Lost to a Cancer Diagnosis?

Lost in the desert

Lost to a Cancer Diagnosis
© Raodahead | Dreamstime Stock Photos &Stock Free Images

Do you feel lost to your cancer diagnosis? Have you been feeling as though you can’t find yourself? Have you been feeling that uncertainty of “where to do I go from here?” How can I possibly make the right decisions?

A cancer diagnosis forces us to deal with these questions and so many more. Questions flood our minds creating the proverbial “monkey mind”. We deal with questions like: Am I seeing the right doctor? Have the doctors made a mistake or mixed my report with another patient’s report? Do I really need to have this surgery? Must I take chemotherapy? What could possibly happen if I don’t have chemotherapy? How long do I have to live? How should I live if my time is really shortened as much as the statistics say? Are there things I can do to heal? Should I look into complimentary therapies?

Living with a cancer diagnosis is not easy. I can remember that once the cancer diagnosis was made, I felt like I was sliding down a giant water slide at an amusement park. I was sliding. I couldn’t stop nor could I slow the ride of my life. My days were filled with preparations for more surgeries, blood draws, chemotherapy, more tests and lots of waiting for results that would determine my fate for the weeks ahead.  I had to learn to juggle all of this while attempting to live a”normal” life of working my career of 23 years, caring for my home and caring for my elderly parents.

I can distinctly recall being in a meeting discussing all the work and change orders that had to be addressed in the matter of a few days. The stores were going to open on a specific date no matter what changes were made. The store opening date was like a federal law. Any violations of this open date would cost the company thousands of dollars, not to mention the potential loss of the account.

The design team’s energy, a team of experienced professionals, was so charged it felt like I was sitting in a bee hive with them all buzzing around me. I watched them and felt their energy. I was fully aware of the consequences if we missed that store open date. I was aware of all this and yet, I had my week of appointments dealing with my cancer treatment in my head. At that moment I knew none of my co-workers cared about what I was thinking, feeling or going through. To them they had a job to do. The store open date was miniscule in my world.

I was having my first “out-of-body” experience. I could recognize my co-worker’s  frenzy. I used to be a part of it, dead center in the middle.  All the change orders, and there were many, meant I had to deal with the redesign of the manufacturer’s drawings – metal fabricators, wood fabricators and plastic fabricators. I was responsible for the redesign of all the installation instruction manuals for our installers, the frantic last-minute printing of the instruction manuals, delivery of said printed materials to the FedEx office by 8:30 pm so we could sit on their lobby floor inserting the change order redesign installation instructions into the installer’s binders until the job was done…hopefully before the FedEx trucks left the loading docks at midnight.

My “out-of-body” experience had time slowed to a point where I could view the frenzied buzz of the people in the conference room at rapid speed. It was like watching a movie where they speed up the motion of people and the sound gets garbled. Yet my observance of myself was slowed to a point where I could feel the heartbeat of my life. I could observe, analyze and make decisions about my life comfortably…unhurried. I had the thought that my co-workers were likely looking at me as though I had blacked-out with my eyes open. I remember thinking these folks must think I don’t care and therefore won’t do what they expect me to do. I tried to get back into my body so I could engage in the meeting and respond, but I just couldn’t get back.

My “out-of-body” experience was making me fully aware of what was truly important in my life. It wasn’t the store opening date. It was becoming present experiencing the cancer treatment journey so I could live a longer life. The store opening date was not going to ensure my survival in life. The only thing that focusing my attention on the store opening date would do for me was ensure their store would open on that date. Focusing on the store opening date would not provide me job security nor secure a future paycheck. I realized my focus on their need would do absolutely nothing towards MY need…my need to survive cancer.

Surviving cancer is not a simple process. The steps each of us take to survive seem monumental and often seem to take forever – especially the waiting period for an appointment or waiting for our test results. What I recall doing during my waiting was reflecting upon the question “What can I do to help myself heal?” This reflection launched me into a bevy of other questions like, Should I change my diet? When is something too much – like eating too many carrots or grapes? How many hours of sleep should I be getting? When I walk my dog near a busy road, am I inhaling carcinogens? Have I been using the wrong products on my body – my lotions, my perfume or my make-up? What about that urban legend email that wrapped the globe several times over the years – the one about deodorant…could it be true that deodorant causes cancer? All these questions and more flooded my head in the beginning. Some still swim up there in my head from time-to-time.

My father always told me “if you can read, you can learn to do anything…you can be anything.” So my quest for learning what I can do to help my body heal from cancer began. My cancer survivorship began with reading books. These books are listed on my website. Each book actually says the same message, but differently. They are all the same, but different. The message is to engage in your survivorship. Do what you can to participate in your survivorship. The small efforts you make to engage in survivorship will add up. You will benefit from all that you do.

I realized my doctors were doing all they knew to remove the cancer from my body through surgeries and chemotherapy. I knew I had to do all I could do to ensure my body would not make new cancer cells.  I knew to be successful in this I had to evaluate all that I did before the cancer diagnosis…everything I did up to that point had to be evaluated. I needed to become my own investigator to uncover how my body allowed cancer to become present. I evaluated every behavior one at a time and some in concert with others. Afterall, we are the sum of all that we do. By engaging in this analysis of myself, I was telling cancer “Beware! Surveillance Cameras Present!”

In my previous 23 year career, I instructed manufacturers how to fabricate things. I instructed installers how to assemble and install store fixtures. Now I am a cancer survivor. I am a cancer survivor mentor. I want to lead you, a fellow cancer patient, over the mountain of the cancer diagnosis. I want to lead you on the path of recovery that combines the medical treatment of your cancer with the work you need to do for yourself. The work you can do to realize surviving cancer is the most important responsibility you have to yourself. I want to lead you to the new frontier of surviving cancer.

By the way… 10 years ago, the meeting over the change orders occurred. Two weeks later, the company dismissed more than two-thirds of our team, leaving only 5 of us on the team.  Seven months later, my position was eliminated. By the end of the year, the company lost the account.  A few months later the store chain closed its doors across the country. The stores are gone…vanished from existence.

I am here. I am thriving. I am a cancer survivor. I want the same cancer survivorship for you. I am a cancer survivor mentor.

Lost yourself to a  cancer diagnosis? Allow me to lead you to the new frontier of surviving cancer.

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