My degree is an MSW. I was a clinical social worker – a psychotherapist. Certainly after my brother’s death, I became almost consumed by the need to help people accept their impending death or the death of a loved one. Much of my therapy practice and even courses and workshops I taught were around Death and Dying and caretaking. I have the view of a therapist working directly with patients.
With that background, I was asked to head up a community volunteer Hospice. I agreed. I selected and screened applicants, I taught the volunteers and I ran the Hospice (on the side.) I have the view of an administrator/ health care provider.
On the day I was diagnosed with my own breast cancer, I remember thinking … “well this will certainly be another view.” It wasn’t one that I wanted. But yes, now I have the view of being a patient.
I share all this to point out that I have this multi-view of cancer and have some opinions and some tips. My premise is that: Cancer patients are people first… they are human beings with many facets to their lives. We can’t overgeneralize about them.
So, here are a few notions:
1. Everyone’s experience is different
2. No one expects to get cancer … not even those who smoke or engage in any behaviors that are statistically known to cause cancer or who have a genetic pre-disposition.
3. No one knows how to handle it.
4. Caregivers, even if they’ve done it before, are in for a totally different experience each time because everyone’s experience is different.
5. Cancer is unpredictable, so no one can ever be able to predict anything about it with certainty… pro or con.
6. People who experience cancer have different resources and circumstances … not just about money, but family or not, jobs that easily adapt to treatment or not, workplaces that understand or not, friends and support or not, the proximity of treatment resources or not.
So my purpose is to begin sharing the truth of my experience from a 360 degree lens of what the true cancer experience is like. Now, of course, this is through my filter of my experience along with discussions with others. However, I feel I can illuminate what I call the Cancer Adventure and deliver it in bite-sized pieces for people to better grasp.
Key Learnings through my adventure with Cancer:
1. Be honest … tell others how you feel, acknowledge that there is an alien living in your body
2. Ask for help and be willing to accept it.
3. Approach the whole experience from a place of curiosity … afterall, you are adventuring into something new… an uncharted area.
4. Remember that cancer is like a blip on the screen or a standstill on the highway. It’s Annoying. Sometimes it lasts a long time, and others a short time, but annoying either way. It will be up to you to handle it in as positive a way as you can.
5. Enjoy all the little things in life that you might be taking for granted: taste, smell, playfulness, affection; And the big things: love, relationship, beauty.
6. Live in the MOMENT … that’s all you have. (actually, that’s all any of us have.)