Almost daily, I am asked “How do you feel?” And I feel almost guilty because I really am holding up well. That’s not to say that Chemo isn’t kicking my butt some days, or that I don’t get frustrated at my limitations or sad that sometimes I have to sleep all day long. But my overall mood is better than it’s been in years.
I credit several actions that I take to my overall sense of wellbeing, and I wanted to share them with you, dear readers, so you if you are currently coping with illness or do in the future, you can try some of these tactics. I hope they work as well for you as they do for me.
Hebrews 6:19 tells us, ” We this hope as an actor for the soul, both sure and firm” (Revised New World Translation). As humans, we are born with a spiritual need. I don’t ignore mine, and I have tremendous hope through my faith in God and the promises that He has made for us through His word, The Bible.
This hope keeps me grounded. Through prayer, I throw my anxieties on God, and allow him to calm my heart. It has strengthened my relationship with Him and strengthened my faith in the hope He provides us.
I encourage all who cope with illness to fulfill their spiritual need. Find your hope, because it will anchor your soul.
Stop Negative Thinking
Recently, I was asked about whether or not certain events happened to me before my cancer diagnosis. And I realized, that I had never given a thought to why I had cancer. I already knew. Humans are imperfect. King Solomon said, “The swift do not always win the race, nor to the mighty win the battle … because time and unexpected events overtake them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11, Revised New World Translation).
Maybe my love affair with wine, bourbon, and bacon contributed to my cancer. Maybe not. Maybe it’s my family history. But does it really matter why? If it wasn’t this, it is likely some other difficulty would have come along.
When I was diagnosed, I did cry. I hated the thought of making people worry about me; turning my family’s world upside down. I felt that way on and off for a few days.
And then, I realized how blessed I am to have parents who jumped in to take work responsibilities off me. To have a husband who has yet to argue with me, even when I am at my most ridiculous. To have a son who understands my current limitations, and shows concern for me in the sweetest and subtlest ways. To have my sister drop everything to visit me whenever I need her. To have an outpouring of kindness from friends near and far. The first month after my diagnosis, not one single day passed that I did not receive a care package or cards. I have a beautiful kindred spirit who sends me a card every single week, texts me several times during the week, and arranges FaceTime “dates” every few weeks. All with two kids! Friends are arranging to visit, even just for a long weekend (an 11 hour drive with two kids) or a day or two during the week (from 3 hours away).
How can I be sad? I have never felt more loved in my life.
If you are faced with illness, please try to push negative thoughts away so you can see how much you are truly loved.
Surround Yourself with Those You Love and Who Love You
Illness saps our energy and it is easy to end up isolating ourselves. Try not to. It’s difficult for me, because honestly I don’t know if I will be too fatigued to leave the house. But I do conditionally accept invitations. And with some careful planning, i am able to make these invitations work.
Mom and Dad take turns bringing me to Chemo (I cannot drive myself). And as much as I plan to get certain things done, we usually end up talking. Sometimes it’s about the shop (work). Sometimes its catching up on other things. But we talk and it’s fun and it makes the time go quickly.
When my son comes home from school, I try to engage him a little bit. He’s nine, so he’d rather play Minecraft, but we at least talk about his day and get his homework finished. I try to spend time with my husband during the days that I’m able to keep my eyes open. And we go to my parents once a weekend for dinner. Always.
This leads me to my next practice.
Plan Out Your Days
You already know that I am a planner. A paper planner. You’ve seen it. I won’t bore you with details. But both chronic and temporary illnesses can cause forgetfulness, foggy thinking and more. So right now more than ever, I find it essential to writ out and plan my days.
I divide my days into my most important topics (Spiritual, Health, and Work/Personal). And then I write my goals in each section, keeping in mind how I feel during each day. And I
don’t try not to get upset if I have to move some to another day. Last week, an entire day had to be rescheduled. It is what it is. I plan heavier on days I know I’ll be hopped up on Steroids, and lighter on the days I know my fatigue is bad. And I plan so that I can do my best to be where I want to be and accept invitations.
I don’t know if this will work for you, but I think it’s worth a shot. It doesn’t have to be in a planner. It can be a to do list. The sense of accomplishment you will feel when you’re able to cross items off your list, is sure to improve your outlook.
Unlock Your Passion
For me it’s always been writing. It is cathartic. It makes me happy. I also enjoy grown-up coloring, creating fun looks with clothing and makeup (see the Beauty menu), and listening to music. These are things I do for myself and not anyone else. I think we all need to do that from time to time.
Do you want to learn to knit? Go for it! Do you like to paint? Create some art. Find something that makes you feel good and that you do just for yourself and not for anyone else. Unless you’re really good. Then sell that stuff 😉
In all seriousness, though, sometimes what we love doing we do want to share. That’s why I write this blog. In the hopes that what I love to do and write about might help others.
Communicate With Your Friends
We have sort of covered this already. But it’s important to be in touch with friends even when there is distance between us. I usually HATE FaceTime, but it is one of my favorite things to do right now. To see someone’s face that I don’t get to see daily fills me with joy. The introvert in me hates speaking on the phone, but I try not to ignore any phone calls.
I try to write thank you notes when someone gives me a gift. It helps me to remain grateful and appreciative, and it also a great way to extend my forms of communication.
Do I speak with my friends as much as I want to? No. And I like to think that they understand. Sometimes days get away from me. But I do try to respond and reach out as much as possible. It prevents me from being completely isolated, especially on days when I’m not up to going out.
I realize that we all have different personalities. You may be reading some — or all — of these, thinking that I’m ridiculous. And that’s OK. But for me, these things work, and they have made me happier and more contented than I’ve felt in years.
Yes, I have days when sadness overcomes me, or I get angry at my limitations. But eventually I am able to put things into perspective and regain my happiness. I hope that some of these ideas will help you, sweet readers.