Friday, January 22, 2010

Live forward, not backward

I'm still thinking about yesterday's entry where I talked about control (or the lack thereof). Most of us go through our lives aware that there are many things over which we have no control. But there's nothing like the words "you have cancer" to leave you reeling with the obvious reality of our lack of control. Following the initial shock, you attempt to harness any semblance of control by gathering information or by talking to those closest to you (or at least I did anyway). Others withdraw, taking time to absorb the shock. Regardless of how I choose to cope with this diagnosis, it still feels like I have been thrown into a foreign land with no map, compass or directions.
One of my first instincts was to try to figure out why. If I know why, then I can control the outcome. So the questions began. Does God really hate me that much? Did I live an unhealthy lifestyle? Did I do something to cause this? But then I realized that this thinking takes up too much precious energy. Time spent looking backward and trying to discover the cause doesn't help the current situation nor does it contribute to healing.
So what can I control? I can control my attitude and live a full life. While a cancer diagnosis is a crisis it isn't necessarily an emergency. It must be dealt with in a timely manner but careful, well-thought-out choices about treatment is important. I am not "just another cancer patient". The diagnosis does not define me - I am a person living with cancer. Cancer will not overshadow my individuality. I am self-aware. I know who I am and what I need.
I've learned that those who care about me barely notice that I have hardly any hair. The best part is that they can still look me in the eye and rarely do I even remember that I look like GI Jane when I'm with them. It's only when I see that pitiful, startled look on the face of a stranger that I remember. There are times that I tire of hearing "stay strong" or "be positive" but I always appreciate that my friends, family and colleagues are sending me good vibes and keeping me in their thoughts.
The cancer diagnosis changed who I am; it is a holistic transformation in that it affects the whole me. The status quo of my life has been radically altered along with multiple aspects of the previous me that existed outside the world of cancer. The myriad of changes that followed the diagnosis altered the way I view the world and my place in it. Nothing is the same as it was before because I am not the same.
Living with cancer is not a linear process. My feelings, moods and needs shift from day-to-day, hour-to-hour and even minute-to-minute. It requires me to check in with myself. I have given myself permission to to throw out previous priorities and embrace new ones as this is an area I can exercise some control. In situations that feel out of control, self-awareness, recognizing my own needs, and self-advocating will make me feel empowered and allow me to "live forward".

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