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Cancer Doesn't Have to Pause Your Life

January 7th, 2015 |

by CancerDoula | Survivor: Hodgkin's Lymphoma    Connect

Being diagnosed with cancer does not mean you have to "pause" your life. See how one cancer survivor did not let cancer stop him from living.

A day after I got out of a four-day hospitalization, during which I received daily intravenous chemotherapy, there was a wedding for friends of the family. To my delight I felt well and I decided to attend the wedding with my parents. Having only recently ended chemo, I was still feeling the effects of the drugs. When the music started, my father asked me if I wanted to dance, I thought about it for a second and told him: "yes, but if I fall, help me get up". Luckily I didn't fall, and was able to enjoy a great wedding with friends and family.

As cancer patients, we go through certain experiences that the people around us (doctors/ nurses/ caregivers) perceive as difficult, stressful, or painful and we allow their perception to influence us. Many times we then paint those experiences in a negative color and we sometimes don't even try or go through it according to their expectations. At a certain point I realized things can be different, I began asking myself: "Says who? Who said things must go this way?"

A few weeks after I was diagnosed I made a decision to go through cancer the best way I can. I spent the time during the treatments investigating and learning different tools and coping techniques in order to increase my quality of life. It didn't take long until I found myself guiding, sharing and supporting other cancer patients.

Many patients I meet pause their lives during treatment. On one hand this can be good, as many patients take this opportunity to just "be" and invest their time and attention in healing and rearranging life. But on the other hand, some people pause their lives out of fear. Most commonly, this fear is related to three areas: career, side effects, and relationships.

Career Fears

I met a newly diagnosed woman who told me she was, "driving herself up a wall." When I asked her why she wasn't working or being active, she said, "I was told nobody will hire me." I asked her if she tried to get hired, and she said she didn't even think that it was possible. When I found out about my 2nd relapse I handled things differently. I decided to keep on working instead of "pausing" my life again. I had four months of BCOP chemotherapy and each time I would drove to the hospital, get the treatment, work during treatment, and then drive back to work.

Side Effects

Many times doctors and nurses tell us patients what side effects we may experience, when our hair is going to fall out and in extreme situations, when we might die. I understand that they are obligated by law to say what risks we are facing or side effects we might have, but it doesn't have to be this way. Before my allogeneic transplant I had a conversation with a transplant coordinator, she told me about all the different side effects I would have, the psychological complications, and the fact I might die. I am not saying doctors and nurses are wrong by presenting patients with this information, but the way they do so has a lot of influence on patients. Many times it can instill fear in the patient, in turn causing them to "pause" their life. The reality is, anything can happen. You know your body better than anyone else.

Starting Relationships

Many patients tend to think, "Who would want to date me during cancer?" Well, surprisingly more people than you may think. During my ABVD chemotherapy treatments, I asked at least 50 different girls if they would want to get together. Most of them didn't, but some did. Until I asked I could never have known what their answers might be. When people ask my wife how could she do it (start a relationship with me two weeks after my allogeneic transplant) she replied, "You can never know if or when a partner may get cancer, at least with Guy I know how he is dealing with it".

During cancer, I believe it is important to make room for other possibilities and choose to experience them without knowing where they might lead. I encourage you take a step forward and take a risk. Yes, you might fall, if you do, just get up and keep on walking.

Did you feel like you had to put your life on "pause" when you were diagnosed with cancer? Let us know in the comments below.

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CancerDoula's picture
Guy is a cancer survivor, who for the past eight years has battled Hodgkin's lymphoma, with two relapses. Over the years he went through many different treatments including chemotherapy, radiation, biopsy surgeries, autologous transplant and allogeneic transplant. Connect with Guy on IHC under the username CancerDoula.