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How cancer changed me

Or maybe this blog should be titled what cancer taught me.

Prior to having cancer apart from the odd boyfriend break up not much difficult life stuff had happened to me. When cancer arrived I was less than prepared and skilled to deal with it because I had breezed through the previous 38 years, 2 months and 29 days. Most of my choices up until cancer had been based on logic and outcome, there is nothing logical about being diagnosed and treated for cancer and the outcome was not guaranteed.

During the diagnosis, treatment and recovery for cancer I lost who I was and my life as I knew it. Cancer took my perfect body and scarred it. Cancer took my mind and messed with it. Cancer isolated, angered, scared and depressed me. It was these powerful and intense emotions which shook and then changed me.

No matter what I did I couldn’t escape these emotions, they came with me everywhere I went following and annoying me like a stray dog. In the end after having tried to be relentlessly busy and unsuccessfully denying and avoiding these emotions I listened to them. Each of these emotions taught me something and changed me and to recover emotionally from cancer I needed to experience the impact they had on me.

The isolation from cancer taught me how to be on my own. My life before cancer had been busy and full, I was constantly out and about in persistent pursuit of the next goal. I wasn’t good at being on my own and sub consciously I was looking for people to give me what I couldn’t give myself. The hours spent not going out, not partying were excruciatingly difficult and I felt abandoned in Cancerland. However, when I was well enough to return Partyland it just wasn’t the same. My senses were overloaded and it was now a busy a stressful place. I craved quieter times and realised that reading and being in nature were more nurturing and satisfying.

The anger from cancer taught me not to have things I don’t like in my life. Although I have endless patience and tolerance when I snap I snap! The relentless trauma of cancer wore my resilience and tolerance down and I was getting angrier and angrier about more and more stuff and I didn’t like this side of me. I realised cancer wasn’t going to leave my life and instead looked at what I could remove and had a ginormous spring clean of my life. I’m now much better at changing and ending things in my life which don’t make me happy or stress me.

The fear from cancer taught me to live each and every second of my life. Cancer created endless fear about a recurrence, death and saying goodbye to my children. The fear was paralysing and stopped me engaging with and enjoying my time and life. By facing and expressing my fears I became free from them. Yes I am going to die but I have now harnessed that inescapable fact of life to add a sharp focus, passion and determination to my life.

The depression from cancer taught me appreciation. The treatment and recovery from cancer was the most depressing time of my life. My mind, body and future felt heavy, grey and pointless, I was wrapped tightly in depression and hopelessness. I could hardly be bothered to breath. This lowest time of my life has become a useful reference point by which I can look back and appreciate how far I have come and what I have achieved. I appreciate the world I live in and the life I have.

Cancer taught me to be flexible and not rigid. Cancer taught me to say both yes and no. Cancer taught me to be planned and spontaneous. Cancer taught me to appreciate the simple things in life. Cancer taught me to fight for what I believe in and walk away from what stresses me.

How did cancer change you? What did cancer teach you? How has this affected your life?


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