Friday, November 13, 2009

Cancer Lessons -- Your Contributions Invited

My darlin' wife is enjoying a gratifying recovery from breast cancer. It is her second experience with a very threatening disease. Her first was in 1996, a different cancer. Back then she was given "less than sixty days to live." That was 13 years ago. It's a fact. Take whatever you need from it.

I have reflected on what I would pass along to others going through the cancer experience. She's out of town and I haven't collaborated with her about this so she may correct any or all of my meanderings. My fears and thoughts are those of a loving husband. Others are invited to share their experience, strength and hope here as either a patient or a support person.

1. It is a very rough and scary experience and sometimes it hurts. BUT... you can survive it and come through on the other side smiling. Smiling. It just doesn't always feel like it. No kidding. You really can do it.

2. Do what you can to reduce your personal cancer risk. That includes
  • Don't smoke
  • Avoid over-exposure to the sun and tanning booths. My mom didn't.
  • Be aware of your own body and pay attention to changes
  • Ladies and men, do your self exams
3. Don't let your doc put you off with "It's probably nothing". The same for your own denial. It doesn't matter if your dad or mom never had cancer. They're not you and you simply don't know enough to have an informed opinion. If you suspect that something's wrong have it thoroughly checked out. Second opinions are good... get 'em.

4. Take the meds your docs prescribe. If you insist on supplementing with non-traditional medicine, do it alongside your prescribed treatment, not instead of it, and keep your doc informed about what you're doing.

5. Go all the way with your treatments, don't stop no matter how much you want to

6. Don't deny yourself familiar pleasures along the way. Enjoy them as best you can without interfering with your treatments.

7. Chemo really sucks. Yeah, your hair is likely to fall out. IT'S NO BIG DEAL! Puking? Yeah, it happens. Sorry, but it's no big deal either and the meds for it are a lot better than they used to be. If you can keep the juice/cookies/Popsicles they offer at the chemo clinic down, enjoy them. They taste good and they'll distract you for a moment. You'll want that.

8. You're going to be scared. Don't keep it in like I tried to. Talk about it and share it with those close to you. Try to remember that fear is an emotion and like all emotions, it will change. It doesn't have to own you. It's OK to cry. I did.

9. Participate in support groups. You need what they have, whether you are new and needy or a long-term survivor who proves that you can overcome.

10. Take walks during your recovery, as many as you can, more than one a day if you can. You need to see that the world is still there and the sun is still shining. You need the exercise, too.

11. Let others care for you in any way they can and want to. They love you and, like me, are often at a loss about how to show you. Tell them what you want and need and let them show you they care enough to do for you. You both need that. Don't be jealous of others who care and want to help. If you are a support person you might as well admit that you can use all the help you can get.

12. Pay attention to newly documented cancer risks and treatments. Avoid the risks when you can and investigate newly proven treatments with your doc.

13. Pray. There's no downside.

OK, enough for today. I hope you'll join in here and pass along your experiences so that others can benefit.

I love my darlin' wife's smile.

* * * * *

If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them. When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up, or fight like hell.
Lance Armstrong

1 comment:

  1. I endorse every word! I would only add that if you can find something to be grateful for, hang on to it. If you can't find something today, try again tomorrow. Every day has at least one gift hidden somewhere in it.

    That's it from me, the Darlin' Wife.