Making Cancer History

“It means that one day, real soon, people no longer will know what cancer is. There will be no more suffering, amputations or other difficulties related to cancer. I’m looking forward to that day.”

 [Jaime Ramirez]

Both the caption for this week’s blog and the lead quote are taken from the MD Anderson website. As we observe breast cancer awareness month and celebrate with the survivors, share faith, hope and love with current patients and remember the warriors who have transitioned, I can’t help but think of my own experience with cancer and the tremendous lessons I’ve learnt on this life-changing journey.

As prevalent as cancer is I don’t know that anyone is ever truly prepared to receive the news that either you or a loved one has cancer.  Cancer is a very present reality for us at UTDS.  It is also a form of blessing.  Yes, that’s right!

We have chosen to see our diagnoses as blessings.

We choose to believe that this is not sickness unto death but unto the glory of God [John 11:14].

We choose to believe that our personal experiences are meant to be a testimony to others – to help prevent cancer through changes in behaviour, to promote early detection and to help others survive and thrive in the wake of a diagnosis.

Attitude is Everything

Did you notice the emphasis I placed on choice in each of the three declarations above?  Upon receiving the news that one has cancer, in that space where you break through the stunned disbelief or numbness, there is an opportunity to choose a response.  I’m not talking about how you respond just in that moment but rather the response that will characterize how you deal with what has become your new reality – your new normal.

For some, that space where the decision is made follows quickly on the heels of receiving the diagnosis.  For others, it takes a bit more time to come to terms with the news and to get to the place where you can respond and not just react.

Health care providers and published research tell us that one’s attitude in the face of a cancer diagnosis plays an important role in determining what happens next.  Of course, this doesn’t diminish or minimize other vital considerations such as the stage at which the disease is diagnosed.  In an earlier blog, we spoke about the merit of focusing one’s attention in one’s circles of influence and control and how empowering that can be – when compared to focusing most or all of one’s attention on the things which concern us but over which we have neither influence nor control.

So our first recommendation is that you choose to adopt a positive/proactive mind-set if and when faced with a cancer diagnosis.

Prevention is Better than Cure pink-bg_01

There really is truth in this old adage.  However, the harsh reality is that we won’t all be able to avoid getting that dreaded news – either as a result of the luck of the draw from the gene pool or from environmental factors outside of our control.  So what’s the next best alternative to cancer prevention? From where we sit, without a doubt, it’s early detection.

This means being really in tuned with/alert to one’s body and the little signs and symptoms which tell us that something isn’t quite right.  This means making preventative healthcare an integral part of our habit systems.  This means making health and wellness a part of our daily routine.

Several years ago I came across the quotation “The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they become too heavy to be removed.” If we accept that this is true, then isn’t it worth it to put in the early work in order to develop habits that contribute to health and wellness rather than those that take us in the opposite direction?[1] So, what’s preventing us from making an annual physical part of our routine? Why not tie it to your birthday or some other annual milestone so that you don’t run the risk of forgetting?

mindfulness-based-stress-reductionAnother element that can help us to implement a cancer prevention strategy is mindfulness – being fully present and cognizant of our decision-making and the possible consequences of those decisions. So, on those mornings when the alarm goes off for me to go the gym and I’m sorely tempted to silence it, roll over and go back to sleep, I engage in self-talk that goes something like this:

“Of course, you could choose not to get up and go to the gym.  If you do, how will that affect your commitment to live a healthier lifestyle? Is the extra hour of sleep worth it? If you don’t go to the gym this morning, what are you prepared to do to compensate for that decision? If you do go to the gym, what might you do to reward yourself for making that choice? Self-care cannot be delegated – only you can do this for you!”

stress_test_aaaargh_4045151Reduce Your Stress

Stress is a contributory factor to so many illnesses, and there is no shortage of stressors in our lives. The key point is how we deal with such stressors – how we prepare to face them, how we mitigate them and how we respond when they do show up.

One of the key stressors that one may encounter when faced with a cancer diagnosis is finances – worrying about if and how you can afford to pay for the care you’ll need.  When I was diagnosed last year, I was eternally grateful that I had followed the sage advice to purchase both a health insurance policy and a critical illness policy.  As a result of those decisions, the one thing I never had to worry about was the cost of my treatment.  That was a tremendous relief and allowed me to focus my time and energy on the important work of waging the mental and physical fight against the unwelcome cells threatening my body.

So this month and every other month, we encourage each and every one to do your part in the quest to make cancer history.

***

PS: UTDS has been pleased to bring you a weekly blog since our company launch back in May.  Thanks to the grace of God and the amazing support of our network of colleagues and clients, our workload has increased to the point where we have had to take the decision to scale back on the frequency of the blog.  Effective next month, our blog will be published on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month.  Therefore, our next issue will be published on November 3rd

We trust that you will continue to enjoy this complimentary service and to share your feedback and recommendations with us.

[1] For more on building habits, please follow this link to our earlier blog http://utdsinc.com/a-system-for-cultivating-winning-habits/



4 Comments

  • Julie Meeks

    Very strong content here. My eye caught the attribution of the quote, MD Anderson, where my mother was treated for cancer in the early 1990s. Although doctors had told us this was terminal, she recovered and was well for 20 years when another cancer challenged her. So I have great trust in and support for MD Anderson. The focus on detection is important, but there are so many daily choices that support prevention too: nutrition choices, sun avoidance, exercise (as Joan mentions in her early morning gym decisions!)…that we can and should be very conscious of what we have control over. I am repeating Joan’s advice for emphasis, and trying to live it too.

  • Very timely message. A great reminder that we can choose how to react to situations.
    We also choose our nutrition, our exercise routines (or lack thereof). More importantly, we choose our attitudes.
    Thanks Joan!!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.