Huh?? Cancer as empowering? On that dark day when “you have cancer” came out of my doctor’s mouth, I felt anything but empowered. I didn’t think I could handle the surgeries and chemo, physically or mentally. Wasn’t sure I even wanted to try. I didn’t feel empowered while I was going through treatment. But when it ended I was amazed by what I had done.
It WAS empowering to make it through nine surgeries and four rounds of chemo. To laugh about my GI Jane haircut. To remember my “Three tries and you’re done” rule for needle sticks. Who knew?
I might have been sick and bald, but as long as I could choose to laugh and refuse to be poked, I didn’t feel like a victim. This little bit of control was enough to keep me sane. It was a valuable lesson that carried forward into my healing and my new normal life.
When asked “What empowered you about your experience?” cancer patients who are ending treatment say things like:
“People were there for me. I managed the physical side effects. Making the other people in the chemo café laugh. Telling my doctor “No, I’m not ready to decide. I need to know more about this.” I got through it without whining. Facing a painful reality head-on – the fact that I might die. I learned to tell the truth. Telling another survivor I felt guilty because I can’t do all the things I used to. Eating healthier. Getting my insurance company to pay for my tests. Gaining a stronger sense of myself. Learning to ask for and accept help. Letting go of the unimportant things. Pondering the meaning of life. A feeling of renewal when my treatment ended. Making spending time with my daughter my priority.”
What about you? How many things have you done because of cancer that you never would have dreamed you could? What are you proud of yourself for accomplishing? What did you do that surprised you? How does it feel?
I believe the essence of empowerment comes from feeling the fear of not knowing how something will turn out, and doing it anyway. You may not realize it, but you’ve become an expert at doing it anyway during cancer.
If you could wipe the slate clean and have it all; what would you want? Give yourself permission to think about this without worrying about how it could happen. Millions of survivors report that their lives as survivors are more passionate, fulfilling and joyful than before.
Like me, they feel that nothing is scarier than cancer. They’ve learned to use fear as a spring board to move out of their comfort zone and into that fully alive, I CAN DO IT feeling. If we can do it so can you. Just remember, If You Can Do Cancer You Can Do Anything.
by Paula Holland De Long ACC, CPCC
Cancer survivor, professional life coach, award-winning author, and inspirational speaker Paula Holland De Long is an authority on how the lessons of survivorship can bring joy, passion and purpose to anyone’s life. Paula founded What’s Next For My Life, Inc., because she believes it shouldn’t take a cancer diagnosis to inspire people to live what matters. She’s helped thousands of people choose and achieve what’s next for their lives. Learn more at WhatsNextForMyLife.com.