When I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer, I felt my life closing in. Sometimes if I shut my eyes, I saw a black circle around me. The circle blocked out thoughts of everything but the cancer. My illness was all I could really focus on.
Three weeks later, I had surgery, a complete hysterectomy. When I awoke, I heard the wonderful news: early stage cancer with a good prognosis. I felt the black circle opening up, and my life expanding again.
Happy thoughts – my grandson, a new house, travels with my husband, my writing, gatherings with friends – all came back into my mind.
My recovery from surgery went well, and unlike many cancer patients, I needed no further treatment. Today, I’m energetic and embracing my days.
However, a cancer story stays with you. No matter what your experience was, you are changed. Perhaps you or someone you know is on this journey. Here are some suggestions for putting a positive spin on life after cancer.
I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from my family, my friends, and my church. Even these days, I like to remember the visits, the cards, the flowers, and the gifts. I pull out the cards from time to time, and I reread the emails. I focus on the love, not the fear and pain, I felt during those weeks.
I use my blog, Friend for the Ride, to raise awareness of endometrial cancer. I continue to tell my story in a creative and upbeat manner. Perhaps you write, paint, quilt, make music, design t-shirts, garden, bake, or pursue any other hobbies. Think of ways you can use your talents to advocate for early detection and research. Simply telling your story is important too.
Shortly after my surgery, with the aid of the hospital’s human resources department, I sent emails praising two nurses and a med tech, who were especially kind to me. I received enthusiastic replies from their department heads.
I see my oncologist once a year for an exam, and I go to my gynecologist six months later. “Thank you for saving my life,” I say each time. What joy it brings me so say those words.
Connect with others who’ve been through something scary like you have, and who worry about recurrence just like you do. Together, you make a strong family! As others are diagnosed, you’re now ready to help them on their journey.
A therapist told me: “You’ve been through something terrifying. Treat yourself with exquisite care.” You get to decide what that care is, but be gentle with self-criticism, abundant with self-praise, and treat yourself often to whatever brings you joy.
Several months after my surgery, I tried out for a community theater production of The Dixie Swim Club. I was cast as the zany Jeri Neal McFeeley and had the time of my life. You don’t need to try something so dramatic (pun not intended)! Even visiting a new museum or listening to a different style of music can switch up your mood and help you celebrate the days ahead.
Are you a cancer survivor? Have you found ways to put a positive spin on your experience? Any tips for life after cancer? Do tell us your story! Please join the conversation and share this article to keep the discussion going.