How to move forward in your life!
I’ve not met a single person on the planet yet who enjoys the thought of “sucking it up” or relishing the taste of a dog turd served up on a platter. That’s what a cancer diagnosis gifts you at the start of the experience.
I recognise that’s a little confrontational and button pushing, but it’s my truth. My breast cancer experience is also my reformed resilience, motivation, exposed fears, revitalised purpose and pursuit of my dreams. It’s been a gift on many levels.
My raw has transformed into my ROAR!
A cancer diagnosis and recovery from surgery and/or treatment are significant. You find yourself asking a hell of a lot of questions, some of which are reasonable and some are fear-based. It’s very easy to quickly fall down a rabbit hole into a pity party.
After listening to Tasha Eurich’s Ted Talk “Increase your Self Awareness” I was left with two profound key points.
“Why” questions trap us into continuing to look in the rearview mirror of our life.
A why question often denotes an emotional component to answer or highlight a reason or cause. In the case of cancer, why would one person be diagnosed over another? In some cases, like smoking or drinking, the why is simple and easy to identify. There is an inference that the person’s actions were the cause.
A why question also denotes blame shame and guilt immediately to the inquisitor. It infers the action of the question asker to reflect on the reason of cause. In the case of cancer, as my oncologist states, it’s the luck of the draw.
In my experience and research, cancer is a little more than luck but still, no-fault should be drawn. Yet we self criticise, self punish and talk shit to ourselves when the going gets tough at the time of diagnosis! Other than making you feel worse and completely stuck, what is this serving you? You gain absolutely nothing.
I could talk about the involvement of epigenetics, diet and the management of chronic stress in one’s life — all of which contribute to cancer. There are likely to be the questions surrounding why me, but what if you were to consider what can I learn from this experience?
Does that one question stop you in your why tracks immediately? Did you find yourself pausing and taking a slow deep breath and calming a little?
Here’s the thing, if you’re a newly diagnosed patient none of those reasons you procured inside your head matter right now. Do they? Looking for a cause is continuing to look in the rearview mirror of your life. The diagnosis is done. It’s not in your control to go back and make changes.
You can’t relive your life or get a do-over.
But YOU can make changes moving forward.
You’re not doing yourself any favours by mentally beating yourself up with all the analysis of the why. Excessive or ongoing thinking literally will drain your physical energy to maintain the mental stamina to power the brain and continue assessing what did or did not go right or wrong.
The answer to overcoming the stress of a cancer diagnosis (and it’s easier to implement than you think) is to ask yourself this one question.
What is in my control right now?
Sit with that question and check in with your body. Is it still in a state of flight or fight? Or perhaps are you suddenly eager to explore new horizons? Is there a shift?
Asking the what question shifts your vision, motivation and drive for life forward. It changes the mindset into a solution-orientated field.
What to ask your medical team?
Understand your diagnosis
Understanding medical language at the best of times can get a person flummoxed. Learning about the intricacies of your cancer diagnosis takes time to digest all the various nuances associated with your personal case.
Understand what your pathology report is informing your specialist. Be sure to continue asking questions of your medical team until you are clear on what the diagnosis means, and their suggested treatment options based on your specific results.
Understand your treatment options
Once you’ve got your head around your diagnosis, your medical team is a well-oiled machine which will likely guide you to some form of medical intervention. It’s vital to understand what various treatment options are available to you.
There will naturally be emotions associated with whatever treatment option you choose. A good practitioner provides you with advice for treatment, based on the statistical success of short and longer-term cure rates, and allow you to decide. It’s your body after all.
I was fortunate enough to have a world-class surgical team who participated in robust discussion about surgical and oncology treatment options. We discussed the pros and cons of everything in relation to my case history.
I also asked what the success rates of various procedures, tests and scans in general. I asked specifically each specialist what their individual performance statistics in relation to undertaking suggested treatment options.
I discussed with my team the what were the potential failure rates, side effects and complications of what they suggested for my specific case. Let me very clear, I’m not a doomsayer with a negative outlook. I wanted to be proactive and understand what I could do to minimise negative outcomes that were in my control.
Understand the statistics of metastatic return
Upon my diagnosis, I learnt many things about my hormone-related cancer. I also had to think about two strategies before making any treatment decisions. These included what I needed to do to deal with cancer in the now and present, and in the medium term in order to minimise risks of metastatic return.
I found it vital that I understood what the statistical research evidence of possible recurrence of my exact cancer. I had numerous in-depth conversations with members of my medical team in relation to the little things that I could implement to manage pain, side effects, recovery, and ability to cope with everything in between.
One of the most empowering things you can gift yourself is to ask yourself what questions? Asking yourself “what can I learn from this experience?” literally reprogram your conscious brain into solution-seeking actions, rather than hosting a pity party.
Migrating through a cancer experience is tough. You get thrown so many lessons to learn about yourself. Asking what questions enables you to have some little bit of control of the many small things you can implement looking forward in your life.
Karen Humphries is a Kinesiology Practitioner, Health & Business Coach, self-confessed laughaholic, and now Breast Cancer Advocate residing in Gippsland Victoria Australia. She loves being of service to the world with her humorous and positive approach to life, encouraging people to ‘choose to change and bloom from within.’