TENTATIVE CHECKLIST: how to best live with cancer, its treatment and its aftermath—some ideas

Part of the THIS IS THE MOMENT series at REEF.

One.  When the impulse comes to isolate yourself, resist it. You can give in at first, because maybe your energy or your blood count are low, or you’re in pain, or because you need the quiet and the rest. But not for long.

Powell, Joanne; Isolation; Royal Birmingham Society of Artists; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/isolation-29704

Humans who love you bring energy of the very best sort. They don’t always know that they’re also bringing the noise of the outside world that can make you feel despondent, or that you don’t feel able to deal with. They almost always mean to bring LOVE and to give CARE—a good meal, a hot tea, a movie watched together. Laughter. Companionship. Being seen and feeling connected. The things that make life worthwhile.

Milroy, Lisa; Doing, Thinking, Speaking; Arts Council Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/doing-thinking-speaking-63895

Two.  If you feel low. If you feel lost in end-of-life thoughts, or fear, or sadness. If you feel purposeless. If you feel sorry for yourself (a totally legit feeling, in my estimation, in small doses). If you feel pulled out of time and unmoored…

READ A MATT HAIG BOOK.

This advice will fit most of the situations you encounter. Matt Haig is a lovely, British human being, husband and father. He’s also a prodigious novelist (7 times) and memoirist. Every book of his that I have read (3 so far) has been poignant and filled with such joy that he has changed the way I think about life. I’m convinced that he writes each one with this intention. The first one I read was The Humans (2013), which delighted me and left me filled with joie de vivre and also left me pensive. The second one was his startling memoir called Reasons to Stay Alive (2016) in which the reader learns about the author’s long battle with depression. The title suggests he was victorious. And, with The Radley’s (2010) waiting next to my bed, I’ve just finished How to Stop Time (2018). Anyone living with cancer will find this beautiful novel helpful. All of Matt Haig’s books leave the reader feeling replete, and of all of them, I think How to Stop Time may be the most touching and most likely to help you to keep thinking and feeling on a path without fear.

Three. Write. Keep a journal. Jot down your soul states or random thoughts or observations about the leaves falling; or the noisy truck that’s getting on your nerves; or how much you miss the real taste of food; or what made you blue just hours before; or what happy thought or insight you just had…

Write about a hobby, or something that interests you.

Make a list of all of the people you love and care about.

Make a list of the things that worry you.

Write about your pet.

Make a list of all of the foods and drinks you’ll gorge on once chemo or radiation are done.

Make a list of what you miss, then make a list of everything you would have missed had you not been on Cancer Hiatus.

Lucas, Caroline Byng; The Yellow Book; William Evans Bequest, Bangor University; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-yellow-book-177836

Four. If you’re like me, and tend or tended to wear the same clothes to chemo or radiation treatment all the time—in my case, the tops I wear have to have front buttons so that I can leave with an infuser filled with a chemotherapy drug tied around my waste that continues to pump its meds into me for 2 days— throw it out or give it a vigorous washing and then give it to NOVA or any local charity. I think that once that part of treatment and living with cancer is done, you shouldn’t wear its uniform. Make a fresh start. Buy a few items in new and different colours. Make the outside match the changes inside you, especially the changes in the way you see your life, and the way you see yourself.

Allen, Phillip Macdonell; Small Moments of Little Joy; Government Art Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/small-moments-of-little-joy-27592

Five: Cancer’s aftermath

This isn’t really about the future. The future is unwritten.

This is about how far we’ve travelled so far, what we’ve become, what we hope for or know that we want from life.

Live in the now and try to live without fear.

 

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