This Is Why You Should Keep A Cancer Journal

 

The Cancer Voice Asia

The onset from dealing with cancer diagnosis is also a beginning of a “lonely” journey and battle.

It’s not only me, but everyone passed through the revelation of our biopsy, we suddenly shut the world down and isolated ourselves from everyone.

For more than two years I began my cancer journey, I saw myself first terrified with the unexpected path I have to stray off and also have met families and friends walking the same frightening pathway.

Do you know what we immediately see at the end of our trail?

This:

Photo by Kapil Dubey on Unsplash

Receiving a diagnosis that there is a tumor growing inside our body or the exact word “CANCER” is the most life-shattering experience we could ever have.

Literally, it smashes out our freedom since these tiny abnormal cells that have uncontrollably divided into our body are growing fast and aggressively.

It suddenly stirs up unexplained and unstable feelings which we don’t even know how to explain it to everyone so we prefer to — CUT PEOPLE LOSE even those who are close to us.

For most of us, having had terrifying medical experiences in the past and a memory that is not really pleasant we usually avoid keep talking about cancer because we need to move on.

Thinking or talking about our cancer can trigger an emotional wound that could overwhelm us with an intensity of emotion that is too deep for words.

It is very fortunate for some that are able to receive a lot of comfort and assistance from organizations and support systems where they could have a privilege to have a grounded life despite the threat of cancer. Where they can receive a complete aid whether in financial, personal, social and emotional aspect.

But, not everyone can have that kind of very fortunate encounter. Still, some of them are living in the dark right from the first day they found out that they have cancer.

This is why I am writing this and you should consider about keeping a cancer journal.

You could be a patient, survivor, or carer.

No one should make an excuse because the fact is, anyone must realize that even we are already in the abyss of this deadly disease, you are still able to find hope and light by writing your cancer journey.

You don’t have to share your journal with everyone. It’s always your choice if you want few people to read your thoughts and feelings that you want to write down as you face this dreadful journey.

As for me, I did not start having this blog and writing numbers of articles “out of the blue”.

I was able to start this blogging out from the thought of sharing my first few journals that I wrote before when I had cancer.

I even never thought of sharing my entire journey to everyone. Until, one day, I did.

Especially here:

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

I wanna make your first journal writing with these few and simple steps:

  1. Start with a few sentences (describe what you actually feel now).
  2. Be open and honest (just like you are talking to yourself in the mirror).
  3. Take your time and enjoy the process (little you might even know that you already write many sentences).

What matters here is yourself. You are doing this by helping your journey easy through reflecting on what’s happening. This is just for you not for other people, so throw all those doubts and worries out the window!

Please don’t think that because you have cancer, you suddenly become a private individual that could not live a life like a normal person that can do anything in life because you think they are healthier than you.

I know for some of you, you are still in the process of accepting this unwanted fate.

Seems impossible to start your cancer journal, I understand.

But writing your journey will somehow give you a chance to slow down and think about the positive things that still happen; despite cancer gives you enough reason to be negative and just give up the fight.

So take your time and never raise that white flag yet.

Please do think as well that having cancer means, it teaches us to be mindful of our life instead of doing anything that we please carelessly before our diagnosis.

What’s more? If you are good at drawing, painting, or any creative skills that you have, you can add it to your journal to make you more inspired.

REMEMBER: Cancer could not simply overthrow your creative skills.

Why not defeat cancer by using your creativity? Knowing that only you can do this, it’s a plus that makes you unique!

And, if you are not quite sure what to write, you can start writing some simple prompts such as:

  • What are you thankful for today?
  • What do you want to do today?
  • What are you worried now?
  • What makes you sad/happy?

Are you ready to get a pen and notebook to start your first cancer journal? It’s never too late for everyone.

Any thoughts you want to add? Just leave your comments below.

Photo by Ilya Ilyukhin on Unsplash

Seriously, Stop Saying, “Let Me Know If You Need Anything”

The Cancer Voice Asia
Please Stop Saying, “Let Me Know If You Need Anything”

For someone who has cancer like me, I am very grateful that you come and visit me in the hospital. Thank you for the cards, a bouquet of flowers and fruits you brought. Glad you initiated a campaign or a fundraising for me – WITHOUT ASKING. I would have said no if you ask me before you did that.

Don’t get me wrong, the phrases, “Let me know what I can do to help” or “Don’t hesitate to call on me” does not mean are not very helpful. Well, I respect your thoughtfulness. But, tell you what, I’m not going to give a reply with what you are asking me. No matter how much you have shown your good intentions, I doubt that would even turn out to be very much helpful because my mind is already filled up with many stuff, negative emotions, and physical discomfort.

I do appreciate and love when you take charge and just do things out of your intention of helping. According to psychological learning, when people are in difficulties or in calamities, the logical part of their brain doesn’t operate well. So, when you ask me what do I need, it will be just a waste all the time. I will not even be able to think of what I need! What will more likely happen is I will be terribly worn out, so giving you a suggestion what you can do to help me is — POINTLESS.

I am not either demoralizing your desire to help, so instead of saying those phrases, I would rather admire if you could say, “I will try my best to help you by any means.” Act your plan even without telling me or anyone what you want to do. If you have many options and you think they are all doable, try to do them one at a time. Bringing foods that prepared by yourself (I appreciate if it’s health-wise), a simple visit (that would be lovely), an errand (taking care of my hospital records or any help you could offer), financial help, or to stay awake each time I need a hand in the middle of the night or early morning. Whatever mood you can bring into my hospital room or bedroom they are all great offers.

However, there are times that I really need to be alone especially when I am not feeling well. You may make a surprise visit, but I may not be able to appreciate it since I feel like I need to stay awake just to talk to you when I really need to nap or sleep because it might burden me with more stress.

To avoid misunderstandings I want to give you some ideas to have a mutual agreement between us:

  1. I will be pleased to be informed which day and what time you are available. You can give me a ring or send SMS prior to that.
  2. You can be specific what you can offer to help. A good and effective discussion will be much more helpful and will not suffer our relationship either.
  3. Make up your mind once we had agreed your visitation or offer to help and give it a go. Be there and do it!

And finally, when you feel doubt, please do tell me. If my medical situation makes you feel unbearable or you don’t have any idea what to help but you really want to give me a leg up, just say your case. Just don’t disappear and make me wonder why I never hear any single word from you since the time I was diagnosed with cancer. That would be more upsetting on my part and there will be more misinterpretations that might come along the way that might completely wreck the good relationship we used to build because of a lack of communication.

A simple conversation, hug — if words are nowhere to find or just being there even you can’t say anything is enough. Your presence is enough and your support will never end there.

Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT MEAN TO BE ABOUT MYSELF. I opt to use the first-person singular pronoun “I” to make this more personal to the reader who has cancer or a survivor and the second-person singular pronoun “you” to someone who is willing to help but no idea what and how to and hoping that somehow this could make an impact on every reader.

Do you feel the same way when somebody offers a help that way? Let me know your thoughts, write your comment below. Thank you.

Photo by Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash.

Connecting With Peer Survivors Can Help Others Manage Their Cancer Battle

December 2017, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Cielo finally met Beri for the first time, both are Sarcoma survivors.

In today’s world where everyone is connected yet, not connecting. Technology has made our world closer, smaller and more connected; however, we are losing the art of real communication. People are afraid of connecting with someone with real conversation, and I would like to imagine, too, how much more for a person who has just diagnosed with cancer.

For a cancer survivor like me, I had learned the importance of sharing my experiences with people I met in person or on social media. With my experience, the more I share my story with other people, the more I find myself healed. And in exchange for this, my stories also heal someone else. I love to tell my healing journey because it is so liberating to do so. Telling my story may take a lot of courage. But, by doing this, I also give other people permission to acknowledge their own story.

I met hundreds and thousands of patients and survivors for 2 years while I continue my healing journey and recovery from cancer. I received different responses from these people I met on how they are able to find strength and support to face the battle caused by cancer.

For the Vietnamese families I met and interacted with, I may not receive direct answers from them because of a language barrier, the important thing is, you are there to listen sympathetically.

In one of my visits in Ho Chi Minh City Oncology Hospital, I saw different struggles of each and everyone who has been staying in the hospital for weeks or even for months. As I stand in one of the corners of the room, observing their silence, and realizing that that silence was too loud. Each time I look into their eyes, I hear the need to win this fight against cancer and the hope that the child they love will be healed.

How I am able to talk to these different people? I have to listen first. Whether the person who is talking in front of me talking a different language that I could not understand, I still listen, attentively. I let them talk until they pour everything what is inside that has been keeping for too long. They may be doing this to every stranger who is willing to listen; for all that, an intimate talk is necessary, for their battles with cancer never changes, it becomes a constant burden.

December 2017, I was given a chance to meet a peer survivor for the first time. Beri was also a Leiomyosarcoma survivor like me. It’s funny that we have the same site of the incision where the tumor was removed. Of course, we are too excited to show our scar to each other and started to talk how the tumor (lump) starts growing and ended up with different kinds of discussion. Our talk becomes heart-to-heart and we did not waste our limited time to get to know each other. Beri stayed in Vietnam for days but our connection remained low-key even on social media. Yes, we don’t need to chat all the time, but when the time comes that we have important or special things to talk about, we are still excited to start our dialogues.

Different connections, different way to be connected with people who have undergone cancer battle. How this connection can really be helpful managing their own struggle with cancer? If you ask me, with my different experiences of involvement in a various cancer community online, I also share what other survivors had presented to me.

To be connected to a peer survivor or community it can help someone to:

  1. Get information out from different personal experiences about their cancer and treatment.
  2. Gain support and motivation from others who experienced and found hope.
  3. Be inspired by various personal survival stories.
  4. Realize that many survivors have similar stories and experiences.
  5. Be in control of the difficult situation.
  6. Learn how to talk to everyone with no fear.
  7. Deal about the future with courage.

No one can do this alone. No one fights cancer alone. Everyone needs a support. Everyone needs to hear this. Everyone needs someone who can listen with compassion.

Let’s get more connected. As The Cancer Voice community is gradually building a stronger and closer relationship with people who silently fighting cancer every day, we are here to keep in touch and post future updates. You only need to listen, give a positive influence and a source of inspiration to them; in return, myself and the rest of the people who is involved in building this community is promising to give you more positive stories as much as we could.

Photo courtesy of the owner.

6 Approaches To Embrace Your Inner Strength

Surviving cancer is like conquering high mountains, it is not the mountain or cancer we defeated, but ourselves.

September 2017, I hiked for 40 kilometers in Bình Thuận Province, Vietnam. After climbing one of the highest mountains of Vietnam, where I suddenly realize that there are many more mountains to climb. The hike I did can be equal to the experience taught by cancer I faced 2 years ago. It was my first hike with 700 meters high (2296.59 feet **500 meters low point and 1200 meters high point), I didn’t know what to look forward to, everything is uncertain, and so as cancer.

These are the lessons I learned from conquering mountains and cancer.

  1. Keep moving forward – like climbing mountains, we sometimes tend to give up when things are getting difficult. Yes, we could stop somewhere and take a rest, drop loads of burden, but we should continue moving forward.If I listened to my fear right after I learned that I have cancer, I will just give up my goals as well as my dream and wait for my death. In the midst uncertainties, I allowed myself to feel the fear (fear of facing my death and go through agonizing pain both physical and emotional) starting to grow inside.

    I allowed myself to be filled with pity, but after that, I shifted my focus to my short and long-term goals. Short-term goals such as my first trip to Hong Kong. I thought I could not make it, but I did it. I traveled to Hong Kong weeks after my surgery was done.

    If we keep moving forward, we will be led down to new paths. If we walk intentionally, in the long run, no matter how hard the trail is, we will be getting somewhere.

  2. Life is not always easy – cancer is the most challenging part of my life, and so as to climbing mountains. I had even already imagined my self I was inside a coffin. There I saw myself, a young lady died at a young age. Those are one of the negative thoughts that I pictured right after I found out I had cancer. And it was not easy to accept that I will be also facing that burden (alone).Climbing one of the mountains in Vietnam gave me blisters and cuts on my body. Whilst cancer inflicted me growing physical pain and sadness that never goes away.

    However, as I faced the uncertainties of climbing the mountains and cancer, it gave my body and mind a permission to fuel my inherent strength with the right and positive mindset.

    Life can never be easy, but the challenge of both taught me how to control an appropriate reaction to what is happening around me. Until then, I gained that power, to be in charge of everyday circumstances; because life is constantly changing, and we should find out how to master the transition.

  3. Nothing worthwhile comes easy – before I was able to see the beautiful sunset and sunrise, after the climb, I have to fall on many slopes and slippery mountains many times over.Once cancer touch lives, things will never be the same. It’s never simple to embrace the new life after cancer. It’s a personal decision whether we should feel insecure or be excited anticipating our new life.

    Cancer survivor’s new life has a lot of stress and self-inflicting problem. We are often left depressed, exhausted and angry. It’s not because we are too weak, this is just the downside of beating cancer. Some took years before realizing their inner strength. Some didn’t make it and went to its last resting place.

    When our treatment ends, the new chapter of our life brings hope and happiness, but also worries and fears. Yet, after beating the disease, we also knock off the self-beating. No matter how uncertain life even after healing, we stop engaging in negative self-talk and thinking. Embracing strength is never easy to us, but we also love our self and every thought and life choice we make, transform our judgment.

    Moving generally towards positive life is a long road and I am patient for the full length. If I look back, 2 years ago, I am happy I made positive choices that allowed me now to have a pillar of strength, no matter how life throws at me.

  4. A positive attitude can create more miracles – I was worried by the time we were about to start our hike. What if the weather will not be sunny the whole day, what if I fall? However, I didn’t allow these thoughts to stay in my mind. Having a positive attitude combined with an admiration for nature’s beauty goes a great distance towards making a day victorious, and so I did.Staying positive is a key to any survival situation. Yet, in battling cancer or beyond our journey as cancer survivors, having a positive attitude seems impossible. It is a great struggle for cancer patients, survivors or even loved ones to simply say, “Stay positive”. No, we can’t.

    Although staying positive is quite difficult to attain, we gradually practice acceptance, gratitude and forgiving oneself. An acceptance of the idea that death is a natural part of life. A gratitude to the presence of cancer in our life despite all the bad and painful condition. And forgiveness to others, life and especially to oneself, to release the suffering over difficult situations. To let go despite cancer seems to be so unfair in our lives and focus on living at the moment.

    From there, we realize that we are never alone and nothing is out of place. It’s the acceptance that every one of us will reach our own death. Enjoying the good journey of life, both setbacks and breakthrough; while living in the present moment.

    No matter how complex situation we are living, it is still meant to appreciate the here and now. It’s quite challenging for our emotions especially; yet, in that way, we are using our inner strength to see various opportunities, no matter how hard it is.

  5. Problems are an opportunity to be solved – joining a group of enthusiastic and young hikers was never been thought I’d do it in my entire life. Despite that, I still choose to take a spontaneous adventure that cannot be redone once I won’t do it.The problem in solving the problem is we are afraid to take a risk. Taking risks is scary and uncomfortable. If the trouble is nearby, we won’t get any answer until we are willing to put ourselves out there and take a calculated gamble. No matter what the outcome is, whether it is what we expected or not, it is potentially worth it than without trying to face the risk.
  6. In gratitude, there is power – being grateful is where we can find peace of mind and happiness within. Despite challenges and troubles, there is something we could be thankful for.Throughout my long and exhausting climb, I was grateful for many small things that cannot be counted. Such as the good weather, fresh air, a ridge tent and feet (to walk, hike and climb mountains).

    For someone who is burdened with cancer, if being positive is difficult for us, how much more than being grateful for having cancer. That will infuriate most of us. But being grateful and staying positive is a choice. A victorious approach that perseveres and is more likely safe from misfortunes and successes that drifts in and out of our lives.

    We may struggle for finding reasons on how to be thankful for having cancer, but I see this helpful not only for our emotions but to our health both physical and mental. Thankful in such a way by celebrating small victories, shared significant moments with friends and loved ones and, of course, holidays. In finding reasons to be grateful, it will increase the quality of our life, makes us stronger, and change our perspective on life.

Reading my blogs about my cancer journey seem scary to you. You may start to imagine, what if it’s me someday or someone who I love will suffer from a terminal and deadly disease, and this is alarming.

Instead of being scared of yourself and see the same negative things might happen to you or to your loved one, choose to see the picture of the strength of people who suffer the most. They steer into and out of difficult situations on a momentous decision with grace and determination.

Problems cannot be avoided, whether it could be physical, mental, or emotional. With courage, we all possess strength inside us that is needed to embrace for tomorrow’s uncertainties.

Photo courtesy of Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash.