How do you tell your partner, parent or child that you have cancer?


th image credit: Good Search

If you’ve ever been re-diagnosed with cancer, how did you tell the people who were by your side through cancer before?

Some people openly talk about the concerns they have when they find lumps or bumps. I guess the atmosphere is set up for this a bit more when you live with a partner, parent, or child. Other  patients bring another person with them to every doctor appointment, or at least the ones they know they’ll be getting information that could change their life.

If you go to the doctor alone, and get the news, “you have cancer” or, “cancer is back” — how do you tell your partner, parent, or child? How do you tell your best friends? There’s something that seems to shift when it’s the second re-diagnosis; the third time of cancer.

It was the hardest thing I can recall ever sharing with my parents. It took me weeks to tell each of them, and a month to share with friends, and only as we’d plan to get together for other reasons.

If you’ve been tapped on the shoulder by cancer again, maybe you need to sit with the information before sharing it with others—who’ll seem to take it personally, and who’ll look at you genuinely hurt, shocked, and confused. These are the people you’d never in a million years set out to hurt. They’re the one who’ve pulled for you, and rooted you on during cancer the first, and second time. They celebrated your triumph, and closed the door with you on any thought of cancer coming back. They believed in you when you said, “I’m cancer free” and ” I’m done with cancer.” These people still believe in you. And for me, that’s why it was so hard to tell them—again.

A while back I wrote a post called, “Don’t let the diagnosis kill you.” I wrote it before I knew anything of my re-diagnosis. It’s been a great reminder for me when my mind strays to dark territories. We all die at some point. That’s the thing about life: You can’t get out alive. But that doesn’t mean we (with or without cancer) can mope around about the card(s) we’ve been dealt.

Look around you. You have awesome people in your life. You are loved. And by many people, you are loved unconditionally. Think of that! without conditions. Wow. Take it in. Breathe in life. If you’ve been re-diagnosed, I’m sorry. It’s tough on the psyche as well as the body. But hold your head high, tell your loved ones when and how you can. Keep in mind, you’ve had more time to absorb the news than they have.

I’ve always been a staunch believer of telling the truth, and in some cases, that means just telling it quickly. I didn’t see this one coming: I was visiting my dad. I thought we had 45 minutes together and alone before we headed out. When I went to confirm, he said, “No. We’re leaving in 10 minutes.” Oooo, not in my plan. I was waiting for my way-too-hot oatmeal to cool down. I still needed to put on make-up, and brush my teeth. I put down my breakfast spoon, mainly to ensure I didn’t fling oatmeal anywhere, and kept one eye on the clock.

I quickly apologized for the timing, and for the news itself. “—I have bumps again. Cancer is back.” My voice started to crack, but I was able to rein it right back in. We didn’t have time for my that, and it would only hurt my dad more, seeing me drop into a puddle of tears over something he couldn’t do anything about. His head lowered. I could see he was going into analytical mode. I picked up my spoon, and began shoveling oatmeal into my mouth, keeping my eye on the clock. “Sorry. It’s sort of complicated. They’ll do more testing, and I’ll keep you updated. I wanted to tell you face to face.”

Done.

I got up to wash my bowl, put on make-up, and brush my teeth. We left on time.

Wherever you are on this journey. Peace.

 

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If the shoe fits (autobiography in five short chapters)


walk image credit: Good Search

I love this poem. Whatever your current situation, this may fit. Maybe you’re upset over something, maybe you’re just ready to approach life from a new angle. (How about a TRY angle?)

If you’ve been re-diagnosed, and are in the sad, angry, or why-me stage, this could relate to cancer. It’s not making those emotions wrong, it’s giving you the opportunity to choose empowerment. And it’s okay if you don’t choose that right away. Emotions must be payed attention to, or they will move from whisper to scream, and that will affect your health even more.

If you’re a caregiver, the poem could be for how you play your role. Cancer is a heavy load to walk with someone. Note the word with. You alone, cannot carry this load. Share it. Ask for help. Give yourself “me” time. Lighten up. Love yourself.

Put on your walking shoes…

Autobiography in five short chapters

by Portia Nelson

 

CH 1

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in. I am lost…I am helpless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to get out.

 

CH 2

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again. I can’t believe I’m in the same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

 

CH 3

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in… it’s a habit.

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

 

CH 4

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

 

CH 5

I walk down another street.

 

Anger


 

 

 

 image credit: Google

 

Cancer. Anger. Anxiety. Depression.

 

This is a re-post:

Ask your medical team if the cancer treatment you receive can trigger emotional change. Some medications have side effects of possible depression, anger or anxiety. It’s much easier to deal with these new emotions when you know where it’s coming from. In addition to medication, anger can arise from the process of menopause. You’re not crazy. You’re not a horrible person. Your body is used to a certain amount of estrogen and progesterone, and now that’s gone. It’s a triple-quadruple whammy: Chemo, surgeries, medication, menopause. (It’s enough to make you scream, isn’t it?)

 

Some say anger helps them through cancer. I’ve met some very angry people. Their anger may help them, but that doesn’t mean I need to be their target or audience for inappropriate dealings of their anger. I’m all for tying to understand frustration, and supporting others when we can. This coin has two sides: People encouraging each other. People practicing the life they want.

 

Having said this, when someone’s depressed, they cannot just turn on the switch to joy. It takes time and effort on everyone’s part. When I was diagnosed with cancer, in fact—with every change and every surgery (6) I found myself at the bottom of the emotional ladder. (Even if it was a new level, I’d be at the lowest rung of that level.) I’ve been a New Thought minister and know the ropes around positive thinking. But, some days I had to allow others to lift me, knowing I was being dark and miserable—and knowing at some level, someday I’d return to “me.” My mantra was often, “Trust. Float.” (We don’t float in water by fighting it. We float by relaxing into it.)

 

As I often point out, this isn’t about stuffing or internalizing emotions. If you’re angry, go ahead—swear at cancer, punch a pillow, cry, shake your fist at God. Do what feels good. Then, move out of anger. It will not serve you to stay there. But, if you’re angry, fearful or sad and you ignore it, you’re asking for trouble. Be present. Know how you feel. Only then can you make a shift to a better feeling. Even just by saying, “I want to feel better.” It’s like an alert to your body that you’re ready to shift gears. After making that announcement, you can continue with a list of (start with five) things for which you’re grateful. I covered my walls with shelf paper and used felt tips pens for my “Wall of Gratitude.” I knew I wouldn’t seek out a journal to read or write when I felt awful. This way it was in my constant view, and I’d get lost in it, reading and thinking, Yes! I really am grateful for that!

 

Lean into friends, family, neighbors, support groups, medical team, and counselors. Notice the support around you. I received incredible support from grocery store cashiers, and the general public. Not long after completing chemo, I was at Costco one night in December, buying one box of smoked salmon. That’s it. Nothing else. A woman in the line next to me pointed at me, and loud enough to cross the checkout lanes said, “YOU ROCK!” At first I smiled, “Thank you.” She said it again with emphasis. I teared up. She understood the absurdity. Costco. Night shopping. Christmas time. One item.

 

Cancer is often accompanied with feelings of isolation and loneliness, intensifying with anger. You may storm in and out anger during the few years of cancer treatment. It may continue after treatment is over. Many patients focus on getting back to “the way it was before.” It may happen, and if not, maybe the change in the long run will be spectacular. As you get fresh air, good sleep, exercise, and healthy food, you’re raising the bar for the new norm. If you need to, get angry. But direct it appropriately, and move on.

 

Related Resources:

 

 

1-800-227-2345 English, Spanish, Asian and Pacific Languages. They also have a chat line.

 

 

1-800-4-cancer 1-800-422-6237  English, Spanish. They also have a chat line.

 

The Importance of Encouraging Words


be positive Image Credit: Good Search

When you were diagnosed, or re-diagnosed, what was your reaction? Did you let your shock, anger, fear just come out in the office? Or did it hit you later? And, when it did hit, what was it like? Some people sit and cry. Some have a surge of fear or anger well up. Others turn analytical, turning their focus within.

Did you ever express your emotions as a knee jerk reaction in the exam room, only to be told by someone on the medical team, “Be positive.” That’s great advice, but I also think it depends when and where that advice is given. If you’re in the exam room and have just been diagnosed, or re-diagnosed, I think, “Be positive” is a cop-out for staff. They deal with the words all day, everyday—for cancer in someone else’s body. Even if it’s a re-diagnosis, it’s new information to you. If you’re the one who found the bump on your body, there’s still that phase where you don’t know if it’s cancer or not. There’s that waiting period. Blood test, biopsy, and maybe a scan or two.  I know it’s a matter of semantics, but hearing, “I’m sorry. Stay focused on the good” or “I know this is hard. Keep positive” has a better ring to it than, “Be  positive.”As if being positive will magically change the bump from malignant to benign over night.

For me, the doctor’s office is the place where I vent. I expect that to be the safe place for my complaints about side effects, and the place for me to ask tons of questions that have popped up since my last visit, or while hearing a new diagnosis. Being told to, “Be positive” at this point doesn’t help me. When I’m at home, I listen to hypnotherapy, beautiful music, and comedy. I walk the beach, or read New Thought books. I meditate. I pray. I surround myself with like-minded people, who will affirm good. I’ve just begun to travel again. I’m working a bit, too. My book is with an editor now. Being told, “Be positive” from a nurse as she hands me the doctor’s urgent orders for four tests, allows me to witness someone who’s uncomfortable with the moment. Ha! That makes two of us. . .

Like most people, I claim to be a positive person. For over thirty years, I’ve been steeped in New Thought (positive, practical spirituality). When I go dark, it feels very foreign to me. Even in really tough times, I can bring myself back to the Light, to break up the downward pull. Sometimes it means I come back to the Light 100 times a day. Like the Chinese proverb: Fall down seven times. Get up eight. It’s not about denying the dark side. It’s about denying the dark side, power.

It’s okay to be present with the diagnosis given you—but then you must decide how you walk this path. There will be moments you trip and fall. Your thoughts may go dark, you may hurt physically and emotionally. Tend to your wounds—then get up. Find the good in the situation. Find the good in life; in humanity.

If you hear, “Be positive” it’s because people want you to experience happiness. Cancer cannot take that away. (Well, okay, it can—but that’s because we drift off with it, giving cancer and it’s side effects the power to claim our life while we are still living.)

If laugher is medicine, what’s your dose?


What do you do for a good laugh?

I was needing to yuck-it-up.

Usually, I can reframe from sad to happy easily if I need to. Or, if I just need to shift my point of view, or mood, I’ll grab a book of one of my bookshelves, and turn my attitude to gratitude. Recently, I was feeling low, and none of my positive mindset, spiritual, or how-to books were holding my interest. Walking the beach wasn’t the fix, either. I asked myself, “When’s the last time I had a good, long laugh?” It had been too long.

I searched You Tube the words “funny” and “laughter”. I watched lots of videos, turning most of them off within thirty seconds. “Stupid” or “foul” is how I’d categorize them. Lots of animal videos. My analytical and protective mind took over, not allowing anything to be funny. Is a cat falling off the counter again and again, funny? Did the cat get up there by itself? 

Then I looked up “Laughter Yoga”. I’m familiar with it, but the videos were educational, and like all the books on my shelves, they weren’t what I needed.

I needed to laugh.

The next day, I went to my local record store – a hole in the wall that sells oldies, and lots of hipster paraphernalia. My intention was to trade-in a pile of my CDs for a comedy CD. The store wasn’t taking any trades at this time because they had so many CDs in stock. I bought a well-known Bill Cosby routine. But it wasn’t the laugh I was looking for.

I went to the library to pick-up comedy CDs. Did you know “Comedy” is found under “Non-Fiction”? Now that’s funny! The library near my apartment is super small, and I was re-directed to the larger library across town. I put it on my “to-do” list. That evening, I gave You Tube another try. This time, I used the words “Comedy” and “Clean Stand up”. B-I-N-G-O! I laughed my head off for one hour. I got up to get tissue for my happy tears flowing down my face. I knew my neighbors could hear me laughing hysterically, which made me laugh harder at one point.

This one hour stand-up routine of Ellen DeGeneres is what the doctor ordered. It’s clean. It’s something we can relate to. It has nothing to do with cancer. Enjoy!

 Please share what makes you laugh.

Grew Tomatoes. Now What?


tomato vine image credit: Good Search

Did you grow tomatoes this summer and now wonder what to do with them? If you can find a neighbor who grew zucchini, you’re in luck! Swap vegetables, and swap some recipes, too. Here are some facts about the tomato you can digest in good health:

When processed or cooked, tomatoes actually contain more lycopene than raw tomatoes. The structure of the antioxidant lycopene changes, making it more easily absorbed by our bodies. So, pour on the pasta sauce, and feel good about buying canned tomatoes in the winter. Just half-cup of tomato sauce is plenty for an adequate lycopene boost to your system. Food sources of lycopene have been found to be more beneficial than supplements. Here’s a link for more information about lycopene.

 

Tons of tomatoes—now what?

Tomatoes are consumed more than any other non-starchy vegetable in America. Here are some ideas to make sure they don’t go to waste.

  • Share them! If a friend or neighbor has plenty of something else, barter 😉
  • No sandwich is complete without a tomato slice.
  • Is spaghetti for dinner? Cook up some tomatoes, and crush them for the sauce.
  • To add some character to your breakfast eggs, dice some tomatoes.
  • Cold or warm tomato or gazpacho soup. You’re on your own here. I’ve never made either.
  • Stuff tomatoes like you would a stuffed pepper and cook, or stuff it with tuna, or cottage cheese.
  • Make stew or soup with all sorts of tomatoes: fresh, canned, dried – they each add their own flavor.

For snacks or h’orderves:

  • Make some salsa for a quick appetizer: (dice tomatoes, chop cilantro, onion, jalapeno pepper, garlic, and squeeze some lemon.) If you have a molcajete – a traditional Mexican version of a mortar and pestle, crush the ingredients – it’ll bring the flavor out even more by crushing them a bit. If you like smooth rather than chunky salsa, put things in the blender after you chop them up.
  • Another side dish or snack with tomato: thick slices of tomatoes and alternatively overlap with slices of mozzarella cheese as you make your way around a plate (If you’re near a Costco, they sell packages already sliced.) Add some fresh basil. Drizzle olive oil on top, and add salt and pepper, and balsamic vinegar if you want a stronger flavor.

 

 

Why Would You Leave Your Doctor?


bye bye doctor image credit: Good Search

Why would you leave your doctor? Let me count the ways:

Are you sick and tired of the hassles your doctor and/or his office put you through? Fed up with the communication breakdowns, the lack of bedside manner, or the errors from your doctor or his staff, including billing? Has your doctor gone high-tech and forgotten common sense, or the human touch? Perhaps their lingo is medical mojo.—Fine. But if I don’t understand it, educate me. Someone spent time educating you, Dr. Smarty Pants (Or is it Dr. Can’t be bothered?)

It’s your right to know what they are saying about you. You are a member on your medical team. Are you informed about your test results? Are your office visits rushed? I understand doctors are busy—so are many of their patients. Even if it looks like all we do is go to the doctors,—two doctor appointments can take all day long. How long do you wait to see your doctor?

Some people are afraid to get a second opinion, or to leave a doctor they’ve been with.

When I was diagnosed, I went for a second opinion. I stayed with the second surgical oncologist. After my first appointment with my oncologist (different from surgical oncologist), I left the appointment knowing it wasn’t a good fit. I called before my second appointment to ask for a transfer to another doctor. I’m happy I did. From that point on, I kept—and loved my medical team. Well. . . until three years into it. Then I left my reconstruction surgeon, and my only regret is that I hadn’t done so two years earlier. With the latter two changes, I remained at the same office for my medical care.

Some suggest talking to the administrative staff if you have issues with the doctor. I don’t agree with that, but I see where it could be less intimidating for some people. From what I hear and see, the staff speak too freely and in ear shot. They have no reason to be loyal to you, the patient. It’s not their medical license up for review.

Regarding my complaint over much larger implants than expected, a physician assistant replied, “I’m not going to tell [the surgeon] that!” Because my after surgery complaint was not passed on, I waited for my next appointment to ask, “Why am I larger than the implants being replaced? That was an agreed upon size.” In my case, I’d gone to someone other than the doctor, and they were afraid to tell the doctor my complaint!

Have you ever been forgotten in the exam room? I have. In waiting rooms, I now sit where the receptionist can see me. In the exam room, I pop my head out if I’m in there more than 15 minutes.

If surveys are sent to you, fill them out. You can do it anonymously, if you want.

If you do change doctors, by law, you are entitled to take your medical records with you. This September, patients should be able to get them electronically, too.

Consider leaving your doctor if:

  • If your questions aren’t answered, or they’re not answered in a way you understand.

Bring someone with you to the appointments if you’re having some trouble, and then you can decide if it’s you—stressed out, tired, hearing problems, or your doctor’s issue.

  • If your questions are faced with dismissal.

I show up with my yellow pad of paper. I’ve thought out questions before my appointment, and as things arise between appointments, I write them down on my pad of paper. Only one doctor has visibly shown dread with this. The office packed with patients, the doctor in fast speed robo-mode, and after my waiting one-and-a-half hours to be seen, I expected some answers. Five minutes later (this includes the time for pleasantries and the exam), the doctor went for the door handle. My list on my lap, I said, “Ohh nooo. I have questions for you.” The answers I got equated to a pat on the head and “We’re not there yet” which translated to (as always, I’m too busy for a patient to have a meltdown. I can’t answer the long version of those questions.)

  • If the doctor seems offended that you want a second opinion—keep walking.

It is common place for patients to get second opinions, and health insurance usually covers them.

Before you go to any doctor, make sure they are board certified, or board-eligible if they’re just out of medical school. If you have a doctor, and not sure they’re board certified, you can check at www.certificationmatters.org  or call (866) 275-2267.

Remember, you are also on your medical team. Sometime it comes down to chemistry. Other times, the doctor/patient relationship changes. Don’t stay out of loyalty if something is wrong.

It’s for your health.