When one is diagnosed with cancer, the first reaction is panic and confusion. All the bad news about the illness come to mind. The association of the illness with death and ruinous effects of treatment strike in seconds. The shock may give way to a lack of sensation and more confusion.
Then immediate reactions towards “operational” matters start to take over. What is to be done? Who should be told? How do I notify my work? When does the treatment starts? What will the treatment involve? Where is this going to take place? Can one get through on our own, or does one need assistance? Who could be there for us?
The most long-lasting impact of the illness starts to emerge at this stage: the worry about the uncertain future and the lack of control on one’s life.
It is evident that one lives for the most part of our life deeply occupied by the day-to-day concerns and urgencies. Very few of us had have the time to think about “the big picture” of our existence, or to actively engage with this vision. Surviving and looking after our close family, dedicating most of our daily time to a job has been our life… till suddenly cancer hits one.
The perspective about ourselves and life now changes. One’s worries come from the “what happen if…?” questions. A cancer patient and his/her doctors will be never sure whether cancer will disappear, stay, or come back. Thus, will our loved ones be able to cope without our support and affection? What will happen to all the responsibilities and tasks one has started, and which are not completed yet? Will one be able to carry on and re-start during and after treatment?
The lack of control on one’s life commences from the very diagnosis but does not stop there. The life one lives begin with being subject to doctors and hospital appointments… and times for treatment and medication. The reactions to treatment and medications are specific to one person, therefore, nobody can really predict how these will impact one’s body and state of mind, or for how long. Therefore, there is no certainty about the response from and effect on the patient and his/her close relationships and environment over the short and long term.
When I was in this situation, I felt devastated. Being the main support to my family throughout all my life, I felt responsible for not “letting down” anyone around me. This feeling, as it is common to nearly all cancer patients, was widespread to include not only my close family and relatives, but also friends and work. It was a very heavy burden to carry in addition to the worries regarding the illness and the uncertain future.
Having the help of a therapist or a coach can prove crucial to move forward in this process. I used to cry with her in every appointment. It was the only place in which I could cry without worrying my loved ones. It was the only place I could talk of my distresses and doubts without feeling judged or fearsome. It was a safe place for me to explore these worries and concerns with an open mind. It was a place where my assumptions and beliefs were kindly but surely challenged in a way that made me, little by little, become stronger.
Thanks to the wonderful help provided to me, I started to allow myself to see my life with a different light. It was not an easy process. It was a long journey that I had to continue even after the treatment finished. It was so informative and valuable that the sessions allowed me to get the courage to change a substantial part of my life.
I decided to become a Cancer Couch as a consequence of this experience. This is because through my experience as a cancer patient it was evident a realisation that clinical treatment is not enough for a patient. There is so much more that can and need to be done!
Cancer has made a huge impact in my life. I do not think we can ever “get over it”, but one can with some helping hands, re-position one’s life for the better and definitely!
Thanks for reading and for your support, … wherever you are, whoever you are.