Wednesday 5 August 2020

The other side of Cancer; BRiC's Collective Voice, July 2020

The other side of Cancer

This week we asked: what insights have we developed and how have they impacted us positively?

For many, it’s about living life to the full, appreciating all the good things and being grateful for all that we have. Living one day at a time, in the moment. Realising that life is something we want, no matter what. For others, despite anxiety, worry and overwhelm being features in our lives, there’s a renewed desire to live our best life, a clarity of vision like having a new pair of glasses. What we want - and perhaps equally importantly, what we don’t want - becomes clear and our goals crystalise before us.

Many of us struggle to say No but we’re learning, and once the word is said (the hardest part) everything falls into place, and this gives us confidence to be more discerning in what we sign up to. Some of us also want to say Yes more often. We aren’t used to asking for help, for going for what we want, again we’re learning. Making a fuss is ok, we matter. We are important, and we are enough. We can look after ourselves, put ourselves first, treat ourselves with compassion and love. We can be assertive whilst retaining our empathy and we recognise that we can actually look after others better when our own needs are met first.

Simplicity features for many members, in finding pleasure in small everyday things, feeling the love of family and friends, finding beauty in nature.

Many of us are finding ways to turn negatives into positives. We might be used to being the organiser, the one who pulls friends together for outings, and this might feel one-sided. However one member’s friend said to her ‘you are the light for those people who struggle to engage’ and so she can now see her role changed as a positive one. Other examples include being thankful for our lives rather than worrying about getting older, and appreciating our bodies, scarred though they may be, for what they do for us rather than for what we look like. We no longer take our bodies for granted, and we understand that our bodies and minds must be nurtured in order to flourish.

A phrase used by many of us is ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’. We find it easier to let go of trivia, to work out what matters. Many of us are more outspoken, prepared to stand up for what we believe in. We will not perform for others or be led like a sheep. However some of us find we are more sensitive than before cancer, although generally we worry less about the opinions of others. Many of us find we slip into old ways very easily, and when we are aware of this we may pull ourselves back but we don’t beat ourselves up about it.

There is a sense that we have slowed down, taking more notice of the world and people around us, but at the same time considered carefully what we want to do with our lives and sought out opportunities to make those things happen. We live more consciously rather than just letting life happen to us.

Of course we all have down days, when we feel low or unwell. We are wise enough to know that these will pass, and that in order to know our joy we must also experience our sadness. We are not glad we had cancer, but some of us believe it has made us a better person. New friendships are a key positive for many of us, and having the courage to move away from toxic relationships.

One member described herself as having become very ‘feelingy.’ Feelings may become more intense, our sensitivity to what is going on around and inside us heightened. Alongside this comes perspective and peace of mind. We have a desire to feel the full range of emotions and to build a happy and fulfilling life. Some of us have a disassociation with ourselves, feeling as though we are watching ourselves going through life, particularly our cancer treatment. We may want to change but perhaps we haven’t yet had time for what we’ve been through to sink in. Our members are at different stages of their cancer, some recently diagnosed and in active treatment, some many years beyond primary, some living with secondary cancer.

We recognise that our time on earth is short, and that it’s up to us to enjoy what we are given. We know that worry is fruitless and that we won’t look back on our lives wishing we’d worried more. We know that sharing our experiences helps us all.

Together we are stronger.

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