Today is National Cancer Survivor Day. And since I’m still kicking, I suppose I qualify as a Cancer Survivor. Some of you may know I was diagnosed with Stage 3C Ovarian Cancer last fall. Since then I’ve had multiple surgeries, and many rounds of chemotherapy.
In that time, cancer has taught me a few things about living with epilepsy. So I thought I’d share those little nuggets with you.
1. Tell people about your diagnosis
When I was diagnosed with cancer, I told my friends, immediate and extended family, neighbors and colleagues at work. As a result, the outpouring of support was immediate and surprising. One weekend my brother-in-law and sister-in-law organized to have more than 20 of their friends come and do a fall clean up in our yard. They stayed for hours and bought mulch, wood, plants and more. Some of these people didn’t even know me.
2. Let people help
Many of my friends wanted to bring meals. So my best friend stepped up to coordinate all the meal deliveries each week so we wouldn’t be overwhelmed with too much food at one time. One friend continued to provide food long after the rest had stopped. She was a friend of a friend and someone I would never have expected be in my life in this way. I can never repay her for her kindness.
3. When people ask tell them how you feel
I had a few friends who would call or text regularly. They really wanted to know how I was doing. I didn’t always want to talk about it. And I didn’t always feel great. But they genuinely wanted to know. I know that because when I did tell them, they listened and responded with caring comments and offers of support.
4. Get the best care early
I was lucky in that my primary care physician had a sense that something was wrong and sent me to the emergency room. I was also lucky that she is in the same health system as an outstanding cancer center. My luck continued when I was assigned an outstanding surgical oncologist who was a good fit for me. Obviously, this is often not the case whether its in cancer or in neurology.
However, that’s not to say everything went off without a hitch. When I ran into any hiccups in my care, I was like a dog with a bone. I would call daily until they were so sick of hearing from me that they would just resolve the issue to be rid of me. I would encourage everyone to do the same. The squeaky wheel gets the grease when it comes to medical care. Become the squeaky wheel.
5. Self care matters
Whether your self care is about managing your mind, body or spirit, or all of the above, do what helps you feel grounded. Since I have completed my surgery and started back on my chemo I have visited with an integral medicine doctor, begun drinking green juice every day, scheduled my first mammogram, and I’m planning lots of time in the sun this summer. Eventually, I will get back to yoga when my strength returns but for now I’m practicing my patience and being kind to myself.
If you do nothing else, start by being kind to yourself.