As advanced cancer patients, we have all experienced that sharp slap in the face when we first heard that dreaded diagnosis. We have all probably experienced anxiety, anger, depression, and a sense of powerlessness in the face of our disease and the real threat of a shortened future.
Learning all I could about my cancer, and the different treatment paths available to me, has been essential to my well-being and survival. Keeping track of my disease as a full participant with my oncology team has meant more informed and better treatments for me. Tumors can be missed in surgeries, for example, and measurements on scans can be inaccurate or misleading, so checking reports with your team is important. Informed consent documents in clinical trials need to be carefully read and understood, so that we are not suddenly surprised by an unanticipated side effect. This process should also give you confidence in your doctor’s expertise. If not, it will give you a solid reason for seeking other treatment options. It should also give you a sense of real empowerment in dealing with your condition, which is an enormous help emotionally.
Keep in mind that being told that we might not live as long as we’d always anticipated can lead to gratifying changes in our lives, ironic as that may be. Take charge! Make sure you have emotional support you can rely on. Don’t continue to put off things you’ve always wanted to do. I have had the most precious and fulfilling years of my life since I was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma seven years ago; making a special trip I’d always dreamed of, completing my career goals, rekindling my relationship with my daughter, and finding my partner for life. It all comes from appreciating each day of your life as a special gift. An old Sanskrit poem says it well.
Look to this day!
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence:
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendor of beauty,
For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow only a vision,
But today well lived makes every yesterday
a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day!
Such is the salutation of the dawn.