Visualize and Modify With Blood Cancer

I like to plan and set goals because I feel better when looking forward to things. For example, it motivates me to clean my house when expecting a visitor. In addition, having something to look forward to keeps me from overfocusing on my myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) diagnosis.

Using a paper calendar to see what's coming

I still use a paper calendar to record events, appointments, and lab visits. There are events on my calendar that I look forward to, such as parties. But, then, there are those darn oncology appointments.

I was a special education teacher for 39 years and must have written a thousand Individualized Education Programs (IEP). A teacher evaluates the student's skills, then develops a plan of success for them. For example, does the student need more time to complete assignments, visual aids, or privacy for learning? As a cancer patient, I need to visualize what I need for a successful day. Then, modify tasks for success.

Keep busy living, but slower!

  • Errands: I must return something to a friend and stop at the library, grocery, and drug stores. Do I need to do all four chores in one day? Pacing myself is essential so that I won't get too tired. I ask myself which two are the most important, then do those tasks. I will do the other errands on another day.
  • Yard work: I had a friend who would spend six hours almost daily working in her flower garden in the summer. It was a showplace! She loved it. I, however, want to keep my yard much simpler. I know my limits. Just a couple of small flowerbeds to weed is enough.
  • Housework: Your home should be comfortable, so you can get the rest you need. Do you have too much stuff in your house? Many people do. Too much furniture could cause you to fall, and too many knick-knacks are dust collectors. Rethink how to make your home comfortable and convenient.
  • Clothes: When I buy a new item to wear, I get rid of something old. I also ask myself, Is this garment easy to care for? Do I have to handwash it or take it to the cleaners? Does it require ironing, and if so, will it be hard to iron? I want to make things easier. Also, remember this lesson from childhood? When you come home wearing nice clothes, you hang them in your closet and change into casual clothes. You might have called them your play clothes. If we take care of our clothes, they last longer.

Dare to say NO!

There are many things I am thankful for in my life. One of them is that I could retire when I started feeling bad in 2017. (My retirement party had been two weeks before I heard my diagnosis!) I am amazed that young people with blood cancer still work full-time, raise families, and care for their homes. You all are rock stars! No, make that superhero rock stars! Be sure to take care of yourself, so you can keep going. Remember, you don't give up. You stop to rest. Say no to those who ask too much of you.

Years ago, I watched the 1952 movie, Come Back, Little Sheba. Shirley Booth played Burt Lancaster's wife. It was a depressing movie. Burt Lancaster's character had an issue with alcohol and left his home for treatment. Their neighbor gave Shirley Booth's distraught character some excellent advice. "Keep busy," she said. As a result, when her husband returned from treatment, their home was immaculate, the cleanest it had been in years.

That's my advice, too. Keep busy so you don't overfocus on blood cancer. Yes, it is frightening, frustrating, and exhausting. But like the country song says: When you're going through hell, keep on going. So, visualize your goals, set realistic expectations, and modify activities for success. After all, we must plan to survive with blood cancer.

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