Fear of cancer recurrence happens to most cancer survivors as we try unsuccessfully to never think about it. When a person is relieved to hear that their cancer is gone they are told to go back to living life and enjoy themselves. This can be so much harder than it sounds. With periodic blood tests, pet scans that cause “scanxiety”, dealing with side effects from treatments, the scars on our bodies and minds, not thinking about cancer is a hard thing to achieve and is unrealistic to suggest to survivors; it simply can’t be done. Even when a survivor channels their energy into cancer fundraising, advocacy, and awareness projects which can be very rewarding and empowering, one is still thinking about cancer. Writing this blog, a project I enjoy very much, is a reminder of cancer.
What can we do with the fear and worry? My suggestion is to face it head on and deal with it.
There are positive ways to face our fears and recently I began seeing a counselor to help me explore my feelings and fears. My first question to her at our first session was, “how do I live well when I know that I am dying?”
I mean, I am not dying today (I’m 99.9% sure) and I am not dying this month either (I’m pretty sure). Although I am aware that we are all eventually going to die, there is something a little different when you have been informed that it will be sooner rather than later. And PLEASE spare anyone with a terminal diagnosis the bus analogy…you know…the analogy that says anyone can get hit by a bus at any time. I looked up the statistics on that one and surprisingly there are less than 200 Americans that die each year after being struck by a bus. Way more folks die from cancer. Way more. No comparison.
Anyhow, I have started with a counselor and it has been a helpful addition to my post cancer diagnosis coping toolbox. I wish I had started counseling three years ago. I thought that yoga and meditation would be enough but eventually I realized I needed more help. This is the message of this month’s blog.
Yoga and meditation are amazing tools to cope with a cancer diagnosis. They are invaluable to deal with the mental and physical pains and issues that accompany cancer which linger long after remission is achieved; if remission is achieved. Family and friends are great support systems for a survivor but we need to realize that cancer affects all those who love us and it is a good idea to find a professional to talk to so we don’t overburden our loved ones. Most insurance plans cover counseling services and major cancer centers and oncology offices can be good resources to find a counselor near you.
I am working with my counselor to discover how I can live well despite a terminal diagnosis. I am facing my fears of the future and grieving my losses even as I count my blessings and enjoy the present moment. If you are struggling as a cancer survivor at any point along the journey: diagnosis, treatment, remission, or long term survivorship please reach out for help. I am so glad that I finally did.