Do you struggle with control?

Control or not to control, that is the question

Control or not to control, that is the question

I witnessed an interesting struggle with control between women…Can we say scary?

They are long-term ovarian cancer survivors. They gathered, as they do each month, to celebrate life – to support each other on the other side of treatment. Each one bears the unseen medallion stating “Been there-Done that”

As I watched the women dance around being polite, not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings, I couldn’t help but question how often do we do this dance around politeness?

Then I had the loaded questions…What happens to us on a cellular level when we find ourselves struggling with being polite? Do you ever think about your own feelings? Are your feelings being hurt because it may not be polite to speak up? Do you get frustrated? Do you get angry? Do you have your stomach tied up in knots? Why is it more important to be polite to someone else over being hurt yourself?

The women I observed were attempting to understand who was going to decorate the group’s Teal Christmas Tree. They all wanted to help. They all wanted to participate with decorating what was being defined as “the group’s Teal Christmas Tree”.

The bottom line was that one woman wanted it to be her undertaking and hers alone. She struggled with communicating her wishes to the group. She was trying to be polite. She did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings and yet, she was determined to decorate the tree by herself – her way. She was struggling with being polite versus making a bold statement.

Most would define her actions as being a bit of a control freak. Maybe so, but what happened next was even more interesting. Once the women all understood her passion to decorate the tree alone, to have her mark on it, and that she didn’t want any help from anyone, each of the other women accepted her wishes and withdrew their desire to step in to help. They each understood the best thing to do was to let go.

In our chemo infusion suite, we had a framed message saying “Let go, give all your troubles to God; He will handle them for you.” What a profound image that statement created in my mind each time I went to the infusion suite. I could see God gleefully accepting each of our troubles. He took them from us so we could focus on the day ahead.

None of us had to worry about being at a corporate meeting that day. Nor did we worry over how we looked in the mirror. We had no time for worries over a bill that needed to be paid or what we were going to cook for dinner. All we had to deal with that day was being infused with chemotherapy drugs and resting. We were giving up our desire to fret over small details. During those days, worries seemed so insignificant when compared to cancer and facing chemotherapy.

As I watched the struggle over politeness and control, I interestingly observed one notable missing piece of learned behavior. The behavior that was missing was only for a moment. It was freedom from control. One woman, for one moment, stepped back into the role of control. I wondered if she felt the need for control before she was diagnosed with cancer. I wondered if her struggle with control might rear its ugly head again in the form of cancer. I certainly hope not!

So my point of sharing this story with long-term cancer survivors is this – acknowledge where you have been. Acknowledge what you have learned from your cancer experience. If you feel the need to control, first ask how important is it? If it is important, then communicate your desires clearly and state them boldly. Do not be shy.

Or if you find yourself in the presence of another control freak, honor yourself and where you have been. Do what these “Been there-Done that” survivors do, let go rather than get caught up in the frazzle. After all, we really don’t know what happens to us on a cellular level when we struggle with control.

Perhaps the key component to our being long-term cancer survivors has been that we broke the habit of needing to control. We pick our battles carefully. We know when to let go.

Do you struggle with control?