Mental Health Tip: Change How You Think About A Cancer Diagnosis

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I had always been a positive thinker and an all-around jolly person. I was the type of friend who could laugh at others’ snarky remarks about myself without getting angry. I did not mind making a fool of myself sometimes either to see my loved ones laugh. And no matter what curveball tried to flatten or knock me over, I continued to stand tall, smiling.

My optimism slightly decreased when I noticed that I was getting more bruises all over my body. I was used to seeing one or two on my legs or arms back then, especially before my menstruation, so I did not worry about it. However, when more spots appeared on my other body parts, my friends saw them and grilled me for hours because the bruises make me looked like a battered girlfriend. After assuring them that my boyfriend was almost saint-like, they urged me to go to a doctor to find out what’s happening to my body.

One (Un)Fortunate Diagnosis

Another week passed since I met with my friends, and I thought they had already forgotten about my bruises. So, I was surprised when they barged in my house at the weekend, demanding to know what the doctor said. Grinning sheepishly, I uttered, “Uhm, I haven’t gotten around to finding a physician, guys. But that’s okay; I feel fine.”

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Suspicious, my friends inspected my body for bruises. I just lifted my arms as if they measured my sizes, confident that they would be greenish at that point – a sign of healing. When they raised the shirt from the back, though, I heard a collective gasp. I looked around and saw them staring on the lower-left portion of my back. “Why are you dramatic?” I asked.

“Well,” my best friend said carefully, “There is new bruising on your back, perhaps almost the size of a saucer. Are you sure you’re okay?”

Huh. I did not have a full mirror in the house, so my back was a blind spot for me. For the first time in my life, I forgot how to smile. I sat down and voiced out, “What do I do?”

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My friends, as supportive as ever, started making calls. Though none of us knew the problem, we knew that my case was not meant for a general practitioner. One of them eventually managed to book an appointment for me on that day. I did not want to go since I felt scared, but they said that it’s better to know the truth now than to live in a lie, so I allowed them to accompany me to the doctor’s office.

When we arrived, the specialist ordered the nurse to take my blood samples immediately. While waiting for the results, the doctor chatted with me about how I had been feeling in the last few weeks. I told him honestly that I did not feel much difference in my body, except for the bruising and sometimes shortness of breath. The nurse then returned with the test result, which showed that I had an abnormally high number of white blood cells compared to red blood cells.

The doctor said, “Hmm, having plenty of white blood cells typically indicates that a person has anemia, and that’s quite easy to remedy with iron supplements and more sleep. However, because of the bruising, you may have leukemia. I’m sorry.”

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My insides collapsed as soon as I heard the L word. I thought I was healthy all my life, but it turned out that I had blood cancer. The doctor added that I was lucky to get diagnosed in the first stage of the disease, but I felt anything but a winner at the time. 

Changing My Mindset About Cancer Diagnosis

When my friends gave me a ride home, none of us spoke. But they told me before I got off that I should call them any time of the day if I needed something. I naturally nodded and waved bye with a forced smile on my face. After that, I turned off my phone and did not come out of the house for two weeks straight, depressed over the cancer diagnosis.

Nevertheless, my deceased mother visited me in my dream one night. It seemed so real when she hugged me and asked, “What’s wrong, baby girl?”

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I repeated what the doctor told me, sobbing. Mom said, “Hush, sweetheart. Having cancer does not always mean that you’ll die soon, especially when it is only at stage one. Instead, you should be glad that you found out before it’s already irreversible.”

I woke up feeling light the next day. With my optimism restored, I called my friends and informed them that I wanted to undergo treatment ASAP to beat leukemia’s butt. They cheered me on and took turns accompanying me to my treatment sessions. 

Now, not only am I cancer-free, but my mental health is also more formidable than ever.