Learning to Live With Limitations

When you have blood cancer, it comes with limitations. That’s just the long and short of it, period. Accepting those limitations into your life, though, is not easy and takes work. Not to mention that you have TV shows, social media posts, and mentors telling you to “overcome your limitations,” on a daily basis.

How do we live with limitations

Living within boundaries is part and parcel of having cancer, but how do we actually live with having limitations?

“Well, I have limitations now so I’ll just acknowledge that and move on.” Say that three times fast and then spin around once. That’s how you do it! Phew. Well, we got this article sorted early this time, go figure. So… what should we talk about now?

Ha! If only it was that easy.

Accepting boundaries is not easy

Learning to live within the new boundaries of your cancer life can be one of the most difficult parts of the illness. When you are diagnosed and you hear that “c” word for the first time, it’s like a lightning strike. Things seem to pause for a split second and when the world resumes, it’s like the entire planet has tilted on its axis.

Your life’s path from that moment on has been completely re-written, and for a while at least, that path has fences on either side. Big, tall, 20-foot fences. That are electrified. With armed guard towers. And a moat. With sharks… you get what I’m going for here, right?

Cancer means that your life, for the foreseeable future, is going to be severely curtailed.

Limitations become constant companions

Fatigue, susceptibility to illness, lack of motivation – these are all now your BFFs and, spoiler alert, they are just gonna take, take, take. These aren’t the BFFs who are going to show up randomly with a bottle of Chablis and a box of chocolates to talk about your problems.

It's more like the kind of friend that shows up with an empty bottle and then eats all of the chocolates out of the advent calendar your grandma gave you for Christmas even though it’s only November. That’s the kind of friend cancer is, and you have to find a way to wrap your head around that, which isn’t easy.

Especially when your physicians are all telling you that a “positive outlook” is important to have and that your mental state will play a big part in your overall chances for survival. Great, so first you tell me that I have this life-altering possibly terminal disease and that I have to live within strict limits but whatever you do, don’t stop smiling!

It’s a Greek tragedy worthy of a Broadway musical. I can picture the big 11 o’clock number now – a big smile with eyes singing an extremely sad song called “my new normal isn’t normal at all.”

Accepting the new normal

So how do we be okay with the limitations that cancer places on us? Well, you can start by telling yourself that living within your new boundaries is part of the overall treatment plan.

Not stressing your body and mind and making sure that you get enough rest can be as an important part of treatment as the chemo itself. For instance, when I got a quickie divorce during my chemo, my oncologist told me that there’s a fair to decent chance the stress-free separation helped save my life.

Living within your cancer means

Yes, it’s that important to live within your cancer means, apparently (feel free to use this as an excuse for your own quickie divorce, should the need arise). If you look at your frequent rest periods, time off work, and passing off of responsibilities as part of your clinical treatment plan, it will be easier to swallow.

What makes you happy?

Another method you can use to ease into your new limits is to fill the time you do have with things that make you happy. If spending time with your family is your happy place, then do that with the time you have each day before the fatigue sets in and gets overwhelming. If video games are your thing, do that, and if playing basketball is your thing, well, then, ah, you’re probably gonna need a new thing. Sorry - but the other two are good.

Whatever it is that makes you happy – do that with the time you have because - I’ll let you in on a little secret - the bills, the work, and the crap you have piling up during your treatment will still be there when you are done. And if God forbid, you don’t survive, then, frankly, who cares if Visa doesn’t get their money? I’m being blunt, but it’s true. The stuff will still be there when chemo is over unless you’re not, in which case it’s literally not your problem anymore. So, take the time you do have to do things that put a smile on your face and bulk up that all-important positive mental outlook.Adjusting to your new normal with limits when you get a cancer diagnosis can be one of the hardest parts of coming to terms with the illness. You have to take time to grieve your old life, but that’s a whole ‘ 'nother article. First, just focus on finding and obeying the limits your body has, and don’t worry your body will tell you, one way or the other. It is going to take time, but when you have cancer, time is something that you usually find yourself with an excess of. Talk soon.

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