Life after treatment doesn't go back to the normal we knew before cancer--so how do you navigate a world where every day you now fear recurrence, have side effects to consider, and still have to take care of all the responsibilities you had before?
From my own experiences, I firmly believe that post-cancer treatment provides a great opportunity to reinvent as well as renew one's focus and life’s purpose
. It is a time to move forward with a fresh perspective and hopefully an improved outlook. It is like having a brand new beginning to the conclusion of a chapter of a prolonged difficult story. It serves to illustrate the true resiliency and fortitude of one’s personal character.
When I finished my active treatment, I couldn’t help but feel a refreshed view of what was to come. I was open to the possibilities that could present themselves to me. I had this brand new found hope for myself that I could create and execute a plan that would be both fulfilling and worthwhile. It was a tremendous relief that I could actually think ahead about my future! I had heard the term "new normal" tossed around in the cancer community before my journey began. After hearing that, I was labeled a cancer survivor. It was a concept that I had to work to understand, figure out and deal with in this new version of my reality.
I came up with my own analogy that I felt best described my "new normal" situation. Borrowing from a term used in computer technology, I would now begin the process of rebooting
myself. I had been physically and mentally shut down by this disease of cancer and now could "Start Up" with a fresh focus. I used this comparison to effectively explain what stage I was when upon being asked "How are you doing now?" This message clearly conveyed that I had a strategy to build myself up and thrive going forward.
I was highly motivated to nurture myself by a few tactics that I grew into a routine that I referenced frequently, and one that I would like to share with you.
Here is my list of to-dos for rebooting yourself after cancer:
1. Regain your physical strength by starting an exercise routine
2. Listen to what your body needs daily
3. Rest when fatigue sets in
4. Boost your nutrition with whole, healthy foods
5. Meditate/pray daily
6. Avail yourself of being out in nature.
7. Decide how you want to spend your time by deciding what is most important.
8. Decide to remove any people and/or situations that are toxic to you.
9. Set priorities that are significant to you.
10. Educate and learn more about cancer, prevention and survivorship.
11. Give yourself permission to have more fun.
All these ‘to-dos’ combined together turned out to be a well-crafted blueprint to help make my future a better one. It is essentially a list of things I could do--things that were already in my control to practice extreme self-care. The rewards for getting back to the basics are that I feel better about myself both on a physical and mental level. I am in charge of managing myself for my own personal benefit.
The interesting part of an illness like cancer is that as you move through it, what you value changes constantly. You try to figure out what matters most to you on an almost daily basis.
Your new journey is to keep on figuring it out. In golf, it is called a ‘Mulligan,’ or a do-over. There are lessons to be learned from having endured cancer. From cancer, a wise student will grasp the full meaning of their own learning, if they allow it to teach them. From ‘Rebooting,’ it’s up to you to make the most of the new you! Make it an even greater one!
Don't just survive--thrive!
What have you included as part of your daily routine to take care of yourself after treatment? Tell us in the comments below!
Photo courtesy of Markus Spiske