Ever feel like your thoughts are taking over in your head? Waking up with anxiety or losing sleep because you’re worried? Firuze has spent the last year getting her head straight, and has some tips on how to cope and overcome sadness, worry and anxiety.
Looking back over the last year I don’t think I was prepared for the emotions that I would go through. It wasn’t only sadness and fear, sometimes I felt strength, appreciation, even happiness over something so horrible.
Some of the first thoughts I had when I was diagnosed with cancer for a second time were pretty dark. The one that stood out the most was the realisation that my body is trying to kill me. Neither of my cancers were self inflicted, unlike others such as smoking causing lung cancer. Both of them were my hormones acting up. I’ve done a lot of research into how you can avoid hormone imbalances but overall it’s conflicting. Nothing gives definitive proof to causing or preventing hormone related cancers in every single individual.
How could I have avoided this? The short answer is I probably couldn’t. I also probably can’t avoid any other cancer that my body decides to throw at me. It’s quite hard to come to terms with that. There was a woman I met during my radiotherapy who was dealing with her 5th brain tumour, and it made me realise that some people just have a body that is prone to attacking itself. I dreaded getting cancer a second time, pushing it to the back of my mind in the hope that it wouldn’t happen again, without knowing how I could stop it from happening in the first place. Turns out my body just doesn’t want to function properly, no matter how well I treat it.
So how do you deal with a thought like that? How do you stop it swimming around in your head and taking over your everyday? I’m not going to lie, as much as my friends admired my bravery and people saw how I seemingly took it on the chin, inside I was screaming. I felt sorry for myself and it wasn’t doing me any good. The mix of emotions made me dizzy, and it was a constant effort to get my head straight.
We’ve all been through something that can make us feel sad, worried or stressed out. For some it’s a breakup, or the loss of a loved one, or something as simple as not getting that promotion you wanted. Below are the things I’ve learned, to not only cope with what’s going on, but to remind ourselves to appreciate it, learn from it, overcome it and to feel happy again. The aim of this isn’t to push back those sad feelings – it’s important to feel them and not bury them – it’s to make sure that you’re balancing those thoughts so they don’t control your head.
It’s important to get perspective in any situation, and to realise that it is literally not the end of the world. Everything will keep going, the earth will keep revolving, and everyone else will go on with their life not thinking about the awful thing that is keeping your head occupied. Realise that something that feels awful now won’t feel as awful in 6 months, or in a year, or 5 years. Remember that things will improve, or at least hurt a little less, you will get over it and feel hope. Try to stay positive and look forward to better times.
Find something normal to take your mind off things, like going to work, seeing friends and going out for a meal (or a drink… or two). It shouldn’t feel like going to work, with cancer. Seeing friends, with cancer. Eating a meal, with cancer. In your head you may be thinking it, but the more things you do that resemble what an ordinary day feels like to you, the more it’ll feel ordinary again.
I would stay awake at night waiting for test results, or worry about whether my treatment was working. All of this was completely out of my control. All I needed to do was show up to appointments and tests – I had no influence on what the results would be. Saying this, it is completely different if you’re trying to get a promotion and hoping it happens, or want to start a relationship with that guy you know, but won’t even strike up a conversation. There’s a difference between things you can control and things you can’t. Worrying about something that you cannot control won’t make a difference. It’s a waste of thought, and you should be thinking about something you can make a difference with.
Someone once reached out to me and said their father was just diagnosed and they wanted to know how I got through it. In all honesty, willpower is an incredible thing. For my first cancer I was on chemo for days at a time, not eating and getting weak, throwing up every 10-15 minutes with nothing in my stomach. If I didn’t have willpower, I’d be throwing up constantly. I remember saying in my head “I’m not going to be sick, I’m not going to be sick,” and as soon as I thought “I’m going to be sick” I was. The strength of the inner voice in my head gave me physical strength. It gave me the strength to go back to another chemo session, the strength to eat again afterwards, the strength to keep fighting for my life. Everything that I’d learned from my first cancer treatment got me through my second, and knowing how much my willpower can show itself in the physical world has helped me throughout my life.
If you have been diagnosed with cancer or have any questions please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
One in two people will develop cancer at some point in their lives. If you’d like to donate to Cancer Research, my friends Jay (Nat’s brother) and Rael are running the Paris Marathon 2017 this April on my behalf for Cancer Research. You can sponsor them here: justgiving.com/fundraising/raeljayparis
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