Living in the Cancer World and the Real World

You have to focus on yourself in the “cancer world” but at the same time the “real world” is beckoning and you want (or even need) to be there, too.

In the beginning, I was encouraged by doctors to focus on my medical treatment. Focusing on what you need to do right then, for your health, will help you be stronger and better able to cope with everything you will face. Real heartache comes with these treatments. Women often have difficuty taking the time to nurture ourselves, when we have family around that still needs our attention and help. Living in these two worlds means that sometimes they will collide and there are choices to be made. These are often painful choices that may result in lasting effects such as disappointing a child (missed Dance Recital, due to tests), the break-up of a marriage, or lost opportunity to be promoted at work.

But, Cancer doesn’t discriminate or wait for an opportune moment. Instead, it injects itself into your life and rudely interrupts your important plans. Cancer forces you to simultanously deal with two very demanding worlds – neither of which will step aside for the other.

There is Cancer time and Real time…and existing in both realms is like being in two time zones at once. In one, you are concerned with the day to day stuff of life: paying bills, remembering to pick up dry cleaning, work, and any birthday that may sneak up on you. In the other, you are gettingl clobbered by life and death questions: Do you truly beleive in God? What about mortality? Why are we here on earth? What does God want me to learn from this?

I have felt like Cancer became a second job…with all the time for test, doctors appointments and surgeries. I got really lucky, I have a wonderful boss and a great group of guys that I work with. Everyone helped me with what they could, and even made it possible for me to work from home on those days I just didn’t feel like going into the office.

For many survivors, cancer either encourages or forces them down a path they didn’t intend to travel. They may find themselves changing jobs or careers. Losing some friends and gaining others. Marriages either become stronger or end. Missing out on impotant events but also going places that they would never have been to beofre becoming a survivor.

I’d like to share with newly diagonosed individuals important information from survivors who have “been there” about what really makes a difference during your difficult journey. There are so many wise survivors – people who have made this journey and are able to reach out and gently hold the hand of someone who is newly embarking on this difficult journey.

One of the women at the Oncologist office told me to make a necklace or bracelet. Choosing a bead for each difficult choice, diagnosis or treatment. Perhaps you may want to start your own necklace and “sow the beads of hope.” During treatment and afterward, the necklace serves as a reminder of how even during times of illness, there are many opportunities to celebrate life and be with those you love.

Know that it’s not easy to be a cancer survivor and it’s not easy to be the daughter, son, husband, pratner, sister, brother, mother or father of someone with cancer.

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