Out of the Darkness

The initial response to the diagnosis of blood cancer can be overwhelming.

Anger and denial at my diagnosis

I remember feeling in denial. This could not be happening. I never had any symptoms. Anger followed. I did not want to talk about this diagnosis with anyone.

At times, I felt very down and worried about my future. Would I live to enjoy my granddaughter? I loved my nursing career; could I continue to work? How would I manage our finances? My mind was like a video camera with worries.

Developing coping strategies

Fortunately, the following strategies were effective in coping with the emotions I felt.

Surround yourself with positive people.

I am blessed with a supportive husband and a loving son. Together, they ensured that I was cared for both physically and emotionally. Telling my son about my diagnosis was the most difficult thing that I have ever done.

He and my husband made my well-being a priority. I learned to avoid anyone negative. Initially, I was reluctant to talk about my blood cancer diagnosis. I discovered supportive people at the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. My contact person listened to my concerns and truly made a difference.

As a cancer survivor, today I am a volunteer who speaks with newly diagnosed blood cancer patients. It is so rewarding to provide support to a fellow survivor.

Try to be hopeful.

Hope is thinking that things will get better. It can be difficult after a cancer diagnosis. I found by reading about my blood cancer and the latest therapies, I began to imagine a life after cancer.

I tried to believe that chemotherapy would be effective in silencing the cancer. There were roadblocks ahead. I had a negative reaction to my first treatment, which resulted in a hospitalization. This challenged me to find ways to be optimistic. I focused on thoughts that chemotherapy would work and the cancer would go into remission.

Focus on selfcare.

Despite numerous MD appointments, diagnostics, and treatment protocols, we must take care of ourselves. Several months into treatment, I learned that if I had adequate sleep and exercised, I would feel better. Fresh air, being outdoors, and enjoying nature relaxed me and enabled me to be more tolerant of treatment. I discovered yoga and meditation also helped me relax.

Spiritual/other support.

Think about beliefs that give you comfort. I discovered that my faith provided me support. Each of us must think about what is important to us. Explore these beliefs, which may help you deal with this cancer diagnosis and subsequent effects.

Find your priorities.

Before my cancer diagnosis, I focused too much attention on my career and other less important issues. I now recognize the importance of enjoying every moment as a gift. Spending time with my granddaughter became a priority. Consider what is important! Prepare a “bucket list” of things you would like to do and do them. My priorities today are my family, faith, and friends.

Finding the positives.

Looking back on my cancer journey, I have noted some positives. I truly appreciate each day; my faith has become a priority and given me great comfort. Each day, I write down things for which I am grateful. I believe that I am a better person today than thirteen years ago when I was first diagnosed with blood cancer.

This cancer journey has been very difficult at times. The above strategies have helped me transition to a cancer survivor, coming out of the darkness into the light of a new day.

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