December 23rd, 2012
| Survivor: Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
Once you're diagnosed with cancer, your whole life changes (even if you "beat" it). In this week's segment, Michael discusses how to live with your cancer diagnosis and covers everything from dealing with cancer guilt to the small changes you can make to lead a lower risk lifestyle.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, I likened my whole world to an earthquake. The strange thing about an earthquake is that it's the one natural disaster where there's not really anything you can do - the earth moves and there’s nowhere to go, neither up nor down. You can't grab onto anything; everything is unmoored and you're sort of at the mercy of whatever is going to happen next. I think that's what can happen to people psychologically when they get cancer. So when you find something to hold onto, and you survive the "earthquake," you never forget that there's a chance it can happen again, at any second. Because of that, you have to learn how to live with your cancer diagnosis.
Dealing With Cancer Guilt
We human beings are funny, when we get really bad news about ourselves, the first person we often turn on is ourselves - "it's my fault, somehow I did it." I used to be a smoker, so when I was diagnosed with cancer, my first thought was "OMG, I'm going to die, my son is going to grow up without a father because I couldn't stop smoking." I felt guilty, like somehow I've done something wrong because I had cancer. "That guy doesn't have cancer, but I do," I thought. What did I do that "that guy" didn't do? After a while, I realized I can't look at it that way, and that there's absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.
Sit down and give yourself the "it's not your fault" hug - it will make a difference.
Making Some Changes
Now that I've lived through cancer, I've made a few subtle changes in my lifestyle. Nothing drastic, but I try to pay more attention to what I'm putting into my body and what is going on around me.
Living With Uncertainty
The dialogue about cancer is changing, opening up a bit. There's not the same stigma that there used to be. When you're diagnosed with cancer, you'll probably ask "now what" and realize that you have to deal with a much higher degree of uncertainty than you've ever had in your life.
But don't panic. Don't panic. As JFK Jr. said, "nothing is ever as bad or as good as it seems." It's a long journey, but hang in there. You've got a lot of information to get before you can really process what's going on, so don't figure out how the play ends until you've actually watched the play a little bit.
How has your cancer experience changed your lifestyle? Do you have any tips to help others get over their cancer guilt?
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