Hello, dear sisters!
The two blogs for this week are from another sister’s blog, Following Life’s Breezes, CLICK HERE. Val Schwinn recently interviewed me for her blog, and we talked at length about the 7 powerful steps to healing after breast cancer (and preventing a cancer recurrence).
Without further ado, let me introduce Val Schwinn , our sister survivor and thriver, in the 2 part blog she wrote:
Whether you were just recently diagnosed, are in treatment, or are post treatment, here are 7 F’s to surviving cancer.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Suzanne Bonner, M.S.Ed and author of Thriving in God’s Love: Seven Powerful Steps to Heal Body, Soul, and Spirit after Breast Cancer.
In honor of October being breast cancer awareness month, I wanted to share some of the powerful insights I received in speaking with Suzanne and reading her book. She talks about the breast cancer sisterhood, and it is true. No two treatment plans or diagnosis or situations are the same, but the commonalities in our journey are so amazingly similar.
Suzanne’s strong faith in a loving God comes through in her book. But no matter what your faith, when you are given those dreaded words “You Have Cancer” it starts you thinking about the spiritual side.
I was not “close to God” when I was given my diagnosis. Going through cancer, so many of us find ourselves questioning so much about life. Some move closer to God, some move to a more natural or spiritual focus, some just believe that there is something out there larger than yourself.
Without this belief in a higher power (and it could be as simple as believing in your medical team’s ability to cure you), it is easy to succumb to the feelings of fear, worry, and dread. So while Suzanne’s book speaks of God’s love, it is faith in a higher power–however you define it– that helps us on our journey.
It is impossible to describe all of the feelings that you go through during your cancer journey. From despair to hope and everything in between. Fear to this day still rears its ugly head. Anger – why me. Uncertainty, Worry, Aloneness, Sadness, Grief, Anxiety, Shame.
I remember the day I “finished” my treatments, my family wanted to celebrate. This was the day, for me, the panic set in. No longer did I have a plan. Should I even call myself a survivor? What do I do to make sure the cancer didn’t come back? The feelings were overwhelming for me at this time.
Some of us are blessed in this area, and others have built a family (not from bloodlines) through their support of one another. When I was diagnosed, I watched my father get ripped in two. He was dealing with his mother’s failing health and her diagnosis of dementia. Now his adult daughter needed him. While everything did eventually work itself out in the best way possible, it was difficult to deal with the guilt I felt for putting my parents in that situation. My mother too had an aging parent (who was luckily still independent) but was on the other side of the country. Again to be there for both her daughter [me] and her father brought on its own challenges.
Asking for help was something I had to do. We had a small child at the time. There were days during my treatment where I was not allowed to hold him or change his diaper. We also had to take him out of day care to protect me from being ill. I needed someone to watch him, as I couldn’t always do it myself. My darling husband had just taken on a new [stressful] management job. So yes, we needed to ask for help.
But my family expanded, during my treatment. My boss found ways to support me. He would say something like I have a gift for your son so I will stop by on my way home. Looking back I realize he was stopping by to check in on me. I had an amazing co-worker who set up meals to be delivered from friends and colleagues. This significantly helped reduce the stress of my family during that time.
My advice is open up, be willing to accept help. Make a list of ways someone can help you. It can be bringing meals, stopping by to give the caregiver a chance to run errands, babysitting, bringing by a journal or book, helping with laundry, groceries, taking you to appointments [there are SO many appointments]. People who offer to help truly want to help, but may just need a little direction. Be gracious and give them that opportunity. More importantly, give yourself a chance to rest.
I would not have survived cancer without all of my “family.”
Like Suzanne, I found forgiveness for myself to be one of the hardest parts of my journey. The feeling that I was letting down others weighed heavily on me. After the treatments, there isn’t a whole lot on what you do next.
Take the time to forgive yourself. Forgive others for anything you interpreted as wrong-doings against you. I had to forgive those who took care of me for being imperfect caregivers. They did the best they could at the time. [Did I write about how my dear husband dumped me at my first Chemo treatment and left? Long story, and I have forgiven him.] To forgive my childhood and previous self for any wrong doings I did that I believe may have caused the cancer. I had to forgive those who have left me. And forgive myself for my imperfections.
(Val’s blog on the 7 F’s will continue in the next posting.)
You can purchase her book here on Amazon!