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Helping a loved one battle cancer is intense business. Figuring out how to survive your “new normal” over and over again is a huge challenge…
Cancer involves a tremendous amount of moments that change your life drastically… Welcome to the “new normal.”
Throughout my dad’s journey (lasting a total of 21 months) we had about 8 pivotal moments that changed the course of our lives and everything, including the day-to-day stuff was different.
Changes are a part of cancer.
You start to talk about things in a new context, before cancer and after cancer… before this moment and after this moment. It’s funny how quickly and how frequently your mission changes because you’re just trying to survive the day-to-day.
Surviving the “new normal” is challenging, but there are definitely some tricks that will make things easier…
Roll with the punches:
The ability to adjust to the chaos around me was a HUGE factor in helping my dad battle cancer for as long as we did. Cancer journeys are long, stressful and exhausting.
If you spend your time trying to control everything or planning the days to the minute you’re going to find yourself insanely stressed and wasting massive amounts of time.
Here’s the deal, some days everything’s fine. Other days…Emergency room visits, side effects, or days you can’t even get motivated enough to get out of bed.
There is no way to plan for or control this beast called cancer.
Welcome to your new normal. Some days are a nightmare and you are just trying to make it through.
Take it one day at a time. Roll with whatever chaos is happening around you and do the best you can to get through the day. If today is shot already… no worries.
Tomorrow is a brand-new chance to try again.
Laugh (out loud) as often as possible:
Laughing makes everything better. It seriously does. And sometimes, we laughed because we didn’t know what else to do. You absolutely have to get some of the stress out of your system.
There is no other way to survive.
Find things that are humorous. For us, sometimes that meant how insane everything was.
I remember rushing into the hospital (totally panicked) after my dad had been admitted, terrified for what I might find… and there was my dad laughing hysterically.
As I am staring at him, he said… “It’s comical if you think about it, we just got done with a weeks’ worth of appointments and here we are again.” “You can’t make this stuff up”…
And you know what, he was absolutely right. You can’t make this stuff up!
Try to find the humor in the chaos. Spend time around people who naturally make you happy. Let their personality make you feel better.
Your new normal will be easier if you surround yourself with people who can find the light and who lift you up.
Get some things off your chest:
Talk to someone, write it in a journal, text a therapist (you can do that now). Whatever your method is for getting it out, you have to get some of this stuff off your chest.
The amount of stress this situation is dangerous if you just let it fester and bottle up.
Make an appointment with a therapist (their only job is to listen to you talk!). Plan a date for coffee with your best friend… Write out everything you find stressful and the things you are grateful for in a notebook every day.
Or start a blog and become totally obsessed with it, like I did. It’s a great distraction and a great way to get everything out in the open while you start healing.
Whatever you decide is the best course of action for you, start now, so you can get some of this stuff out of your system.
Things get intense really quickly and you’re going to need your sanity (not to mention some energy) to get through.
For more ideas to combat stress? Check out 117 ways to take a break from cancer…
Trust in the Lord:
I can’t even imagine going through something of this magnitude without faith. And as we struggled through our journey, it seemed like God sprinkled exactly what we needed, exactly when we needed it.
It’s one of these things that you don’t always notice and then suddenly… bam!
The treatment that we needed got approved for my dad’s particular cancer less than a week before we found out we needed it. Or the fact that I started working from home exactly 3 months before our journey started, giving me the ability to work from anywhere (hospital rooms, hotel rooms, waiting rooms).
Stuff like that happened to us frequently along the way.
God gave me a lot of extra time with my dad, a ton of great experiences that we may not have had otherwise and gave me the most intense situation I have ever encountered to make sure that I didn’t take it any of it for granted.
I’ve learned lessons that will stay with me forever and I have gained an inner strength that you would not believe…
If I can survive this, I can survive anything.
Pay Attention to the Lessons:
I hate cancer with a passion.
But I have to tell you that some incredibly powerful lessons have come out of this situation too.
And if I am being totally honest, I’m not sure I would have been able to fully appreciate these lessons as much as I do now, if they had been revealed through different circumstances.
The impact that cancer has had on me is pretty intense.
The idea of death makes you appreciate life so much more. Cancer is not a death sentence by any means, but the moment someone says the word… You will find yourself appreciating your life so much more.
It’s like everything else. The more life kicks you around, the more you appreciate the things that are important, the more you notice the people who stand with you and the more you notice the little things that you’ve been taking for granted!
Cancer helps you get your life in order… once the new normal comes barreling into your world, suddenly your priorities become crystal clear.
You cherish things in a way you didn’t even know was possible.
Take advantage of the good days:
At one point my dad was really struggling and every day he was sick. We thought we had hit the end of the road… but God had other plans.
After a substantial medication change and set of scans that showed his treatment was working (despite the 30% chance that it actually would!) he had months of feeling great.
So, we took those opportunities to go out and enjoy some amazing experiences including a cruise to Bermuda. We talked to the doctor about the cruise before we did it and initially we asked if he felt a cruise in 6 months would be good.
He looked a little startled and said, “haven’t we learned anything?” “He feels good now. You should go now.” We left 3 weeks later on a last-minute cruise and had an absolute blast.
And although the treatment was working, my dad passed away 5 months (to the day) after the cruise when some additional complications surfaced with the cancer. Thank God, we didn’t wait.
Live your life now, today. While you feel good.
Because I promise you, things can change in an instant.
Keep a positive attitude:
This situation can be incredibly stressful and nerve-wracking. Your emotions are swirling all the time and most of the time, you can’t truly identify how you feel. There were so many days I woke up feeling stressed and miserable and feeling sorry for myself.
It drained my energy and the “fight” I desperately needed to keep going.
Find hope (even a little hope) and cling to it like your life depends on it.
It’s easy to get dragged down but that won’t help you survive. And this is probably going to be a long journey. Fight to stay positive.
Spend a day sad and miserable (because some days you just can’t snap out of it). And then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, take a walk outside and find something to be grateful for.
P.S. If you’re overwhelmed by all this cancer business, we can relate!
The Cancer Binder Pack will walk you through the quick and easy system we used for organizing medical information.
Step-by-step instructions, printable forms and monthly calendar pages so you can ALWAYS find what you need, when you need it. And, the best part it’s FREE…
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