Thursday, June 30, 2011

Limbo: Not Always an Enjoyable Dance

For many cancer survivors, the period after their last treatment is expected to be a breath of fresh air. Expectations are high, as they might expect to walk out of their doctors’ office to hear birds chirping and a chorus of cherubim singing in excitement. Unfortunately, many cancer survivors do not feel this instant satisfaction; instead, it’s quite the opposite.

You want to be happy, but you’re not. You’re suddenly not sure who you are anymore. You try to pick up and get going again, but with different energy levels it’s no longer an easy task. You may not have any desire to go back to the same job or do the same things with your free time. Friends and family members want you to go back to how you were before the diagnosis, but things have changed. You might not be able to get out of this rut at first, and that proves extremely devastating because you had set your sights on complete joy and freedom by this point

Doctors don’t always address these feelings, so patients may wind up feeling lost or angry with themselves. Women feel especially isolated; it takes energy they don’t have to explain to friends or family members why they don’t feel well. This creates a rift in many relationships and tension soars. Relationships need mending, and that can sometimes be too much for someone who doesn’t initially have a lot of energy to spare.

What can you do to get out of this dance? If you normalize the situation for yourself, you can rest-assured that you are not crazy! Expectations need to be reevaluated, fears need to be addressed and new normal goals should be set. Slow down; take it a day at a time. Don’t look too far ahead and be OK with having a day without a lot of energy. Survivors need to be who they need to be without having to explain it to anyone. It is normal to carry these feelings over from the last treatment.

By easing back into a new normal schedule, you will get those rewarding feelings that you’ve been anticipating. Counseling is a great support system, and the Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center provides these services free of charge. Working out provides stabilization and perhaps helps get you back on a routine. Strides to Strength is a great cancer-centered exercise and fatigue management program that can help get you back in the swing of things.

What methods have you or a loved one used to lift yourself from these negative feelings?

~ Julie, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Why Start Something New NOW?!

There are seemingly boundless means of finding support as a cancer survivor. Many people are familiar with such paths as group therapy sessions and one-on-ones with counselors. But there are tracks that aren’t so well known, like yoga classes, meditation techniques and makeup seminars. Even with the wide array of available options, some cancer patients and survivors find it difficult to find help, simply because they’ve never felt the need to seek it before.

Maybe you’ve never considered yourself to be someone who would benefit from therapy or enjoy a support group. Try it. Everything about your life has changed – it can be comforting to meet others experiencing the same sense of upheaval. Even if you’ve always thought of yourself as an independent, stand-on-your-own-two-feet type, cancer is a heavy weight to bear alone.

Maybe you’ve never had trouble relaxing before, never thought to meditate or practice yoga. Try it. Just because you used to be able to push your worries aside doesn’t mean you couldn’t use some help now. With things as serious as chemo or surgery to think about, it is no surprise that negativity and nerves can begin to dominate your thoughts.

Maybe you’ve never taken a class to learn how to apply makeup or care for a wig. Try it. Cancer and chemo change the body and alter physical appearance, most dramatically through hair loss. It may take a new routine to help you feel comfortable—or even fantastic—in your body again. Cosmetics classes like Look Good, Feel Better can teach you tips for looking and feeling great again.

The thing to keep in mind is that there is something out there for everyone, something that will give you the support you need to continue on your journey through cancer. You just have to be willing to try new things. There are plenty of resources here at Buddy Kemp to help you find the right support for you.

Did your diagnosis change the way you think about asking for support? Did you try something new in your search for support?

~ Marcia, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cancer Survivors: Thank YOU!

Prior to working in the oncology field, hearing the word “cancer” brought to mind the image of someone who was very ill. I didn’t think of a cancer patient as the handsome man in the grocery store or the beautiful woman down the street - that was not the image I had at all. Then I quickly realized it was impossible to know by looking at a person whether they have been affected by cancer or not, because they literally come in every shape and size - cancer does not discriminate!

We always speak about the journey of survivors and their family. Well, when people enter our doors here at Buddy Kemp, we have the privilege of becoming part of that blessed journey. The relationships we build with them are so meaningful to us.

Many times, people on the outside looking in tell me, “It must be so difficult to do what you do every day at work.” On the contrary, working with cancer survivors and their families is the most rewarding experience, and I’m so lucky to be a part of it. I used to live a lot in the future, making plans for this or that. I couldn’t wait until ____ (you can fill in the blank). Living in the future, I easily forgot how beautiful each day was, and I certainly forgot to enjoy it! These days I’m able to remind myself that things are happening now, and I’m going to miss them if I’m thinking about the future. Working with cancer survivors has definitely pushed me to see the glass half full rather than half empty.

To those people who tell me how difficult I must have it, I say to them that what I do gives me inspiration and courage in my life. It is an extreme blessing to be able to work with cancer survivors every day. So I want to say “thank you” to all of those who have touched my life in my time of working here at Buddy Kemp. My outlook is brighter and I am more inspired because of you. I feel so fortunate to work a unique place like Buddy Kemp and to witness the gift it is for those who are dealing with cancer.

How has first or second-hand experience affected your outlook on cancer? What about your outlook on life?

~Marcia, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Friday, June 10, 2011

From the outside looking in: How cancer changes you!

A lot of people have a moment in life that will stick with them forever. For many survivors, that moment is when they discovered they had cancer. The diagnosis changes everything to a survivor. How you see the world; your whole outlook on life has changed. Major reevaluations take place, and the shift is to the present.

On a day-to-day basis, one may change up their dreams and goals from focusing on their future to living in the present. You may ask yourself, “What can I do today?,” as your immediate plans are much more valuable than any event years down the road.

On a relationship level, family or friends that you have felt close to may become apprehensive about relating to you. These people are suddenly uncertain about what to say or do, which is why it is important to understand that cancer is a journey for everyone involved.

On a spiritual level, faith becomes an important part of your journey. You may go back to your faith; you may discover something that becomes your backbone of support. The need to connect to something spiritual, especially on a daily basis, is a powerful urge.

You may expand your belief system to incorporate more spiritual customs, such as alternative medicine. Suddenly yoga and other methods that you once considered taboo aren’t so weird anymore and are now even providing support. Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center offers a mind/body healing cancer support group, and then our cancer rehabilitation program offers yoga for cancer survivors.

What have been some experiences on your spiritual journey with Cancer? Have you added any new routines to your life?

~ Marcia, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center