It’s been about two years since my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer for her second time. As I write this, I get chills thinking about how fast time flies. It feels like only yesterday when I was getting the news.
The drugs she takes traditionally last about a year or two until they stop working. At that point, her treatment plan will be reassessed. So far, we are in the clear. I’d be lying, though, if I didn’t say that the statistics scare me at times.
Being a Resilient Pillar
This past year, I have had an array of friends come to me — either publicly or privately — announcing the diagnosis of their own parents with various cancers and illnesses.
While it is pleasing to know that I’ve been a pillar for others during some of the most difficult times in their lives, I can’t always help the thoughts that come into my own mind…when will things get worse for my mom?
You wouldn’t necessarily know these fearful thoughts creep in, though, due to my generally resilient nature. At my core, I pride myself on being a positive, resilient person.
When asked how I’m able to stay resilient in the face of fear, a few thoughts come to mind.
Stay Engaged In the Breast Cancer Community
There are so many ways to stay engaged in the breast cancer community both online or in person. You might think talking about breast cancer on a regular basis gets exhausting. For me, having a group of people in my life who can directly relate to my circumstances is extraordinarily important. It’s not about keeping a group of strangers in the loop. Staying engaged with your breast cancer story and the larger community can be very productive to your own health.
I think everyone should consider having some sort of touchstone to return to — a program, event, blog, support group — that they can consistently rely on to communicate their updates, feelings and thoughts about their breast cancer journey. If you don’t yet have one, the Young Survival Coalition is a great place to start.
Let Go of Co-Survivor Guilt
Your good news is my good news! I’ve noticed a wave of guilt or even shame when people report doing well with their treatments. Many people are in contact with another family or friend whose treatments have not been going as well, and they often feel bad about this. As a fellow daughter of a mother in treatment, I cannot express how pleased I am to find out when other people’s moms have gotten better.
If you do find yourself becoming resentful, remember that everyone is on their own path; this is not a reflection on your own journey. And be kind to yourself – all emotions you feel are part of that path.
Don’t Overthink Life with Cancer
Many facets of my life have quite literally returned to precisely as they were now that cancer has become “normal” for our family again. I have admittedly spent a lot of time wondering how it’s possible for things to feel so normal again…and since they have…is that okay? How long will this last? It’s healthy to accept your new normal…and maybe your life has changed since the diagnosis, which of course is very difficult. If, however, certain facets of your life have returned to how they once were, celebrate this.
If things have taken a turn for the worse for yourself or your loved one, this proves to be one of the most difficult challenges. Staying in touch with your emotions is a powerful tool. Instead of rushing to the future to those dreaded thoughts of how things may be for you next year or next month, the best gift you can give yourself is staying present in how you are feeling today and today alone.
A daily check-in establishes routine. As human beings, we thrive when there is some order in place. A daily check-in may consist of journaling thoughts when you wake up, reciting a daily mantra, writing down your personal goal for the day, writing down how you want to feel for the day, or committing to a consistent meditation or workout routine. Whatever it is, stick to it. Rely on it. Own it.
Feed Your Mind
There’s a quote I often return to:
“You are the books you read, the movies you watch, the people you hang out with, and the conversations you engage in. Be careful what you feed your mind with.”
This is a good reminder on how to feed our minds in a way that best serves us. In the face of fear, we can set ourselves up for success by reading educational literature or fun fiction, enjoying movies that inspire us, and surrounding ourselves with a co-survivor community and other people who uplift us. We can also engage in conversations that move us.
As much as we want to fall down the rabbit hole of comparing and clicking and panicking….let’s stay calm and feed our souls with inspiration and joy.
We owe that to ourselves, don’t we?
How do you stay resilient? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you. Xx
Chelsea is one the newest members on our Co-Survivor Council of Advisors and the blogger behind Daughters of Sick Parents. As a child, her dad was diagnosed with ALS and mom diagnosed with breast cancer in the same year. Fifteen years later, Chelsea’s dad passed away when she was in college. Several years after his death, her mom’s breast cancer came back as stage iv. Chelsea shares her unique perspective of witnessing parental sickness as a child and as an adult. She uses her blog to explore her feelings and to seek educational information for others with similar experiences.