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.

Preparing For Cancer Treatment

The number of cancer cases diagnosed every year is steadily increasing. Many of us dread the diagnosis of cancer, even associating death to the disease. While it is true that some cancers are fatal and that some are diagnosed in the later stage which will mean reduced prognosis, more than ever, research and early diagnostic screenings are put in place to provide early and better detection, up to date evidence-based treatment regimen and continuous drug development. It is often said that surviving cancer is a battle and each warrior has a higher chance of winning when one is prepared and apt with the right weapons to succeed.

source: blogs.discovermagazine.com

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Cancer Is Not the End – It’s A Second Chance To Begin Living A Happy And Full Life

Hearing from the doctor that you got cancer makes your world turn upside down.   For a moment, you can’t breathe, you feel dizzy, your vision gets blurred, and you can’t hear anything. Everything stops.  Slowly, you’re coming back, but you think it’s not you anymore.  It’s no longer the life you had.  All the hope is gone.  It’s the end.

source: abcnews.go.com

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Questions About Cancer Remission That People Are Afraid To Ask

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Treating cancer is a grueling process. If one therapy does not work, there are more options to consider that are just as physically, emotionally and mentally draining as the other. The only thing that kept me going back then apart from my desire to live was the hope that my doctor would come to say, “Congratulations, your cancer is in remission.”

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Reinvent Yourself – Life After Cancer

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Life after cancer is not as easy and as simple as just going back to your usual ordinary life.   Many things will change because many things have changed.   Changes will be seen in the people you want to be with and the people who want to be with you.   Additionally, your outlook on life and the things you want to do will also change. Face it, so much will definitely change from the moment you were rushed to the hospital emergency room and now that you’re walking out of those doors.

Psychological and Emotional Challenges

Who wouldn’t be happy surviving cancer?  But there’s a dilemma attached to it.   You get worried when it’s time to visit your doctor. The bad news that might one day come to you saying you got a recurrence is like a nightmare that makes you anxious.

The guilty feeling that you survived while others didn’t is like a dark shadow that always follows you and keeps you awake in deep thoughts at night.

A positive attitude and outlook will help you cope with the stress.  Let go of your guilt feeling because it’s not your fault. Move on and take the chance to reinvent yourself.   You deserve it! 

Where Do I Go From Here? Is There a Future Waiting For Me?

Surviving cancer means you’ve been through a lot of pains and aches.  Continuing your life outside of the hospital facility will never be easy, but surely you will thrive.  There may be some discrimination in your workplace, school environment, and even in your very home.   Be prepared and just be patient. Marc Romano, PsyD says, “Focus on yourself and your own happiness and do not compare yourself to others.”

Talk Therapy Survivor Support Group

To lessen psychological and emotional stress, it is of importance that you join support groups.    Talking to people who experienced the things you’re experiencing now is very important.  They can efficiently guide you through and give you advice because they used to have the same dilemma as you, and they thrived and survived.  Having someone to talk to makes a big difference.  It lightens the burden. “You know the ones—these are the people you know you can always call, text, or email when you need to feel a connection.” David Klow, a licensed therapist said.

Be Productive, Stay Healthy

The boredom of staying in the hospital for months or years gives you the chance to re-think about your life.  It might have made you shift your point of view.  You may have written a list of things you wanted to do once you get healed and discharged from the hospital.

Here it is!  

Source: tipsonlifeandlove.com

Now is the time to check that list.   It may include quitting your old job, learning new things, meeting people, going on vacation, becoming more adventurous, eating authentic foods, eating foods that you missed, bonding with family, going swimming, and more.   There are so many things you can do to be productive and feel accomplished.  Doing the things you love and enjoy while avoiding the ones that will fuel your worries can help you stay healthy.  

Be In Touch

You may be feeling okay, but still, it is essential that you keep in touch with your doctor by going to your regular checkups and having your follow-up tests. “Whether you suffer from seasonal affective disorder or not, the evidence is strong that getting outside just for a little bit can be very helpful,” says Andrea Bonior, PhD, clinical psychologist. Seeing your oncologist and primary physician regularly will keep both you and your doctor updated on your progress.  You may have questions that only they can answer.  Always remember that maintaining your health is not done by you alone.   You and your doctors should work as a team so that you may enjoy the quality life.  

Don’t Stay Stagnant

Surviving cancer is a blessing – a hope you can give to others who were in the same situation as you were in.  Many challenges await you but don’t let those negativities make you stagnant.  You endured a lot of trials.  It’s time to be positive about things.  Your life now is no longer about cancer.  It’s a chance to reinvent yourself.  Not everyone has that second chance.