April showers supposedly bring May flowers. Well, if April for me is a shower of tests and doctors appointments, I’m definitely hoping for the May flowers of remission!

By: Robin Harry

April showers supposedly bring May flowers. Well, if April for me is a shower of tests and doctors appointments, I’m definitely hoping for the May flowers of remission! It’s going to be an interesting month; the results of everything next month could either mean the end of the lymphoma era, or a restart on the treatment process.

As I play the waiting game, I figured I’d continue my “lesson” series, but this time, just looking back and sharing some of the most important lessons I’ve learned about living with cancer. Hopefully this will help some of my fellow cancer patients as we walk this journey.

1. NEVER lose faith or hope.
There is so much uncertainty when it comes to having cancer. Every test, every scan ends with a question mark, every doctor’s appointment leads to more questions. It’s hard not to feel defeated and tired sometimes, but having that faith…I can’t even describe how my faith carried me sometimes. So…my advice – never let go of our faith, and don’t lose hope. When things are as bad as they’re going to get, find little things to hope for. But always hope.

2. Listen to your body.
Chemotherapy is one of those things that is new every morning! The side-effects are sometimes surprising, and can come out of nowhere. When I lost my sense of taste, I didn’t see that coming at all! Be very aware of your body, listen to what it’s telling you, don’t write ANYTHING off, and always tell your doctor what’s going on. Don’t push harder than you have to, and keep yourself healthy at all costs. Believe me – this is coming from a girl who spent three days with severe pericarditis before going to the doctor. I learned that lesson the hard way!

3. One day at a time.
Embrace the small victories, and take the whole journey one day at a time. The grand picture can be scary, and the uncertainty is even more so. But when we take things step by step, each day becomes it’s own little success story.

4. Expect to learn a lot about people in your life.
People will learn a lot about us by how we handle our cancer situation. But we learn a lot more about everyone else. Our perspective on relationships may evolve. Some people will put their emotional needs ahead of ours, and yet others we never dreamed of will come out of the wood-works to be supportive. We learn which people we can depend on, and which ones to let go of. It’s okay to let those relationships change. It’s okay to be disappointed – but don’t be angry (or only for a little while, at least). Let it go and move on – we have enough to deal with without carrying that kind of weight around.

5. Cancer doesn’t make us the centre of the universe.
We cancer patients go through hell and back – but we have to remember that the world didn’t suddenly stop turning because we got sick. Life stops for us but not for everyone else. We should be grateful when people go the extra mile to help us out and keep us company, but it’s a little unfair to expect constant doting. Never stop being understanding of others, and don’t expect more than people have to give.

6. Laugh. Smile. Cancer can be absurd.
When I lost my hair, I made it a point of duty to smile at myself whenever I looked in the mirror. We can’t let cancer stifle our spirit – it’s already wreaking havoc on our bodies! It’s okay to laugh at the absurdity of cancer sometimes. Just know your audience – some people can’t handle cancer humour. And don’t be self-deprecating and facetious…that’s just awkward. But always look for the joy in life, and find something, however how small, to smile about.

I learned a lot living with lymphoma, but I think these were the most important lessons. Oh, and Nathan Fillion’s awesomeness. But mostly these. These things made life with cancer a bit easier, and I hope they will mean something to someone.


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