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The Challenge of Maintaining Your Sense of Self

There are many aspects to the initial stages of dealing with cancer. There are the practical issues of deciding where you will have your treatment. There is the emotional component of coming to terms with the reality of what is happening and deciding how to share the information with loved ones and friends. Finding out that you have cancer immediately begins the process of building your medical oncology team. You instantaneously begin to make a transition from “person” to “patient”. There is quite a bit of change that happens unconsciously during this time.

"The challenge of maintaining your sense of yourself and yet being in a position of needing to be guided by others is often daunting."

As difficult as it may be, there are ways to try to work on holding on to your sense of yourself during treatment.

Take time to Laugh

Cancer is such a serious disease and for good reason. As we all know, the treatment is arduous and the outcomes are not guaranteed. This does not mean that every aspect of your daily life must be serious. In fact, laughter is one of the most effective ways of holding onto your sense of yourself. People often say, “I used to be so happy and now I hardly ever laugh”. This does not have to be the case.

There are some great comedians that have done comedy routines about their cancer. They will say that it has been therapeutic for them to be able to laugh about their situation. A friend of mine gave me a stuffed pillow in the shape of a uterus before my hysterectomy. I had her bring it to the hospital and when my doctor came into my room, I pulled it out and told him that in fact, I had a spare uterus at home. We all had a good laugh about it.

Another way of bringing laughter into your life during this time is by watching funny movies and television shows. Gather family and friends together settle in for a night of good TV watching.

How about Laughter Yoga?

Nurture your relationships

While you are in the process of being treated for cancer, life becomes very much centered around “you”- Your treatment, your side effects, your doctor appointments, etc. The list is long. The important people in your life often become supporting players in your story. It may seem like it is a strange time to try to focus on your relationships, but it can actually help give you a sense of purpose other than just being a patient.

You may not have a lot of extra energy for a whole lot more than your physical needs. Any amount that you can devote to connecting with the people in your life that matter to you can provide endless benefits toward your health and healing. If possible, try to create special memories. It is important to remember that the person you were before cancer is someone who focused their energy on other things, including relationships. The essence of what makes you the person that you are may be hard to access at times when you are in “patient” mode. Finding ways to stay connected to your self can help make the treatment process go a bit easier.

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