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.

You May Call Us Superheroes But We Also Have Bad Days

We also have our bad days.
We also have our bad days.

Have you read my previous article yet? Yes, this article that was published in I Had Cancer community. There wasn’t any single moment that I wish I will stop talking about cancer. I hope you got it and I am able to help you to understand.

Well, hello again, call me Cielo (in case you missed to remember my name) and I fought cancer, that’s my superpower. I am one of the superheroes who beat cancer.

I am writing this article to say what I exactly feel. That – even superheroes have bad days. Are you familiar with this line? You guys must have watched the most awaited movie of the year, The Avengers. Yeah, I love those superheroes, too! But, that line is not inspired by these supercool superheroes. To be honest, I got this line from the storytime with my preschool kids today. It’s lovely how we teach children about life skills that adults are supposed to know, too, but we teach them in a fun and comical way (will adults would love the same way of learning like children do?).

Let me share some of the lines from the story that mean so much to me as a person who survives the death of cancer.

When superheroes don’t get their way, when they’re sad, when they’re mad, when they have a bad day…

…they could use their superpowers to kick, punch, and pound. They could shriek-they could screech with an ear-piercing sound (sounds annoying if I could imagine).”

But upset superheroes have all sorts of choices… Instead of destruction and loud, livid voices… Instead, they dig down to their super-best part, the strong super-powers contained in their heart!

And using their talents as true heroes should, they battle the urge to do harm (though they could). They acknowledge their sorrow, their anger, their pain, as they wait for their super-emotions to wane (Uhmm… namaste!)”

It’s okay if they frown. It’s okay if they sigh. It’s okay if they slump down and cry (boohoo!!!) BUT THEN they get up and get on with their day…

…saving the world in their most super way.

It’s easy to take pity on someone you know got cancer but we don’t really need your pity. As we beat cancer’s plot to execute us, we would like to take pride in as a part of this big community that beats this deadly disease. Just imagine how we escape death, it also means we escape from being stuck of being afraid and uncertain. And that’s one of the things we are proud for!

But, we are still the same human beings after we beat cancer. We have our bad days, too. But we try not to take advantage of being someone used to be a victim of cancer and look for sympathy. So, whenever we feel upset, a bit sick, sad, mad or like breaking down and wanted to cry hard, we also do our best not to give worries to someone who loves us. Until then, we are sure that our emotions are grounded again, we get up, show up and save our little world with the people who love us in our most super way!

I know that this article is all about cancer survivors. But, hey! You don’t need to have cancer to be a superhero. You don’t need to have cancer to call yourself a survivor. Whatever life’s circumstances and choices you have now, you just only need to save yourself like what every survivor do. There’s no prince charming in every life’s story or knight in a shining armor, there’s no rescue boat and no one’s coming to save you. You have to stop waiting you get picked and continue to push forward to not give up (Reworded as I was inspired by this video).

Does this article resonate with you? Share your thoughts, leave a comment below!

Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

We’re Feeling Feelings Every Day

The feeling may be fleeting. Here's one second then it's gone.
The feeling may be fleeting. Here’s one second then it’s gone.

It’s just the way that you’re feeling now. It might just change somehow.

So, I was inspired today to write this article about feelings. After publishing two more interviews recently, I always think to offset from one blog to another. Like after writing a kind of downcast personal story, another lighthearted article must follow. I don’t want my audience to feel so abounding by keep bringing out survivors’ story.

So how did I come up with this topic? I was in the middle of my class with my preschool students and played a YouTube video about emotions. I was caught up between the lyrics of the song, which of course I am gonna share some parts of the lyrics with you.

I’m happy, she’s mad.
I’m a boy, she’s a girl.
And this is the world.
I’m hungry, he’s thirsty.
I’m sick, and he’s tired.
He’s a boy, I’m a girl.
And this is the world.

You get happy, you get sad.
You get angry, you get mad.
You go to bed, then you wake up.
You might be just OK.
It’s just the way that you’re feeling now.
Wait a while.
It might just change somehow.

It’s just the way that you’re feeling.
The feeling may be fleeting.
Here’s one second then it’s gone.
We’re feeling feelings every day.
We’re experiencing emotions along the way.
Some are good and some are bad.
Some wish you never had.

But, hey!
That’s just the way we’ve got to play.

If all of us could realize, how amazing the ability of the children to extend their hope to every adult, their happiness, and their potential to adapt to change with ease. These children have the desire to live, to know and they are the perfect example of daily entertainment.

As a preschool teacher, I had witnessed how my adorable kids in the classroom manage to alter a negative feeling into a positive one. When someone gets angry, a simple hug could easily relieve their feelings. There are so many lessons to learn from them, if you just could realize this, you might wish to go back to being a little more like them!

I list down some keen observation about my preschool students for a year that we are together:

  1. None of them are afraid of new happenings.
    Have you ever felt sorry about the things that you are supposed to do but never did it ever? Don’t let yourself get caught with the phrase “what if…”. It’s always better to regret what you’ve done than what you haven’t done. It’s always better to fail than to doubt.
  2. They are always curious.
    Newton was curious and discovered gravity. Well, we don’t have to be like Newton, though. But being curious about learning new things like the children do leads towards self-fulfillment. Discovering new places to visit is one, for example.
  3. Carpe Diem!
    In other words, seize the day! Children don’t let the moment slip away; instead, they take advantage of each moment.
    Take advantage of the good times, the bad ones will change somehow. The next day will be fine. Live, enjoy and take advantage of your time!
    When you are sick or lost a loved one, you might notice how much time you took for granted. Everything is moving quickly and we should be aware of that.
  4. They love fearlessly.
    The older we get, the more scared we are to fall in love. Well, maybe for some reasons, we need to consider that our emotions as an adult always comes along with a responsibility.
    But, why are we so afraid of love? For children, they simply love, there’s nothing more to it. They never think of tomorrow that their friends at school will be just simply a memory when they become adult. They just what they have today!
    To be in love or to love is one of the most beautiful things in life, but sometimes, we are afraid of rejection, suffering or betrayal. And we never realize that everything passes even the rejection, suffering and betrayal. But when you are happy with being in love, no one can take that away from you.
  5. They can easily adapt to change.
    A new student came in our class recently and eventually, everything went okay. Children are really expert in embracing change. Isn’t it “change” always restore and improve our life?
  6. They don’t worry about what others think or say.
    While the young children are not bothered what others think or say, adults are too sensible of the people that surround them. We never think what we want, listen to our heart and act according to how we are.
  7. They always get excited.
    Children never stop getting excited about things and experiences that they have every day. Sadly, when they grow up, this tends to change. What if we never stop getting excited like a child over a new career, new love, a new friendship, your achievements (no matter how big or small it is), or the little things that happen every day.
  8. They know what fun is and they have FUN.
    Forget all the fears and prejudgment of what your negative thoughts tell you or other people will say about you. Fun is fun! Children enjoy themselves, laugh as hard as they could and have fun because they don’t mind what other people will say about them, even their teachers in the classroom – really (I’m smirking now…well)!
  9. They express themselves honestly.
    We often don’t speak freely, that is why sometimes other people get depressed. We are afraid of being rejected, our words or ideas will be turned down. We instead choose what to say what other people wanted to hear until we ended up not feeling good inside.
    Like a child, it is liberating to express oneself honestly.
  10. They don’t know everything.
    As we all know that children are curious because they simply don’t know everything.
    For adults, whether someone as a CEO, a teacher or even a parent, acknowledging of being naive in some sort of things actually makes your personal relationship stronger to other people where you can spend time listening and also improves your performance in whatever field you are working because you always want to learn and to improve.
  11. They ask random questions and never felt afraid or embarrassed.
    Sometimes we are afraid to ask questions because someone will criticize us, call us stupid or ignorant. But, not really! Asking question to other people shows humbleness and willingness to learn. So, go ahead, ask some questions!
  12. They are RELAXED! They don’t force things.
    The last but not the least, are you sometimes wondering why do these children seem so relaxed?
    When children are tired, they sleep, everywhere. Sounds easy for them right? But too complicated for us. We tend to force things and ended up suffering with chronic stress. Just take a breath, there are things that cannot be controlled nor how people react to the things you do.As an author of this blog, I try to keep all the articles as positive as I could. It doesn’t matter to me how my articles will be well-accepted by everyone, what matters to me is, how I create a positive impact on my audience. And to be honest, I am not quite sure, too if I could follow these observations I got from my kids at school. But, why not? Let’s be a child again and never lose our passion to live life and enjoy!

**This article is simply based on what I had observed from my preschool students. I disclaim that as an adult, life will be as perfect as a child. This is just a recommendation and reminder while you are yet or now feeling gloomy or hopeless. Hope it does help.

How does this article resonate with you? Share your thoughts, leave a comment below!

Photo courtesy of Lesly Juarez on Unsplash.com.

Myxoid Liposarcoma – The Battle I Didn’t Choose

Beri, High Grade Myxoid Liposarcoma with Round Cell on Right Thigh
Beri, High-grade Myxoid Liposarcoma with Round Cell on Right Thigh

“This I tell you – having cancer could never be easy and I know that every cancer patient knows this.

Until today, I’m still coping. There are good and not so good days.

But each day I’m learning to let go all the worries and negative thoughts that will not do any good to me.”

Continue reading Myxoid Liposarcoma – The Battle I Didn’t Choose

The Exceptional, Brave Cancer Warrior

Mich Herreros - diagnosed with Liposarcoma, a cancer survivor.
Mich Herreros – diagnosed with Liposarcoma, a cancer survivor.

Continue reading The Exceptional, Brave Cancer Warrior

How Can A Distraction Manage A Chronic Pain For A Cancer Survivor?

IMG_20180504_193208_393
Tien has shown a fervent strength despite the extreme pain she felt right after her 2nd surgery.

This is a personal story of one of the people who are close to me and just recently had her 2nd surgery. Her recovery is still in progress but we had noticed a remarkable progression from her.

You don’t know how strong this lady is. I salute her braveness despite the agonizing pain she felt for months. As I remember, after her 2nd surgery, she decided not to stay in her house and rest; instead, she jumped into the bus and traveled with us to one of the towns not really far from Saigon. That was not easy though, she felt dizzy, vomited and caught with a fever the day after. But, hey! That was just for days! Even that experience was not really nice if you try to imagine, but now she is gradually recovering, and the most noticeable recovery is – she did not feel the same pain anymore.

I am not talking that there is a miracle happened behind that sudden disappearance of her pain. There’s none. The pain that she felt during those days is actually normal and will eventually get better as the wound inside heals. Unfortunately, this pain sometimes last for months and for some people, it lasts a year. The pain she felt during those times is different from the pain I felt during the course of my treatment 2 years ago. And I could not really give an accurate personal judgment and compare her pain to mine even we were on the same journey.

The pain that I am actually talking is a severe pain where she can hardly breathe and keep losing weight every day. Afraid that her cancer is metastasized, so we decided to make a new appointment to a new doctor and one of the doctors we met ordered a blood test and assured us that there is no metastatic sign seen in her blood. We are not contented with this result as Tien still felt the same pain and it even gets worst and even us could not understand her anymore. Even herself could not understand why she feels that kind of pain. Sometimes, I don’t want to keep asking her the same question, how she is doing, because she still gives the same answer, “I feel pain”.

After many visits we did with different doctors in Saigon, different tests she has to take to understand the pain she felt inside, why she continuously losing weight – still, we have not acquired the answer we are demanding. Despite the daily suffering she felt, she was more than willing to live a new normal life.

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A meeting with Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor.
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A pulse diagnosis is like the “MRI” of traditional medical system.
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Another meeting with a Thyroid Oncologist.

Now here comes an “alternative therapy” which actually works for Tien during her recovery stage. Distraction draws a patient into a highly interesting activity to take his or her mind off pain or discomfort.* This is only effective for a patient who is experiencing pain but it does not cure cancer. When a patient is engaged in an interesting activity, it allows its mind being distracted by unpleasant thoughts or pain that can help the patient feel better.

The following are suggested activities and therapies can provide a distraction that might work well for every cancer patient:

  • Art therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Dance therapy
  • Imagery
  • Stories
  • Relaxation Therapy
  • Virtual reality and computer games
  • Doing needlework or puzzles
  • Building models or painting
  • Watching TV

So, what are the activities Tien did that provide a distraction?

  1. Talk with friends and family
  2. Read books or articles online
  3. Listen to uplifting music (sometimes we go Karaoke)
  4. Go outside (she usually does this by herself, take a walk in the park)
  5. Take care of animals (there are 2 cats living at home, so whenever she is alone at home she feed and pet the cats)
  6. Travel (she usually travels with is in one of the towns outside Saigon)

These activities Tien did, are done at a slow pace, we still do encourage her not to force herself as she is still recovering. But her spirit showed the willingness to live a new normal life and recover completely. At the moment, Tien is inspired to do her job again as a freelance graphic and web designer. And in the future, she aims to visit her oncology doctor again to have another test done to make sure that there is no another cancer cell growing inside her body.

**This blog is not intended to give a professional medical advice. It is best to always seek advice from a qualified medical practitioner whatever medical condition you may or your loved ones have at the moment. Some medical accounts mentioned in this article are made from a careful research of the author, personal experiences shared from those who have similar cases like Tien, and a doctor’s prior validation what cause this pain to inflict her every day.

*Source: Distraction, Health Encyclopedia, University of Rochester Medical Center.

Photo courtesy of the owner.

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.

5 Things You Need To Know Before Visiting Children With Cancer

It’s hard to know what to say or do for someone who has cancer and most especially to a child diagnosed with cancer. You want to say or do the right thing, but sometimes it comes out wrong at the end. You wish to help someone who has cancer, be with them or volunteer in an organization which aids patients with cancer, but how?

Everyone’s experience with cancer is unique, so as with the children who face this kind of battle at the early age. So here are the 5 things you need to know before you visit children with this deadly disease.

  1. Do something. Don’t just ask, “Is there anything I can do?” If you decided to volunteer to any NGOs or private charity project, simply offer to do something. Think about first what is it that you are capable of helping one of these children who has cancer. Maybe you can feed the child, sing a song, play with them or just simply touch the child on the arm, hand, shoulder or back as little as 60 seconds just to create a human bond.
  2. Offer practical and appropriate gifts. If you want to give your own personalized gift, grab your shoe box, fill it with some healthy snacks, toiletries, coloring book with non-toxic crayons, books, and a card. It’s a thought that counts, no matter how big or small you can offer too few or many, it meant a lot to the child and to its family. Yes, it’s so cute to bring balloons or so sweet to bring flowers for them but we don’t know if these children are allergic or sensitive with some latex content materials or pollen from the flowers. We don’t compromise the patient’s immune system so we better be attentive first before buying what gifts to buy for them.
  3. If the patient cries or shouts, it’s not about you. In my experience, no matter how I give comfort to a child who is crying or shouting, it won’t stop until it will be able to get asleep. The only time that they can’t feel the pain is when they’re sleeping. The mother could not even stop the child who suffers brain cancer from crying or shouting. So, whenever you visit a child with cancer in a hospital and you see them look terrible, you don’t need to come near and give comfort. If you also feel the need to cry, don’t hold your tears, just simply step out of the room. These cancer patients and their family don’t need crying and tissues in their room because they also try to be optimistic and looking forward that they will get out from the room they have been staying for months. I don’t say it’s not okay to cry but letting the children see you cry while they are lying on their bed is not really helping at all.
  4. Never make unkind comments. In my previous blog, I had written on how we choose the words we could give to cancer patients or even survivors. Usually, most people make comments that they never realize could hurt someone who suffers a deadly and terminal disease. In good faith, you may say a comment that you thought it’s positive, but it’s not actually comforting to those who are already hurt physically and mentally. So, it’s a good reminder to be careful about whatever we have to say not to hurt them more especially on the emotional aspect or rather say nothing at all. It’s perfectly fine to hold yourself from speaking, there’s no need to rush. Sometimes, just being with them and offering a touch can help more than words.
  5. Never whine about your life’s burdens. The last but not the least, a helpful reminder that each cancer patient or a survivor like me can share with you is to never complain about life. There’s nothing to complain about. Always realize that life has been good for you and you must enjoy that. We, the cancer survivors, have been trying to show you that you must enjoy life while you have it. And remember, somebody’s worst days could be much worse for others. Everything is relative. You make your own choice on how your life would be. Would you allow your entire day to be ruined with just a small mistake happened in the morning? Your reaction matters in every situation you are facing with. It could be a positive or negative circumstance, you have the option to look at your life on the way how you view it. One way or the other, the contrast of life is, as long as we are alive, we all have ups and downs and your approach is how you handle that roller coaster called LIFE.

So, if you have a chance to visit the children with cancer, you are just completing the circle. By any means of helping others, it’s the same way of treating and helping yourself. In return, meeting these children with cancer is another way to learn from their stories. And their stories might heal you, by seeing the pain from them, in order to recognize your own pain you’ve been keeping for a long time.

Do it now, tomorrow is not guaranteed that you can help and there are no second chances. Make memories while you can with these children and don’t put anything off to do later. Who knows, your life could change in a moment you are with them.

**This blog is not intended to give a professional medical advice. It is best to always seek advice from a qualified medical practitioner whatever medical condition you may or your loved ones have at the moment.

Photo courtesy of MyHDiet.

When Financial Burden Makes the Recovery Difficult for Someone Who has Cancer

Raising awareness campaign for cancer is fantastic yet hard to work reaching out people who need to be addressing their needs. The community should basically get to know everything from cancer prevention to nutrition to environmental health issues. But little we may realize, how could these cancer patients and family be able to cope up with the recovery if one of the burdens is finance.

Cancer is one of the most expensive medical conditions all over the world. The financial burden of cancer greatly affects the physical and emotional health of cancer survivors. The obvious result for this, patients will tend to delay medical care, skip follow-up visits, discontinue medications or could not even afford for a second opinion from another doctor.

Creative Mess has a lot of questions that need to be dealing with. Since it has started to build campaign and advocacy to Vietnam community especially in Ho Chi Minh, the determination of Creative Mess’ vision has become stronger.

For instance, Creative Mess started to have a personal interaction with Tien Nguyen, a Vietnamese lady with thyroid cancer. As her personal life is closely followed by Creative Mess, one of the questions emerges is how will she be able to recover from cancer if financial distress is the major hindrance at the moment. If 8 out of 10 cancer patients experience the same burden like Tien, where is the “HOPE” that we are campaigning with?

Tien has done 2 surgical removals of her tumor when she was 21 years old and the most recent in 2017. When her cancer returned, her life was even much worse. After the surgery, she has rushed again to the hospital for she was not able to breathe and unconscious. Eventually, abnormally low level of calcium causes that incident.

At the moment, Tien keeps losing weight. Emotional distresses are attacking her where she thinks she feels useless and already exhausted with her life. As for financial burden, it is the major factor that keeps her from continuing her medical care. She has given a lifetime medication but her body somehow could not receive food and she actually vomits each time she eats her meals. Her doctor advises her to look for more medical attention in one of the hospitals in Singapore and a very close friend of Tien, Jammy Nguyen is trying to find a way to make it happen.

It is not the end for Tien with this fight against cancer, she has shown her determination and willingness no matter how difficult the finances are. At first, she was scared when Creative Mess asked her if it’s okay to create a fundraising event and crowdfunding for her. She cried because she was worried that people close to her will be able to know her condition. Constant encouragement for Tien, she finally works together and cooperates with the campaign intended for her.

Tien is a professional and talented Graphic/Web Designer. She had already brought in many designs from basic to complex to many companies in Vietnam.

A fundraising event and crowdfunding have done for Tien both online and offline. Hoping that this will help her to kick cancer’s ass. She is very lucky to have friends who are supporting her not only financially but also mentally and emotionally. She needs it, and even anyone that has cancer. Stress or emotional downfalls could increase the risk of developing cancer and make it more aggressive.

And not only that, it could also be a right timing for this year for Tien and for the rest of the Vietnamese who are hoping for innovations in fighting cancer. Last March 17, 2018, experts from health technology has finally reached Vietnam. The biggest community of pharmacy professionals in Asia, SwipeRx, introduced by Ms. Beth Ann Lopez, Regional Manager of mClinica. It is a free pharmacy practice app that offers an easy and convenient way to connect and collaborate with the community. Mr. Will Greene, founder and director of Tigermine Research who is successfully making things happen especially in health sector in Asia.

Even myself is excited to see changes that will happen in the near future for Vietnam in the health sector. What could be the changes can contribute especially for those who have cancer, that is I am going to anticipate, too.

Join Creative Mess in spreading cancer awareness here in Vietnam. Let’s make cancer conversation easy. Together, we can do this!

Photo by Francisco Moreno on Unsplash