Breast Cancer Survivor Bree Kayson - Maximum Health with Dr. Ken Grey
Surviving Cancer: How Journaling and List-Making Help Me Cope
How Writing Helps
Journaling helps me process and cope. I have written about my thoughts and feelings from the shock and tears of initial diagnosis; through active treatment, which included surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation; and beyond, into cancer survivorship as I try to get my life back, or create a “new normal.”
Even to this day, when I read my journal entries about my fears, anxieties, and the other feelings I had about my initial cancer diagnosis, the cancer has less power over me!
In addition, I made lists about what was helpful to me through each part of the process. List-making was a great way to get ideas and thoughts from spinning around in my head and down on paper instead. Some of these lists became helpful tools:
- An ongoing list of worries to discuss with my doctor at the next appointment
- A list of ways to help calm myself down
- A list of ways to get through chemotherapy
- A list of ways to deal with my weariness during radiation
I incorporated good ideas that I'd researched on help for cancer patients into my journal and lists. My research, experiences, journaling, and lists eventually became a book, Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools,to help other cancer survivors through the process.
The Uncertainty of Survivorship
As a survivor, though, one never knows from day to day, or year to year, what will happen. There is no magic number. The reality is that the cancer can come back anytime. It can come back before five years, it can come back at six years, or it can come back anytime.
Cancer can come back in the same breast or the other breast, or somewhere else in my body: in my bones, brain, liver, or lungs.
These words made up the first list that I learned to memorize. It has simplified monitoring my fate. My fate has no guarantee. No one's fate has any guarantee. Truly. Before becoming cancer survivors, though, we liked to think there was a guarantee.
There is no peace. There is no final, definitive answer. I will accept bittersweet. Just like the dark chocolate I love, cancer survivorship is a double-edged sword. But you take what you get: the bitter with the sweet. In the end, there is no other choice.
Cancer survivors are more aware of this than anyone else. The blinders have been stripped away. We know what we know. And we know what we don't know. We accept this and move on, day by day. What other choice do we have? We celebrate our victories. We move forward. One day at a time.
A List for Fear of Recurrence
Fear of recurrence does linger in the back of my mind. Either of my cancers could still come back. I made a list of ways to cope with my fear of recurrence. Here is part of it:
- Distraction: time with family, a thrilling movie, shopping.
- Keeping my hands busy: crocheting, knitting, and crafting tie up my brain helpfully and keep it away from cancer thoughts.
- Immersion: giving myself the time and permission to feel and journal about my worries of cancer's returning. Cancer is big. It is okay to cry.
- Connecting: reaching out to fellow survivors, family, and friends when I need help.
- Reaching out to my belief system and to my community of faith.
Hey, God, I'm not even trying to send it out of the park. I would settle for just shuffling past most of life’s bases. I can't be perfect. I am not perfect. I know my odds are better with diet and exercise. I am trying, but I am human, and I wouldn't color it a total success.
I am showing up for life, and sometimes that is the best I can do. Sometimes that's all I can do. I am a cancer survivor. I have fear of recurrence many days,andlife goes on.
What I’m Grateful For
Cancer has enhanced my gratitude and appreciation for life, but I can’t and won’t ever be one of those folks who says that cancer was the best thing that ever happened to them.
Cancer is cancer. It is a disease. Cancer is bad.
I would love to have the fear of recurrence not be part of my daily life, but I don’t think that will ever happen.
However, I will say I am grateful for some of the people connections that came through my cancer experiences, and I am grateful for some of the life lessons, too. That said, yikes! There has to be a different way for me to achieve, hmm, “personal growth”?!
Consider doing your own journaling and making your own lists through diagnosis, treatment, and beyond. These tools are helpful for getting through cancer and through all of life’s bumps! You can do this.
Barbara Takois a breast cancer survivor since 2010, a melanoma survivor since 2014, and the author of.She also writes at CureToday.com/community and Cancer.net. Since 1998, Barbara has been a professional seminar leader, speaker, and published writer on clutter-clearing and organizing. You can reach Barbara at www.cancersurvivorshipcopingtools.com, or www.clutterclearingchoices.com.
Photo Credit for Author Image: Barbara Tako
Photo Credit for Book Jacket: John Hunt Publishing (Ayni Books)
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