Updated: Aug 18, 2020
We make hundreds of choices every day from what we drink when we wake up, where to cross a road or what to wear. Each choice comes with a consequence and many of the daily choices we make have minimal consequences.
Other choices of whether to leave a job, book a holiday or get married are choices which come with larger consequences. Some consequences are short term and others permanent. Some consequences are known before the choice is made and others only become apparent afterwards. Some of our choices lead to a good consequence and some don’t. Choices and their consequences contribute to defining who we are and how satisfying our life is.
A diagnosis of cancer takes away much of our choice. Firstly no one chooses to be diagnosed with cancer. To receive lifesaving or life extending treatment you have to attend appointments which you may have little choice of where or when these are. There will be no choice about the impact and side effects of treatment. There will be no choice about the emotions you experience or the unknown and uncertainty which lies ahead. A consequence of having no choice is we lose who we are which can create depression, isolation and a lack of confidence as well as feelings of anger and frustration.
The biggest and most difficult choice I have ever had to make in my entire life was whether to have two cycles of chemo while I was pregnant. A choice to potentially save my own life but a consequence was I might harm my baby. It felt an impossible choice. I felt I was choosing one life over another. The guilt of my choice the potentail damage I could have caused my daughter was excruciating. The guilt was resolved over many years as she has developed on a normal trajectory.
I now appreciate the choices I am able to make big or small. I savour them because I know what it feels like not to be able to choose so much of my life while I was being treated and recovering from cancer.
To help counteract the feelings about not having choice look for times where you are free to choose. These will empower you and build your confidence and keep you connected to your life. Can you see a movie with a friend or go to your favourite restaurant? Initially these choices may be in the short term and they maybe small choices but hopefully as you recover there will be larger and longer term choices to make.
What could you not choose during your cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery? How did this affect you? What can you choose today? What is important for you to choose? What can you choose next week, next month or next year?
Fear, love and other people can influence our choices so take a few moments to check your choices are right for you because you will have to live with the consequences of your choice. If you make a choice and don’t like the outcome or consequence you can always make another choice.