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How Can Survivors Express Fears and Insecurities Without Seeming Ungrateful?

May 14th, 2018 |

by NicoleMadison1 | Survivor: Soft Tissue Sarcoma    Connect

Cancer free. Wow! The excitement is overwhelming. Chemo is done, incisions from surgery are continuing to heal, and we are back home! A miracle has happened and I have breath in my lungs today. I am celebrating life and am so thankful for this amazing gift that God has given me to live another day.

But here's what I have found over the last few months. Things haven't gone back to "normal" like I thought they would. I’m not sure what I expected post-cancer life to be like, but maybe I didn't think any differences would matter because being alive would be enough. And how can one express fears and insecurities without seeming ungrateful?

Well, I am here to share with all of the fighters and survivors reading that you are not alone if you feel this way. Your life is different. For some of you, it may feel amazing and for others, you might find that you are struggling with survivor’s guilt, where you fit in, and how to have conversations with people now. So what do we do?

Just like a battle with cancer, we had a treatment plan. In the same way, it is important to have a "survivorship plan". I didn’t know that until now!

I am not a psychologist, counselor, or expert by any stretch, but this is what I have experienced and the actions I am taking and so far, it is helping me. So maybe, one or all of these things can help you in your survivorship journey, too! Or, if you have loved one facing this, you could share these suggestions!

Make a Plan:

  • Be honest with your feelings with no guilt or shame attached: Get all of your thoughts out of your head that lead to fear, anxiety, and insecurity, by writing them down and/or sharing them with others.

  • Create a "survivorship plan" on how to thrive and soar through this life rather than “just survive” while drowning in emotions that hold you back.

Identify The Biggest Issues:

  • Overthinking social situations: Is cancer taking over every conversation? Am I suppressing it and not talking about it enough? How do I be "me" with others?

  • "Survivor’s Guilt": How do I talk to others and celebrate being “cancer free” while the person I am talking with or someone they love is facing so much pain and hurt because of cancer?

  • Awareness vs. obsession of cancer reccurence: How do I heighten awareness about checking my body to find tumors or thinking about cancer coming back without having it consume me?

  • Change of community: I’m not within the 4 walls of MD Anderson Cancer Center anymore where every person I encounter is a fighter, survivor, or supporter. I’ve been sick and away from family/friends/coworkers for a long time. How do I fit back into relationships? Or make new relationships?

  • Financial concerns: As hospital bills will flow in for the rest of our lives, expenses of traveling for scans, while also paying normal bills and student loans, can we make it work?

Ask For Help:

If the concerns above are resounding in your head, here are a few ideas that may help:

  • Pray. Each person’s situation is so different. There isn’t a rule book on how to handle cancer. Give yourself grace. Breathe. Allow yourself to cry. And most importantly, involve God in all of it. He hears you, He loves you, and He is with you. He’s not mad at you if you’re having a hard time with this. He desires to draw near to you and fill you with his words of love and truth. Spend time with the Lord in prayer and ask for His help. Sometimes my prayer is just a sentence through tears saying "God, please help me" or "God please draw near to him/her in in their fight." It doesn’t have to be pretty, He just asks us to be real.

  • Share. Do you have a person or people in your life that understand the incredible amount of changes that you are facing today? Do you trust them to give you wise counsel? You may be surprised by the loving embrace and support you receive when you truthfully share your journey. My husband and mentor have walked every step of the way with me and I just found a Christian Cancer Support Group to attend that I am looking forward trying! (If you don’t have someone you trust to share with, I would love nothing more than for you to share your story with me).

  • Seek Wisdom. I just began Christian Counseling with a counselor who specializes with cancer patients and survivors and it has been amazing so far! I lost a huge community of cancer fighters in Houston when I moved back to Colorado. If you haven’t been to counseling in a while, you may have a misconception about it. My counselor doesn’t just listen to me, but she has given practical ways to cope with fears and insecurities {I would love to share some with you if you are looking for practical ways to cope}! Prayerfully consider trying it again or for the first time! It’s proving to be helpful for me.

  • Maybe you already have a budget in place to handle the financial burden that cancer brings. We did not. We met with an amazing financial advisor and we also started Financial Peace University with Dave Ramsey to help get our finances in order to tackle new financial obligations related to cancer. We have found out that not only can we pay hospital bills and pay off loans, but we can budget for a vacation at the end of the year, too! (If you have questions about this, please reach out!)

  • Find a Community. It’s easy to want to isolate yourself. I’m an extrovert to the millionth percentile and even I have struggled with this. Some of our greatest battles happen in our minds so letting others hear your heart is so uplifting. Take the courageous step to jump into community as soon as you can with cancer fighters/survivors and those who don’t have cancer as well. No one fights alone!
If you're a fighter, keep up the fight. If you read this, I hope it brings awareness and helpful suggestions of practical steps that you and your caregiver(s) can take if you are experiencing any of these fears today. You are not alone. You are in my prayers every single day.

If you're a survivor, have you found yourself feeling this way? What challenges did/do you face in survivorship? We would love to hear your words of encouragement and advice! You are also in my prayers. Know that you are not forgotten. You are loved and so strong. I am so proud of you!

If you're a supporter or caregiver, does this surprise you? In the past, I honestly would stop praying for friends and family as soon as they became cancer free. I thought, “Prayers have been answered so who is the next person I can pray for and encourage!” I hope this brings awareness that our survivors need love, prayer, and follow up, too! Was this helpful for you? Do you know someone that you could reach out to with a listening ear or words of encouragement?

What does your survivorship plan look like? Share your story in the comments below!

An earlier version of this post originally appeared on Nicole's Blog . Image courtesy of the author.

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NicoleMadison1's picture
Nicole Body (Sparkly Survivor), is a recent stage 3 sarcoma cancer survivor. She enjoys writing, volunteering, and public speaking. She is passionate about her faith, her husband, and loves golden retrievers, all things Disney, and traveling. She hopes to one day publish a book and become a motivational speaker to encourage cancer fighters, survivors, and caregivers around the world.