Surviving Setbacks: How Do You Cope During Rough Times?

Do you ever feel that, for every bit of progress you make in your blood cancer journey, something comes along to smack you down or push you a few steps back?

Setbacks are a reality but they can be very discouraging and also psychologically overwhelming.

Things going wrong

Recently, I was feeling down after totaling my car in an accident. I was also experiencing vascular problems and my leukemia treatment was put on hold until we can find out what is wrong.

You’d think I’d be happy taking a break from my daily TKI Sprycel after seven long years. But, I’m not. It is a nerve-wracking experience. Will my numbers stay stable or will my leukemia (CML) come flooding back? When I resume treatment, will I be able to reach “undetectable” status once again?

COVID-19: the setback of all setbacks

If all these issues were not enough to handle, I then got COVID-19. I was in disbelief because, outside of medical appointments, I’ve been completely isolated for more than two years.

Anyway, COVID-19 took a lot out of me — energy, spirit, and even hope. It was the setback of all setbacks, in my opinion. You could say that it was the last straw.

Although I received immunotherapy which likely shortened my illness, the last few weeks have been disheartening, and that’s putting it mildly.

Getting out of the slump

But enough doom and gloom. Are you still with me?

What can I do to lift myself out of this slump of bad luck and feelings of discouragement?

I asked myself that very question this morning. I was driving to yet another medical appointment when it came to mind.

“You’re going to be okay,” I said aloud. I said it more than once—like some kind of mantra.

This too shall pass

I reminded myself that I’ve survived other setbacks over all of these years as a blood cancer patient and I could do it again.

So, what’s my advice for surviving setbacks? First of all, stay strong. As the saying goes, this too shall pass.

It’s easy to say, but more difficult to practice.

Go slowly

My second bit of advice is to take things slowly. I struggle with this concept too. I want things to turn around and go back to whatever `normal’ is yesterday.

Healing takes time. I’m learning as the days go on that COVID effects don’t quickly disappear. Plus, it has been a rough few months in other ways.

I have to be patient with myself.

Prioritize rest and recovery

Another thing I’m going to try to do is prioritize rest and recovery. Again, having a setback seems to put me way behind in the other things I need to do. However, if I don’t get enough rest, it will only cause more problems. Experience tells me that.

Phone a Friend

Next, what about reaching out and talking to someone who understands? Remember the "phone a friend" option on that Who Wants to be a Millionaire game show? Even though I’m the last person who wants to “unload” on other people, sometimes their support can be helpful.

I’ve had seven years of "challenges," so far. There have been peaks and valleys. Sometimes you need a hand to pick you up out of the doldrums. There are a couple of people I know who will not mind if I call them to talk about what’s going on.

Reaching out for professional help

Finally, there is no shame in asking for professional help. I’m not currently receiving counseling but I have in the past. I found it rewarding to have an impartial person there to listen. It’s an option in any case.

What do you do to pick yourself up during a bad period?

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