

Finding your voice

I hope each of you realizes the value of finding your voice and being heard. In itself, it is overwhelming to have cancer. The diagnosis of advanced ovarian cancer in a late stage takes on new meaning. Many face uncertainties that impact longevity. So here are your choices. Anyone of us can crawl into a corner and give up. The rest want to find ways to live with compromise and adaptation. This practice may mean taking on a both/and approach: fight for your life while preparing for the possibility of a negative outcome.

Immunotherapy begins

Yesterday, with confidence, I entered another phase as I began treatment with IV Avastin. The plan is to receive this drug every three weeks as a maintenance dose defined as immunotherapy. The goal of immunotherapy is to block the growth of tumors by reducing the blood supply to what already exists. In effect, we hope to diminish the size of cancer and avoid danger to other significant organs.

The more I read and the more questions I ask, help me discover that this treatment also has its side effects. Although, at the same time, each of us reacts differently, my experience with immunotherapy in 2021 created changes in my kidney function. Fortunately, I was followed under a watchful eye with doctor visits, PET scans, and lab work.

Keeping goals in sync

In effect, the goals of the treatment team and my goals have to be the same. My goal is to stay alive for as long as I can. However, within this goal remains the caveat that my days be liveable. I want so desperately to enjoy whatever time I have.

Those of you who experience treatment in the form of chemotherapy or radiation are challenged to your core. You might even ask yourself, "What must I do to become a resilient human being?" In effect, when facing the stress of this enormity, the whole of our being actively and instinctively attempts to restore.

In truth, we build on our ability to be resilient each time we meet a new person, start a new job, travel to a new place, or experience any number of events. This includes times when we openly verbalize our opinions, thoughts, and beliefs.

Some of us are content to hold onto old habits. However, many of us enjoy the opportunity to listen and learn the perspectives of others. I desire to seek out new views from others that may help me try out a new path and get me through tough times with greater ease. Our work with the Social Health Network relies on individuals' willingness to try new ways of being.

Stressful life events

Knowing full well that humans can not escape from stress, researchers Holmes and Rahe created a score for each life event. The intent is to maintain some control when faced with predictable occurrences experienced in our passage through life. It is also helpful to determine the total value of stressors at any one time and control areas of your life to allow for a sense of well-being.

For example, the list below demonstrates stress is associated with most life events. Numbers in parenthesis provide a numerical value:

  • Graduating from college and moving into the job world (26)
  • Outstanding personal achievement (28)
  • Marriage (50)
  • Additions to the family (39)
  • Death of a spouse (100)
  • Retirement (45)
  • Divorce (73)
  • Separation (65)
  • Alterations in sleep patterns (16)
  • Change in eating habits (15)
  • Vacations, holidays, or family get-togethers (13)

The Scientists provide scores that allow a person to estimate an accumulation of stress at any one time. For example, if one falters in the range of 151-299, there is a moderate chance of becoming overwhelmed, while with a score of 300- 600, it is likely a high chance of becoming overwhelmed or even mentally ill. Add a serious illness to this equation, and we find individuals easily compromised with more stress than most can handle.

Maintaining resilience

Often, a cancer patient will accumulate a number of these stressors. To maintain resilience, you may want to take the time to embrace change. Significant to growth as an individual, it is time to build your resources, including and especially the knowledge base you need to face the world.

Let this be a time when you start making better choices about what you need and what you want so that you can take steps to build tangible skills to get you there.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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