According to a recent study, using war metaphors to talk about cancer can induce feelings of guilt and failure in patients. So what should we call it when you have just found out that you have cancer? Call it “your cancer journey.” And as is true with any journey, what you take with you on your journey can help you better weather the ride. Here are some essential strategies for improving your quality of life during this time in your life.
1. Do not try to go on this journey alone
This is not only a physical challenge, but also a mental and an emotional one too. Join a support group and make sure you have the support of your family and friends. Be clear with them on your needs. If you aren’t sure what you can ask them for, try any of the following:
- Have someone accompany you to all your medical appointments.
- Ask someone to help you stay on top of your diet. Ask them to make sure you follow the doctor-recommended meal plan.
- If you have a large family with many people trying to help, single out a point person who they can take direction from instead of you.
- If you have kids, ask for help with baby-sitting, or have someone temporarily move in with your family.
- Have someone help you stay on top of housework.
Your time and attention will be filled with dealing with your sickness. Delegate things that can be delegated.
2. Take time for yourself & actively seek out things you enjoy
Sounds odd? It’s not. You might find your days busier than they were before. And what slips through the cracks are the fun things you used to enjoy. Hospital trips replace walks through the park. And medical journals replace novels. Within reason, this is fine. But in order to maintain a healthy emotional and mental state throughout your journey, you are going to need times when you just laugh and play. It might even take pretending that cancer never happened. Laughter is an important and proven way to keep yourself on an even keel. Don’t neglect your favorite comedy show.
3. Care for yourself
It might be tempting to let yourself go, but don’t. How you look can affect how you feel about yourself, which can turn into a negative cycle if you begin to stop taking care of your appearance. If your hair falls out, consider buying a wig. Buy clothes that fit or that are styled loosely so your weight can fluctuate without much attention drawn to that. If you struggle with feelings of overwhelm, taking control of this one area of life will help you feel more on top of things.
4. Still care about others
With all this focus on you, it can be easy to think that you don’t have time for others. But taking the time to care for others is an important key to your own happiness, so don’t neglect it entirely. You don’t need to start a new charity project, or volunteer at the local shelter if you never did those things in the first place. Rather, if there are people in your family or in your circle of friends who you are back in touch with, give some time to them. Ask them to come over and just sit with you. You don’t need to do anything fancy. A simple acknowledgment of their presence in your life is enough to show that you care.
As you go on your cancer journey, remember that this is just a part of the greater story of your life. But your life can still be rich with possibility, enjoyment, and wonder. As with all journeys, you are limited in what you can bring with you, so be judicious. Hopefully, these strategies have given you a better grasp of those things that will help you maintain balance along the way.