A Strategy to Handle the Uncertainty of the Future of a Cancer Survivor
Last updated: June 2023
We are motivated to find meaning in our lives. This is especially true in the aftermath of a cancer diagnosis. I can remember struggling with the uncertainty of the future. For me, the meaning of life includes faith, family, and friends. A study published in Health Psychology found that positive strategies for coping revealed increased feelings of inner peace, and satisfaction with one’s current life.1
The study utilized a scale to examine the impact of a cancer diagnosis on the patient’s reported meaning of life. The results revealed that participants who utilized active coping and had social support when dealing with a cancer diagnosis later reported greater inner peace. Denial and avoidance did not support harmony and peace. The findings suggest that coping strategies enable the individual to deal with the negative event, a cancer diagnosis.
Learning to deal with the uncertainty
Uncertainty has become a major part of my life since my cancer diagnosis. Dealing with the “what ifs" has become a daily focus and can be anxiety-producing. Missing the major events in the life of my granddaughter is a significant concern and causes me much distress. "Will she remember me?", I have thought. Journaling has had a relaxing and comforting effect on me since my diagnosis. What if I could identify the important milestones in my granddaughter’s life and write my thoughts and wishes for her? I would express my thoughts and feelings for her just in case I would not be there when a special occasion occurred.
I tried to identify those special occasions in her young life that I had hoped to be part of. These included her confirmation (receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit in our religion), sweet 16 birthday (becoming a teenager), 18th birthday, high school graduation, college graduation, engagement, marriage, and the birth of her first child.
Since my cancer diagnosis, I have decided to make memories with my granddaughter for the time we have together. I never miss an opportunity to spend time together.
Identifying a positive coping strategy
I purchased greeting cards for each of the above-noted occasions. In each card, I wrote my feelings, wishes, and shared thoughts for my granddaughter. I also indicated something as a special gift for the occasion. Both my son and husband were made aware of my wishes so that the cards and gifts would be given when the occasion occurred.
Having cancer does create a life of uncertainty and situations one cannot control. By developing a plan to share thoughts and feelings for special occasions, I am able to part of her future.
This spring provided my greatest feeling of love and accomplishment when I was able to personally give my granddaughter her previously written confirmation card. Yes, I was alive and able to attend her confirmation. I am in remission and pray that I can continue to be part of her life.
As a cancer survivor, one needs to identify positive coping strategies. Sharing my thoughts and feelings for future occasions in the life of my granddaughter that I may not see, has provided me a feeling control and satisfaction.
How do you feel about your support system?