Blog Discoveries 2 – Living With Cancer

06-DSC_3049I’m continually impressed by the array of interesting material that is out there.

This is a short collection of some of the things I found worth reading lately in blogs that talk about life and cancer.

Here’s what they say not just about living with cancer, but about how to live well with cancer.

Strange Birds We Meet

We’ve all experienced how family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances can react so differently to news of your cancer diagnosis or your treatment choices.

I related to the musings of Professor Susan Gubar and her categorisation of those responses into bird types in Living With Cancer: For the Birds.

She talks about the Crows who “savor all evidence of fatigue or body dysfunction and enumerate the dire side effects of prescribed drugs.”

Or, the less benign Blue Jays who tend to believe: “She brought it on herself” — as they flee any emotional closeness with your plight.

I’m sure we’ve all, unfortunately, met someone like that.

She has had some bad responses to her cancer diagnosis and treatment, but in the end she conceded:

“At times, I have to admit, there is absolutely no response to my cancer that seems acceptable to me, probably because the cancer isn’t.”

Walking in Your Shoes

Maybe it is just a lack of understanding or an unwillingness that we all have from time to time to understand how others see the world or to appreciate the load they are carrying.

Ismena Clout touched on this when she described her difficulties in getting a seat on the train (“tube” to a Londoner) when others feel she looks ‘so well’. See her article: Secondary breast cancer: Giving up seats on Tube trains and angry demons.

Many are probably just weary, burdened with their own issues and switched off to thinking about others. Their mind may be on idle or thinking about work or home or the weekend etc. The train ride is just being endured while their body passes from point A to B.

I remember once being horrified at my own lack of sensitivity when I was sitting on a crowded train. It was only after about 10 minutes that I realised a pregnant woman was standing. It was not that I didn’t care. I was simply not thinking.

I hastily gave her my seat once I realised. It had taken way too long though for me to snap out of that daze and I felt like a heel for not responding sooner.

I’m sure we’ve all acted below par from time to time.

Still, I think her point is well made that many are not in touch with the realities of life.

Until we are confronted with cancer or other harsh reminders it is all too easy to get so caught up in the running of a busy life and forget the difficulties others may be facing.

Anyone who has been through chemo can probably identify with her plight and the travails of having a chemo addled brain and battling to think right.

“Words creep into my head that I normally keep away. These words float around the edge of my consciousness all the time and 99 per cent of the time I ignore them but occasionally the ‘small stuff’ allows them in. Words like: ‘why me.’ I don’t ever think this about my cancer but when something else goes wrong I think it in the context of, ‘why has this car broken, why has it happened to me, isn’t dealing with cancer enough for the universe!’

One way she balances things is to take the time to thank people for good service.

“Too often we complain when things go wrong but how often do we congratulate when things go right? I made sure some good staff got recognition and before going to bed I listed some things in my life I am grateful for, I went to sleep with a smile on my face as I have so much good in life.”

Is that appreciation of the good things in life heightened through the cancer experience? Has it had that effect on you?

Retaining Happiness

Keeping a focus on the positive is important. It is easy to let our happiness be eroded.

You may find some good tips from Marc and Angel in their blog post on 10 Little Habits that Steal your Happiness.

Here’s one of their points on not “Dwelling on Difficulties”.

“A bad day is just a bad day.  Choose not to make it anything more.  Times of adversity will inevitably affect the conditions in which you live and work; yet you don’t have to let it affect who you are and where you’re headed.  Take note of the setbacks and adjust to them, but don’t expand on them by making them a bigger part of your life. Every day brings new lessons and new possibilities.  There is always a way to take the next step forward on the path you’ve chosen.  Events may be terrible and inescapable at times, but you always have choice – if not when, then how, you may endure and proceed onward.”

If you found that helpful, check out the other nine points they listed.

Photo by Mark Toohey

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  1. Thank you for summarising and reviewing. I love the metaphor of the birds – humorous and thought-provoking.

    Metaphors are sometimes more than true if they make us think.

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