We Never Truly Know Another’s Pain They Carry

cancer voice in asia
A man shouting for freedom from pain. Photo courtesy by Tony Rojas on Unsplash

We all fall down.

Whether we are healthy or not, rich or poor, young or old.

There are times that we have to fall lower than we have ever been, to stand up taller than we ever were.

There are times we need to rise up by ourselves and live the reality that there is no back up coming along the way.

Sometimes,

We have to fall down,

Alone.

And realize that…

Falling down is a part of someone’s life, to rise up is life.

Life can be explained in many ways.

It’s definition is vague.

Yet, one thing that it is clear — in life we need to go through some pain.

You think that killing yourself would be a permanent solution to a temporary problem?

Stop giving up hope.

And start giving in to life’s biggest risk.

It is enriching our life.

It is in fact much more rewarding.

Will you choose to take the risk?

We all make choices.

You have a choice each and every single day.

And everything we do in life is done by the choices we make.

Whatever happened in our life is the by-product of the choices we’ve made.

Some consequences bring sheer bliss.

Some pain.

Pain…

You have cancer.

You are hoping for the best while planning for the worst.

Sometimes this too much pain we don’t even want to tell everyone, even our loved ones, friends, or doctors.

It steals our happiness.

It steals our hair, money, family, pleasure in life that puts us up to anxiety, depression, hopelessness, our ability to do well and accomplish our task or unable to make a good decision.

Please, try to understand the pain we feel.

You may never fathom how intense and agonizing we may feel.

Just be there.

Whether you can’t utter any words from your mouth. You will perfectly express the right words at the right time.

Your silence is enough.

Your presence is enough.

Your actions can have a huge impact on a mundane life I am now going through.

Know that this pain not only hurts physically, it also leads to depression, isolation, or anxiety.

But…

There’s hope.

We know.

We need time.

We need time to reduce this pain and rebuild ourselves.

We also want to live a normal life like you.

We know we have hope despite of pain.

Hope is something we desire and expect with.

Like you, we want to have a chance to be normal like you

We were once a normal person with a job.

We were once a normal person who loves to watch TV, go out and meet some friends.

We were once a normal person who thinks life is perfectly fine.

Until one day,

We started to learn new words such as metastatic or sarcoma.

We spend our time in the hospital or in our bedroom.

We still want to have a normal life despite all of this.

Raise our own kids, grow old and see our grandkids, too.

We want a chance to be just like you.

Who can still make more achievements like you do.

Sometimes, we wish to want back what cancer took away.

Like you, we want to feel our lives have a purpose

Having a purpose in life seems impossible for us who endures a chronic pain with a chronic illness.

Yet hope has given us to find our life’s purpose.

Having hope may endure the misery of our treatment.

That we many able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

You can give us your definitions of hope.

We always expect of good things that are yet to be — to achieve our desired goal.

And find meaning in our family, friends and even in my cancer experience.

We never truly know another’s pain carry, until then…

We find a new level of value to life itself.

By simply making a choice to stop and smell the plumeria we see along the road.

By looking up to see the color of the sky when the sun is setting.

By listening to the sound of raindrops.

By admiring someone’s kindness.

By feeding stray animals.

By appreciating someone’s unexpected help.

In doing this, we find more meaning in life…

We try to understand the greater purpose or reason behind this illness and what it means to our life now.

We try to explore more feelings about cancer and how I react to every pain I feel daily.

We try to identify that cancer should, in fact, a life-changing experience that makes us wanted to understand more about the effect of this illness in my life.

Suddenly a gradual change in our interest and priorities that used to be not important before our cancer.

It brings means to understand our life and to find a way of healing — within.

Until such time,

We allow ourselves to feel the pain instead of hiding it.

We embrace pain and burden to fuel our journey to a new normal life.

We accept this experience that will help us find and go through to the detoxifying vitality of life — that lead us to one of the rightful things that can occur to us in our life, if…

…we let it in.

“We hide the pain in the weirdest places
Broken souls with smiling faces
Fighting for surrender
For now and the after, yeah
Just look around and you’ll see that people
Are scared to say how they really feel
Oh, we all need a little honesty”

Disclaimer:

Chronic pain is one of the hardest battles of any person that endures chronic illness. Having a positive life for most people who experience excruciating pain every day — seems impossible, but this may take time to reverse what we expect the least. Some may be able to win this battle against chronic pain, some may give up. The author somehow wanted to extend a great hope for everyone, especially for those who are now experiencing a great pain. And to let everyone knows that killing oneself is not the option of a hope offered in life.

Have you had any loved ones who now keep battling to beat the pain? They deserve to have a life brighten up — not to live with the dark.

If so, please share with us! Leave a comment below!

Human Contact Cannot Be Overestimated!

cancer in asia blog
Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Human contact cannot be overestimated!

This was the exact sentence from another cancer survivor to me in one of the fora in the social media where we share experiences and victories.

I shared my latest blog, a letter to my friend whose cancer is back right after her second surgery with her recurrence tumor in the thyroid in the same forum I mentioned earlier and received very helpful comments afterward.

“Please take some time to go see her even if all you do is sit and hold her hand.”

“If you can, go and cry with her. Then talk, then cry some more, then encourage her that you will be there. In spirit if not always in body. If you can only text or write, that’s okay. Just tell her she is not alone and you will stay to whatever the end is, whenever it is. Then do it. It’ll make all the difference for her and you. Let her know, she can say anything. You won’t leave.”

These are the first two bits of advice I received from one of the most courageous people across the globe.

Their words are powerful to help another, to encourage another.

Similarly with what Karla Kay said during our previous interview,

“Until you hear those 3 words, you have no idea how you would handle anything!”

True! Even the three little word – CANCER – is powerful to devastate our world. However, this word will just be a trifle with the powerful words of those people surrounded by someone has cancer.

Someone that is ready to answer without making the understanding difficult.

People need people.

An approval, comfort, or encouragement from other people is vital to human health, both mentally and physically. With the help of social interaction, people can express their feelings and share their problems with other people.

Not just any social support, it must be a good social support that can help someone coping with stress, major life changes (like divorce, moving house, migrating, and so on…) or chronic illnesses.

It has been proved by many researchers and studies that the most lonely people more often are afflicted with health and mental problems such as cardiovascular problem, stress, anxiety, and depression.

“No man is an island.”

Just like what the famous proverb goes, “No man is an island”. Knowing that we are being thought of and valued by few people who are close to us is an essential psychological factor in helping us to ignore the negative aspects of our lives, and thinking more positively about our environment.

Friends and family are there to reduce the stress that we are enduring that can boost our confidence and gives us great motivation not to give up easily.

Having said that, in the reality of life, there are some circumstances that we cannot always expect a great encouragement from our friends and family.

Instead, these are the people we expect the least.

They are the ones who unselfishly keeping us the fight toward the victory.

They are once strangers in our life which turns into someone we can always run to.

However…

Not all of us have the toughness to open our hearts and share our feelings and problems.

Not all of us have the courage to be upfront to share our raw feelings.

There are people who find it difficult to process their feelings and communicate to others, yet they are still misunderstood.

More so, the lack of interaction of these kinds of people can negatively lead to first signs of depression and anxiety.

Don’t waste your time.

Whenever you know someone who is suffering from life-threatening conditions such as cancer, a strong human connection can help the recovery and even enhance the quality of their life, which is very important for a seriously ill or mentally unhealthy person.

If you know one, go and make them feel that they should not be alone carrying all the burdens they are bearing.

You’ll never tell how you can improve their well-being that affects their immune system as well.

Your words and actions can be a great moment of truth for them.

It is never too late to do anything if you start doing it now. Especially, helping someone in the core of deep sadness.

Have you made yourself a great influence and positive impact on someone’s life? Have you been part of someone else’s turning point in life? Have you brightened up their dark days? Have you snatched them out from the abyss of loneliness?

If so, please share with us! Leave a comment below!

 

Cancer Is Hard, And So As Depression

cancer; asia; depression; vietnam; philippines
Photo by Yuris Alhumaydy on Unsplash

My thoughts… are just everywhere. I could not even focus. My mind is blinded, racing, and beating right out of my chest.

I had been diagnosed with cancer, I followed all the treatments. Now, I’m back home, I can go back to work.

I am not even sure if I will miss my old before my cancer. I embraced my cancer, but I am not living with cancer.

Oh, so you’re still alive, how unfortunate are you!

You are wrong.

Cancer sucks and so as anxiety or depression.

Wait… depression? Don’t get me wrong. I am referring to depression that is more common for everyone even for those people who don’t have cancer.

Depression is not the same as clinical depression. But, if you just let yourself go deeper into different symptoms of depression, you will be more likely stuck in a major depression.

To be honest, if you are gonna ask me how I’m doing, it is a question that I just really want to give a reply.

But if I won’t reply, you will misunderstand me and you will start to drift apart.

Do you think it is easy to answer this question for a cancer survivor? Because you know what? For a cancer survivor like me, I choose not to talk about my cancer and allow me to live my new life with the same people who used to surround me.

Oh, yes, I got it. Some of you will not eventually stay, well, this is my new life!

We choose not to talk about our cancer because this is one of the ways we can cope easily.

You may think that I give up, well, it’s the only way to survive.

I prefer to stop thinking about my cancer, meet new friends, go somewhere I have never been and do things I have never done.

**In one of my research results reveals that depression is more common for people with cancer who often struggle with uncertainty, challenges, and fear that a cancer diagnosis can bring.

According to Cancer.net, depression is a collection of symptoms that group into 4 categories: mood-related, cognitive, physical and behavioral. Because cancer and cancer treatment can cause similar cognitive and physical symptoms as depression. More emphasis is placed on the mood-related and behavioral symptoms for people with cancer.

What are the symptoms?

  1. Mood-related symptoms: feelings of sadness, hopelessness, irritability, numbness, or worthlessness.
  2. Cognitive symptoms: they are related to a person’s thought process, it decreases the ability to concentrate, difficulty making decisions, memory problems, and negative thoughts (severe depression can include thoughts of suicide).
  3. Behavioral symptoms: crying often, social withdrawal, loss of interest in activities you previously enjoyed and a loss of motivation.
  4. Physical symptoms: fatigue, low energy, poor appetite, sleep problems, lower sex drive.

How does depression affect cancer treatment?

Depression or clinical depression (there two don’t have the same level of stress as what I had mentioned from my previous blog) can worsen the physical effects caused by cancer, sometimes increasing the losses experienced by the patient (for example fatigue caused by depression can worsen the fatigue caused by cancer treatment).

So what are the common ways doctors treat people with depression (the first 2 points can be done carefully even without doctor’s endorsement)?

  • Emotional and social support can help people better cope with the daily challenges that cancer brings.
  • Main treatments are counseling and medication (sometimes both, but must be done by a qualified doctor).
  • A talk with a counselor or a right person/friend (for mild depression).
  • The main goal of counseling is to enhance coping in problem-solving skills, help find support and reshape negative self-defeating thoughts.

There are numbers of counseling options: individual counseling, couples or family counseling and group counseling.

The following are just the inescapable facts of everyone’s life that we cannot change.

You may not have cancer but you are in pain. It may not every day like how a cancer patient feels but it is clear that we cannot stay away from sadness, worthlessness, or anxiety.

Suffering, regardless, it is something that we can be in charge of. We always have the option to stay happy than to be stuck in an utterable turmoil of depression or anxiety.

And only yourself can do that. Your friends and families’ support is more than enough but it’s useless if you already made a choice inside. And that is, to be filled with sadness and negativities.

It is not easy, being happy does not happen in just one snap, but if you are decided after making a choice to turn your life upside-down.

You can see the beauty of the process of taming your brain’s emotional response. Whatever life throws at you, you will always keep returning to a conscious and mindful state of mind. And you will be able to recognize your emotions within yourself and even in others and to manage them daily.

Any thoughts you want to share regarding your struggle and struggle with anxiety and depression?

Just leave your comments below.

**Cancer.net

 

This Is What I Learned From Practicing Guided Imagery

Photo by Lua Valentia on Unsplash

Back from those days where I was afraid to deal with anything real until I’ve got to face a painful reality that I could not really imagine how to deal with.

What’s the painful reality? That I — am sick, alone, and dying — anytime soon!

Hearing those three little words, “You have cancer” makes me confused and scared that I could not bear to tell anyone.

Back from those days where I — was — a person who cannot tame my brain’s emotional response. Where in every positive or negative pitch life has given, I usually tend to react where I tend to judge either myself or other people and make a comparison from everyone that surrounds me or even to myself.

Now, that I had come to realize that I needed to claim this. This was very hard. For how many times I need to deal with myself, I have to claim my cancer. I have to accept this painful reality.

Accepting this painful reality of having cancer, another painful reality arises. Where anxiety, depression, sadness, hopelessness, or worthlessness are limitless and uncontrollable.

Being diagnosed with cancer and a crisis management in dealing emotions and stress are both closely associated with each other.

Six months of treatment, from my surgical removal to acupuncture (6 sessions) and the last was radiation therapy (35 sessions).

Of all these treatments I had gone through, the surgery — it did not only cut my skin and left a scar but also cut me off from certain friends or even family members. The acupuncture — it did not only stabbed my body with needles and left blood in certain areas of my body but also stabbed my heart for this is not the life I was expecting. The radiation therapy — it did not only burn my skin but also burned my soul. I feel like I was already doomed to death — but, I have to suffer first!

Now, treatment was done, and everyone thought, “I’m okay”! Everyone thought that I was so fortunate that I was able to beat cancer!

Yes — my battle with cancer was done. But, the battle with depression has continued.

Well, even I — I thought I was okay, too. Until then, I went back to Vietnam after my treatment in the Philippines. I felt so sorry and embarrassed whenever friends and colleagues tell me each time they meet me that I lose weight. You know what’s more annoying? When they did not tell me those the same words, once — in fact, twice, thrice or umpteenth times! No matter how I convince them I was okay and I am just coping, there are still those people who get on my nerves.

So there you see, my reaction after those people keep telling me how I lose weight, or worse is I still look “sick”.

I was even confused how to act being tough whenever I was pounded with negative questions people were asking me for being mentally strong.

Until I realized that I have to stay away from these people, try to manage my emotions and learn how to understand, accept, and manage my feelings first.

For 5 months, after I was able to go back to Vietnam, I tried to cut off some people from my circle. Though things did not go well as I wish to happen, with perseverance, I was able to deal the rollercoaster ride and started being mindful and managed my emotions especially when it is in crisis.

For 5 months, I learned deeper about guided imagery. It is a mental imagery process where sometimes it is commonly called as guided meditation, visualization, mental rehearsal, and guided-hypnosis. Where it follows the usual process: the correct posture (vertical position, either sitting on a chair or a floor or lying down on a bed), eyes closed and breathing.

I have been doing this for almost 5 months — quietly. I started doing this after I did some research and I decided to make this practice a part of coping with my cancer journey.

As I continue doing the practice of guided imagery, it taught me about being mindful and non-reactive to every situation I might put up with.

Mindfulness — knowing what is going on at the moment. Being present with the “now” instead of looking back to the past or being anxious to the present.

Non-reaction where it helps me to deepen the connection I have with myself especially to my emotions. Whatever may happen in my surroundings it is up to me if I will react or not. Whether it could be positive or negative.

Well, I don’t mean that if I am very grateful for someone’s good deed towards me, I will not show a euphoric feeling at that very moment. Of course, I must show my appreciation in order to continue a good relationship with anyone I am connected with.

It is necessary to remember as well to make everything in balanced whether it could be a good or bad experience. Our life is constantly changing. And if we are not able to control how we react, an attachment is connected to our emotions and without being aware of, we already place expectations to the other person.

And when we seeded expectations, that someone who used to make you happy at some point will make you upset and disappointed.  Eventually, it will create a negative impact and the separation from others who you used to be closed with begins. Either they will stop talking, create a space in between and keep a distance from you or worse get into an argument. And these are not healthy and helpful for someone who is coping with cancer treatment.

Each one of us is responsible for the way we react to different life’s circumstances, so instead of reacting, we may shift this into a response that is able for you or me to create a more balanced state of conscious and non-reactive mind.

That is why we meditate. We breathe in as we feel the tension, and breathe out to release that tension.

Likewise, if there is any negative pitch had thrown to me, I choose to stay positive and move forward.

Now, when I am being asked randomly, why I am so calm now to any circumstances I am facing. Well, I am doing this for myself first because I respect and honor my body and second to take care each relationship I am involved to anyone around me, whether it could be a colleague, friend or family.

I am just a human being, sometimes I missed to remind myself to be mindful and non-reactive.

Although I had already learned enough from practicing this guided imagery and benefitted positive result from it, there are also times that I get anxious, sad or hopeless.

But the only good thing is, with enough information how guided imagery has helped me cope with my cancer journey, it is always there to remind me to pause or stop whenever I was in the state of negativity or toxicity.

Disclaimer:
This article is only a testimony how guided imagery works (especially guided meditation) for the author while she was coping with her cancer journey. According to one of her research results, one of the articles from cancer.net, had indicated that as many as 15-25% of people with cancer experience depression and it is more common for people with cancer who often struggle with uncertainty, challenges and fear that a cancer diagnosis can bring. And she is hoping that this article might give some convincing impression that can convey them that this practice can help identify and manage their emotions while facing cancer treatment and will not add to the burden of battling cancer.

There are other ways to treat and manage the rising crisis of emotions. Stay tuned, for this will be the next article soon.

Any thoughts you want to add from your own experience regarding with the practice of guided imagery?

Just leave your comments below.

How an Emotional Support Helps a Cancer Patient and Survivor

Try to examine yourself now. Are every word, action, and energy go straight to your heart? What about when you make mistakes, can you easily know it, feel it and you feel like tearing yourself apart?

Now imagine this, your sibling, parent, friend or any special person in your life has got cancer. And as cancer affects their physical health, it also leads to exhaustive and diverse feelings. Most of them are negative emotions and they’re not used to be dealing with. These feelings change from time to time, every second and every minute.

But, let me tell you this. All the feelings of our loved one that has cancer or recovered from cancer are all normal. And also, even yours!

We all grew up in diverse ways on how to cope up trials and troubles, just as much how we think about dealing with cancer. Some feel they have to be strong and protect their friends and families. Some seek support and turn to loved ones or other cancer survivors, but it doesn’t mean they are weak enough not to show strength from within. They prefer listening to their experiences and struggles and how they were able to get up. Some ask for help from counselors or other professionals. And some, turn to their faith to help them cope.

The task of deciding whether to keep fighting the battle or just give up is overwhelming as we are able to see or experience cancer. Whatever each patient and survivor decide, the most important to do what’s right for them, without judging and comparing oneself to others.

If you find yourself in this circumstances, you could be a carer, health practitioner, friend or a family, you must understand the different feelings someone close to you that has cancer or recovering from cancer.

Overwhelmed
The first time I learned that I have cancer, I felt as if my life was out of control. And this is true for everyone. Exact feelings and thoughts. Why?

  1. We wonder if we’re going to live or how long we might live.
  2. Our normal schedules were shattered by treatments, doctor appointments and lots of questions unanswered clouded our head.
  3. We feel like we can’t enjoy the things we used to do or the things we are about to do.
  4. We feel hopeless and lonely.

Denial
During my first diagnosis, I was very skeptic about the fact of having a tumor inside my body. I started blaming external circumstances happened around me. They could be those people that had brought negative energy to my life or a careless lifestyle that I didn’t see it coming and had brought me cancer. Having cancer was one of the things I never wish to come in my life. So, it was hard to accept the fact, that I will be getting cancer or I have cancer.

Anger
I stopped talking to the people who are close to me, I feel so angry and ask myself, “Why me?” All those times, I felt so guilty when I feel mad at people around me and even to myself, but little I did know that it is okay to be angry. Because this anger helps me to motivate myself to take an action. Eventually, I turn to the right people to talk about my anger.

Fear and Worry
The word “tumor” had already scared me to death even before it was confirmed that it was already cancer. There are many things suddenly flashes in my mind that made me afraid and worried.

  1. I will not be able to do my future plans.
  2. How much pain will I feel and how long will it last.
  3. Paying my bills.
  4. Keeping my job.
  5. Death.

HOPE

In the middle of the fight, I came to the point that I have to profess, accept, and be honest with myself that I have cancer. So, that’s it. What should we do? You had it. Whining can’t help you beat that cancer. So as fear, worry, anger, denial and being overwhelmed.

Once you accept the fact that you have cancer,  you feel the sense of hope. In fact, there are many reasons to feel hopeful. It doesn’t mean, you got cancer, you will die anytime soon. There are thousands and millions of cancer survivors around the globe that are still alive today and that includes me, you, your friend or loved one.

Some doctors even think that “hope” may help your body deal with cancer. Scientists nowadays are studying whether a hopeful attitude and positive approaches to any problems help people feel better. Researchers even study the Science of Forgiveness can bring tremendous health and social benefits.

So let’s encourage them to build their sense of hope:

  1. Continue to plan their days as what they used to do. (Yes, I did this the exact way.)
  2. Don’t limit the things they like to do just because they have cancer. (People have cancer are not useless.)
  3. Look for some reasons to have hope. (I started journaling my journey with cancer and eventually started blogging last year. Creativity helps to build hope from the inside.)
  4. Spend time in nature. (After my radiation therapy, I shut the world and stop meeting people and bring my book to the park, read and watch people. It helps for 5 months.)
  5. Listen to stories about people with cancer who are leading active lives. (I watch TedTalks or other YouTube Videos, read books, blogs, articles or research papers.)

There are many ways to cope up our emotions if we are only open and forward to yourself first. If we only:

  • Express your feelings.
  • Look for the positive.
  • Don’t blame yourself for your cancer.
  • Find ways to help yourself relax.
  • Be active as you can.
  • Look for things you enjoy.
  • Look at what you can control.

Leaving you this bulleted list in just one simple sentence. I do look forward you can resonate with every word and keep moving on every day. Nothing is static and everything changes. We only need to be flexible with these crazy changes and accept what we cannot change instead of on dwelling and wait to die.

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

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