Making cancer meaningful means something different to everyone. In today’s episode, we examine the feeling that many survivors have, namely to find meaning in the process by making a difference in the lives of others, and the flip side of that same coin, survivor’s guilt.
Honor your experience.
The process of going through cancer treatment is as unique as you are. No two cancers, people, or processes are alike. What may seem to you as an “easier” process is actually your perception.
Most of us can identify with having surgery and/or reconstruction. But not everyone has long-lasting pain, as Michelle did for three years. Each of us has our own experience. The important thing is to communicate what is bothering you to your doctor. If they don’t know you’re having a problem, they can’t help you with it. Even if you feel like whatever the issue is “is no big deal” you should ask about it just in case there is a solution.
“You need to take care of yourself first, so that you can take care of all the other people around you.”~ Michelle Hoglan
Get support if and when you need it.
One thing I don’t talk about often on this podcast is seeking help from mental health professionals. I do believe that seeking professional help when needed is imperative to healing mentally, emotionally, and physically. There is no shame in seeking a professionally trained therapist who understands the nuances of a traumatic health diagnosis and can help you get through it.
Making cancer meaningful as an experience means dealing with it on all levels of being. Having someone to talk to can help you make sense of a traumatic situation. It can also be liberating, in that, you can say anything you want to about it without offending anyone. If you’re experiencing PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) there are methods for healing that too.
It’s okay to be “just” a survivor.
I think cancer survivors often want to help others on their cancer journey and do “all the things” – write a book, run a marathon, start a non-profit, etc…. And others just learn to live again.
Whatever your desire, it’s all good. If making cancer meaningful means running a marathon do it! If it means moving on after the diagnosis and living in the new normal, do that. Don’t get caught up in the “I’m supposed to do something” if that doesn’t speak to you.
For Michelle, a simple FaceBook page she created to update family and friends on her progress turned into The Boob Report, a place where patients, survivors, and caretakers can find resources and advice so they don’t feel alone.
Being a survivor is enough. But if you feel the need to do more, do that. Just know you are not obligated to do more. Our value as humans doesn’t come from the things we do. You have inherent value. No one is here by mistake. You are valuable just as you are.
Here are some of my favorite moments from this episode:
- 1:51 Michelle’s cancer experience.
- 8:02 Powering through pain and depression.
- 10:58 Learn to communicate and speak up for yourself.
- 13:22 The mental aspects of going through a devastating diagnosis.
- 19:42 Creating The Boob Report.
- 22:45 Dealing with survivor’s guilt.
- 27:04 Finding humor in the hot mess.
- 34:01 Talking to your children.
Links mentioned in this episode:
- The Boob Report
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If you’re stressed about what to eat check out episode 34 with Cathy Leman, RD, or episode 35 where I talk about food rules vs. food values. Episode 19 and episode 30 were about balancing components of an anti-cancer lifestyle. Episodes 25, 31, and 32 were about helping you find ways to heal your soul through Reiki and healing touch, writing, and art therapy. Funny episode 16 with Dr. Shari Fox.