What Did You Say?
YOU - HAVE - CANCER. Those three words sent shock waves through my body. Common sense and rational thinking replaced by a thick layer of brain fog. Once the final jolt wore off, reality quickly sank in. I - HAVE - CANCER. Now what?
Why I Accepted Cancer?
From day one of my diagnosis, I accepted my cancer with love, patience and understanding. You read that right..I accepted my cancer with love, patience and understand. This might sound crazy, but I did. I wish I could tell you why, but for some unknown reason my body and mind ventured into these murky but unexpected calmer waters. Who in their right mind would accept cancer? After all, I don’t smoke, barely drink, no HPV, no family history. This makes no sense. I had the right to be angry; I mean really, angry but I just wasn’t.
What did acceptance mean to me? Acceptance meant peace. Acceptance meant finding ways to be okay with what was happening. Acceptance meant loving MY body and all the resources G-d gave me to find my way, because there was NOTHING I could do to change my diagnosis.
There is no one size fits all when it comes to handling crisis. Some people get angry and scream. Some people bury their heads in the sand. Some people roll into a ball and cry. Maybe a combination of all three or a million other emotions. Let’s be clear, accepting my cancer does NOT mean I did not get upset, emotional or scared. Of course, I did. Holy crap! I was having half of my tongue removed and rebuilt with my arm. Who wouldn’t have a freak-out moment? There are nights I balled my eyes out. I HAD CANCER…not once, not twice, but three times. I gave myself permission to feel whatever I needed to feel, but acceptance paved the way towards focus, clarity and planning. After all, if I could not change the diagnosis, I had the power to change everything else.
The Queen of To-do Lists
Preparing for surgery and the aftermath became my full-time job. I made a conscious decision to be as open as possible with western medicine, eastern medicine, and was willing to try a variety of things to hedge my bets to survive. I inhaled details about my surgery and what to expect in recovery and treatment. As the queen of to-do lists, Project Hospital Stay included a detailed outline of what 13 items needed to be accomplished to get out of the hospital (I taped a copy in my hospital room and the doctors and nurses crossed off each accomplishment as we cheered). I joined my local Cancer Support Community. Went to hypnotherapy. Met with a nutritionist. Received spiritual guidance. Mapped out multiple schedules for taking care of my kids, taking care of me and the awesome community who helped me and my family out in a million ways. On February 13, my mind magically transformed UCLA Medical Center into a Home of Healing, and I knew I was one step closer to being healthy.
Acceptance helped me discover my power, my way, and gave me the space and intention of keeping my mind, body and spirit in the game to persevere. I make no assumptions this could work for anyone else. Each of us has our own strengths and weaknesses. There were and still are nights I have a pity party for one and cry myself to sleep, but they pass as quickly as they come, and I power on. The collateral damage of oral cancer like eating challenges and a speech impediment leave me with fleeting moments of frustration, but I power on. It would be sooooo easy to go down the rabbit hole of victimhood and say “Why me? Why me?” but I choose victor or victim, and I choose acceptance in what has happened to me because it helps me power on.
Finding My New Normal…Again!
Cancer Survivorship 101 includes “Finding Your New Normal.” This familiar phrase is more relevant than ever and not because of cancer, but because the world is currently facing a pandemic. What will our new normal look like? I have swapped medical emergencies from the out-of-control cells of cancer to the out-of-control virus of COVID-19. The experience is different but also feels strangely familiar. Once again, acceptance is helping me wrap my head around all this unknown to help me find the peace and clarity I so desperately want and need. Most days are good and others, not so much. However, acceptance is what worked and continues to work for me. Could you discover your power with acceptance?
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