It’s good to be busy, it can take your mind off stuff you don’t really want to think about. That was my tactic after being diagnosed with incurable Neuroendocrine Cancer. I just kept working and working and was still sending work emails and making telephone calls on the day I was being admitted to hospital for major surgery. After all, how could they possibly function without me? Although I was banned from work after the surgery, I still dropped an email to let them know I was doing cartwheels down the hospital corridor. They expected nothing less.
I guess the image of ‘invincibility’ was important to me at that time. It was part of my personal expectations and credibility. Some 6 weeks after leaving hospital following a 9 hour open surgery, I literally crawled back to the office, weak and drawn but determined to ‘make a statement’ by dint of my physical presence. A round of applause was given and for me this was as effective as any medicine I was taking. My credibility was intact.
Treatment, tests and consultations would now be managed around work instead of the other way – after all, they couldn’t possibly function without me? This ‘charade’ went on for some time until I eventually realised they could actually function without me and the only person expecting me to be ‘in service’ on a treatment, testing or consultation day, was me. Additionally, it became patently obvious that people would totally understand my reasons for slowing down. However, a more serious message was being received from my body which was hinting it was more delicate than I had thought. My credibility, until hitherto sacrosanct, was taking its toll and things weren’t really back to normal. I began to realise I needed a different and better ‘normal’.
After my ‘eureka’ moment, I totally changed my lifestyle putting my health above my credibility in the ‘pecking order’. I still keep busy – that’s important. I’m now happily doing things I enjoy at my own pace and my fatigue levels are now under control.
Here are my 5 top suggestions for prioritising time and activities to be able to live well with an incurable cancer.
- Reduce your stress. This is difficult with the modern life we lead but if you can live without things that cause you stress – you can cease or drastically reduce their effect on you. Boldness might be required to strike the right balance.
- Quality sleep. If your illness has a fatigue element, a decent night’s sleep becomes more important. Get into a routine if possible.
- Take time to exercise. It doesn’t need to be a marathon or a climb up Mt Everest. Even a regular short walk is enough and you can build up from there. This also helps with fatigue and stress reduction.
- Learn to say no more often. This is difficult, particularly if you are the energetic multi-tasking go-getter type but your body has a voice – listen to it.
- Do more of the things you enjoy. We’re all guilty of procrastination from time to time but get more of the things you enjoy into your calendar, it supports all the other suggestions above!
I now have a new ‘normal’ and I feel healthier and more positive. I sometimes think I might be taking on too much leading to a return to the ‘old ways’. However, the big difference today is that I have no qualms about taking myself ‘out of service‘ or reducing my workload and commitments. My body tends to remind me now and then.
Ronny Allan is a five year survivor of metastatic Neuroendocrine Cancer. He resides in Hampshire UK with his wife. He has a son and daughter and four grandsons. He enjoys family life and travel. Ronny blogs about cancer and his survivorship experience at his website https://ronnyallan.wordpress.com/ He is also a strong advocate for Neuroendocrine Cancer awareness and his associated Facebook site has attracted 2000 followers in one year.