When I was diagnosed with cancer, I was afraid. No that’s not right. I was scared sh#tless! But I made it my priority to educate and prepare myself as much as possible for what was about to happen to me….even though there were a lot of unknowns and no guarantees. I studied, researched and combed the internet for any information on breast cancer and mastectomies and I made sure that I avoided or edited any information that was NOT factual or was sensationalized. I avoided the writings and messages from the crazies that said things like my cancer could be healed with certain foods or minerals or even with a just some meditation. I made it my job to be informed, ask the right questions of the right people and to follow the advice of the experts…my oncologist and surgeons.
Having cancer can feel very isolating. And being alone is not easy. In fact, it can really take its toll on people. Since my mastectomy and subsequent surgeries I have spent a lot of time by myself. There have been stretches of time where I wouldn’t see a single soul for a week or more at a time. No visitors. No contact. No one. You start to get in your head a lot when you have no interaction with anyone…and that can be dangerous. Depression and anxiety can manifest itself and escalate very rapidly if you are not “self aware.”
Creating a routine can help. Making sure you set a goal for the day and working towards it is key to keeping you motivated and positive. Reaching out to someone else via phone, email, zoom and face time is vital in order to feel connected with the rest of the world. Now that the weather is better, if you are able, get outside. Go for a walk; get some fresh air. Sit on your front porch or balcony and wave to your neighbors. You can still communicate…just keep a safe distance. For weeks after my mastectomy, I would sit on my porch, watching the world go by waiting for the day I was well enough to join in. But being able to hear the birds, watch people cut their lawns or even seeing cars go by made me feel less alone. I always try to find what I can that is positive about my situation. You can too…you just have to make a start. Take on a project you’ve been putting off because you didn’t have the time before. If you are home with your family, treat this as a bonus rather than a curse. Use the time to catch up with each other, play games, talk and really connect. If you are alone; you don’t have to be lonely. There are ways to communicate and participate without necessarily having physical contact. But if you have the luxury of being “isolated” with others, a hug goes a really long way!
When you are told you have cancer the first thing you think of is “how much time do I have left?!” That may sound dramatic, but its true. I know only too well that the time we have is precious and we shouldn’t waste a second. Things will get better; it just may take a while.
We are all dealing with uncertainty and anxiety as we navigate these challenging times. We have to stay smart and act appropriately. We are dealing with a lot of unknowns but we do not have to do it alone. We can and should look out for each other. We should reach out even if we can’t “touch” each other. We are still connected. We are still a community. And just because we are isolated shouldn’t mean we also have to be lonely.