Coping When Cancer Keeps Letting You Know It’s There

As every patient can tell you, coping with a cancer diagnosis isn’t easy. In fact, for me, trying to cope with cancer to get my head around my initial blood cancer diagnosis was an all-encompassing effort for the first weeks of my cancer fight.

Over time, I settled into a new normal, particularly once I recovered from my autumn 2019 autologous stem cell transplant. My doctors were pleased with my blood values, and I was pleased that they were pleased. While I was still being treated with maintenance doses of Revlimid and Velcade, there were a great many times when I sort of … forgot … that I had cancer.

A reminder cancer’s still there

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For a number of years, I was coping with cancer well. However, that’s changed for me recently.

During March is “Myeloma Action Month,” and as a patient and patient caregiver advocate, I was very active in social channels, raising awareness of multiple myeloma and other blood cancers and raising funds for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. Being out there so actively across social platforms makes it difficult not to have multiple myeloma front of mind.

While on Instagram early in March, I saw a post from a myeloma group that spoke to the advancements in treatment for multiple myeloma, and it used survival rates five years after diagnosis as proof points. Treatment advancements have now pushed that five-year survivability number to just under 60 percent.

While that figure denotes remarkable improvement, it didn’t sit too well with me. You see, I saw that post about a week before the fifth anniversary of my diagnosis on March 11. Taken in tandem, I viewed it all as an unwelcome reminder of my ongoing battle.

And then, for me, it got worse. About a week later, my doctor notified me that my myeloma protein markers are trending in the wrong direction and, while still relatively low, warrant both a PET scan and a bone marrow biopsy.

Oh, joy. Not.

Struggling to cope with cancer

For two weeks now, I’ve sort of regressed mentally and emotionally to where I was five years ago. And, you know what? I don’t like it.

It’s understandable, of course. But, it’s taken some time in order for me to pull myself back up. On the plus side, though, it’s been a good reminder.

I’m a natural cheerleader and positive thinker. Heck, I’m the “Punch Today in the Face” guy, for crying out loud. Still, it took me a while to shake off the doldrums, and to be perfectly honest, I’m not all the way back yet. Hopefully, once my test results come back and my doctors have adjusted my treatment regimen accordingly, it won’t take long.

Like I said, though, my recent bout with coping with cancer has been a great reminder. Cancer patients are continuously dealing with new normals, and there will definitely be peaks and valleys to navigate. It’s only natural that we all, at times, struggle.

I’ve always thought about my complete person as being made up of my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual states. And for me, when one falters, I try to use one or more of the other ones to pull it back up.

It’s easy when things are going swimmingly. When there are a few big bumps in the road, it tends to get more difficult. It’s those difficult times that I’m reminded I don’t have to do this alone.

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Strength in numbers

I went to my first-ever support group meeting about a week after my initial diagnosis, and those people, in the years since, have taught me a lot about cancer, the human spirit, and more. They’ve also motivated me. They were there with a helping hand when I needed others to pull me forward, and I committed myself to being there to help pull forward those who follow me.

It’s not just my support group; it’s also my big group, my team or tribe of friends. They pull me forward all the time. For example, I get so energized when people tell me they pray for me. That inspires me, for I can’t disappoint anyone who’s taking the time, effort, and energy to actually pray for me!

Coping with cancer takes a village, friends. We’re all in this together. Some days, we provide help from others; other days, we receive help from others. My recent mental and emotional struggles have reminded me of that fact.

I like to pride myself that I’m there for others when they need me, that I’m here to serve. I also know there are others who are there to serve me.

Here’s my invitation to you: If I can be of service to you and yours, in any way, please let me know. On the flip side, when I come a-calling, please answer. We all get something and, like I wrote above, we’re all in this together. Together, we’re stronger than we know!

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