“It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.” – Lou Holtz
The truth in this statement is a little painful to acknowledge. I’ve been good at some things in life. Carrying heavy loads has not been one of them. The context for every person is different but the problems from stress are very real! Since I can’t quite tell you how to keep from getting cancer allow me to share some things I’ve learned about dealing with the stress-load of life as a cancer survivor.
1. You can’t do it all.
2. Let people help.
3. Do work that you love.
4. If you don’t love your work and a change is not feasible, do things you love outside of work to recharge and refresh and protect your sanity and joy.
5. It’s OK to be angry. It’s not OK to not deal with anger properly.
6. Know your personality. Are you energized by being with people, or away from people? I unashamedly make it a point to do things that nourish my body, mind, soul and spirit. Therefore I purposefully avoid things, people and places that sap my body, mind, soul and spirit. I recharge in quietness. You can actually take a free personality test right here to gain insight into your personality: https://jacobadamo.com/personality-colors-quiz/
7. Take care of yourself. Eat right. Exercise gently in a way the helps your body and doesn’t hurt physically. Sleep plenty. Get fresh air. Soak in natural sunshine for 15-20 minutes without sunscreen. Walk barefoot. Be grateful.
8. Take care of your soul. When I don’t spend time with God through scripture reading and prayer I notice a difference in my outlook and the way I handle stress throughout the day. When I stop and start the day with time talking to the God who created me and knows every detail of my past, present, and future, I’m grounded. Settled. De-stressed. Focused. Loved.
9. Simplify your life.
10. Get things right with God.
11. Get things right with the people you love.
12. Show kindness and respect to the people you don’t love.
12a. Cheery fresh flowers make burdens lighter.
It’s all connected.
Cutting out a tumor can remove the cancer. What about the environment in the body that allowed the cancer to grow? Perhaps we need to find ways to nourish and heal the body beyond the standard cutting, poisoning and burning approaches of cancer treatment. I speak respectfully from personal experience. I went through treatment twice. The first time we were flat out running through a gauntlet of fear. The second time I was angry and I tried to use that anger to arm myself with knowledge. I felt less stress about the situation; I felt like I had some control in the chaos after I prayed with my husband. We did our best to make decisions armed with faith and good information. We were confident that, no matter the outcome, God was (and is) in control.
I am not telling you to not go to your oncologist (I did). I’m telling you that you’ll need to accept responsibility to really understand the impact of treatment upon your body. What are the pro’s and con’s? Are there ways to protect the body during chemo and radiation while helping standard medical treatment approaches to work better? What are you, the person who will go through this treatment, comfortable with, in conjunction with your doctor?
Once you pray and consider all options, you go forward one day at a time.
“Stress has a profound impact on how your body’s systems function,” says Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., professor of General Oncology and Behavioral Science, and director of the Integrative Medicine Program at MD Anderson. Health experts are still sorting out whether stress actually causes cancer. Yet there’s little doubt that it promotes the growth and spread of some forms of the disease. Put simply, “stress makes your body more hospitable to cancer,” Cohen says.” The article goes on to share information about two kinds of stress – short term stress, and chronic stress, which is long-term and more damaging. Read the article here: https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/december-2014/how-stress-affects-cancer-risk.html.html
I believe there was not just one single thing that allowed cancer to thrive in my body. There were many little and big things combined that tipped the balance towards disease over a long period of time. It has taken time to tip the balance back to current wellness (by the grace of God). Stress is real and so are strategies to help cancer patients and cancer survivors manage the business of living well during our remaining time on earth.
Verses that help me cope with stress:
2 Timothy 1:7 NIV, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”
Psalm 20:1 NIV, “[ Psalm 20 ] [ For the director of music. A psalm of David. ] May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.”
Proverbs 18:10 NIV, “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.”
Psalm 90:14 NIV, “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”
How do you find help to deal with stress as a cancer patient or cancer survivor, or supporter?
PS: Something I love to do is take photos of nature. Here’s a fun picture from the countryside near where I grew up. Enjoy!
[ See more photos ]
Sharon O’Connor is a wife, mom, and stage 4 colon cancer survivor. She loves coffee, writing, playing piano, and taking walks with her husband, Tom, and their adopted Pug-Maltese mix, Ace. Sharon is grateful for wellness support strategies that work and that have helped support her personal journey with cancer.