Ok. Let’s imagine that YOU have cancer. You find a good doctor, show up for treatments, and fight through the side effects. But what else do you do? How would you take care of yourself? Are you imagining healthy meals, daily exercise, and meditation? Lots of green tea and naps and no stress allowed?
Well… that was my imagination too. But the reality is much different. Here’s the problem – real life doesn’t stop. There is no magic “turn off all the other stuff” button.
And when you are not only a cancer patient, but a business owner, a homeowner, and a single mother, there’s not much wiggle room in there for self-care. The work still needs to be done at the office. The dinners still need to be cooked The lawn still needs mowed. And your ever-shrinking checkbook still needs balanced. So you gotta sneak in the self-care whenever and however you can.
You need to take good care of your body. Eating healthy and staying active is really important. The stronger your body is, the better it can fight. But sometimes it’s hard to shop for healthy ingredients and make a good meal. Sometimes you just gotta have popcorn for dinner and be okay with it. Daily exercise is a great idea – but really hard to do when your body feels like crap and your brain is exhausted from worry. But when you do go get that long walk-in – it feels wonderful!
You should also take good care of your spiritual and emotional self. Mediation, journaling, playing music – find the things that quiet your panic and feed your soul. Fighting cancer is scary. It’s important to fill up that bucket of joy and strength so the well won’t run dry. These things also take time. The days seem to just run out of minutes. It’s difficult to carve some out for these things, but they are worthy of your time!
Keeping yourself financially solvent is also important. Your regular bills indeed still keep coming due, and your medical bills multiply exponentially. You’ve got to keep making money to pay all these bills – let alone to buy all that healthy food you’re going to cook! Trying to keep your career afloat while battling cancer is a delicate situation. As a business owner, I’ve also got to make sure my company is being cared for so I continue to have a place TO work.
Maintaining healthy relationships with friends and family is very important. It’s crucial to still be a friend, a sister, a daughter and a mother. That’s what makes you YOU! And equally important is to walk away from those who aren’t offering you something healthy and supportive in return. There is just no time for those relationships – especially when battling cancer.
Keep living. I think this is the most important one. You’re fighting for your life – so don’t let that life stop. And this is where the difficult items from above finally work out. Life is messy and crazy and chaotic and awesome and exhausting. When I don’t want to go to work or a social function or a family gathering, I know I have an easy out. But when I drag myself out the door and make it there – I’m so happy. Because being me makes me happy!
Cancer realigns a lot of one’s priorities. For those of you fighting like me, be gentle with yourself. Make taking care of yourself a priority! But also forgive and love yourself when you’re just a real person.
Living with cancer is different for each of us, not just because the disease is complex, but also because our lives are different. I asked my friend Beth Hampshire if she would write about her experience because I’m constantly amazed by her ability to keep everything in her life moving forward while still managing this disease. She’s a rock star.