by Terri Wingham, Cancer Survivor
Don’t be afraid to expand yourself. To step outside your comfort zone. That’s where the joy and adventure lie. ~ Herbie Hancock
A diagnosis of cancer kicks us out of our comfort zones and into a foreign land of blood tests, tumour-dotted scans, and bio-hazardous injections. Everything familiar is taken away and words like Blastoma, Ewings Sarcoma, or Docetaxel become the heavy currency of our new frontier.
by Andrew Griffith
reprinted with permission from MD Anderson
Over the past few years, I have reflected on the terms people use to describe their life with cancer. I initially tried to write a ‘glossary’ of the terms: hero, warrior, fighter, veteran, graduate, survivor, victim or living with cancer.
In trying this out with a few friends, one having gone through a comparable experience, one not, it did not work. People adopt different terms at different stages; a journey approach captures this better than an analytical approach.
Rather than the Kubler-Ross1 five stages (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance), written for the terminally ill, I find the William Bridges framework in Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes more helpful. Bridges talks about three phases: ending (or losing and letting go), the neutral zone (in between, or ambiguous phase), and the new beginning (acceptance and embracing). Circumstances change quickly, transitions take time. This provides a convenient frame for cancer: from ‘normal’ to a new ‘normal’, which we can accept, if not embrace.
by Jennifer Cogswell, 31 yr old Stage 2B Hodgkins Lymphoma Survivor
“Have you always had your hair so short?” is the dreaded question I am always asked on a first date. That question requires an immediate decision on my part. The first option is to slough it off and answer with something such as “no, but I wanted to try something different.” This lie always leaves me feeling uneasy, but sometimes it is easier than the second option, “no, I lost my hair during chemotherapy treatment.”
It is challenges such as these that have been the focus since my cancer diagnosis in February of 2011. Nine months prior, I had moved out of my parents’ home after completing a Master’s degree. I was taking time to recharge and reset before beginning my PhD. Suffering from what I thought was some pretty bad heartburn, turned out to be Stage 2B Hodgkins Lymphoma. The new life I was building for myself came to an abrupt halt. A confident and educated young woman became a cancer patient. I had never smoked, ate healthy, exercised a few days a week, and was working two jobs. Immediately following the words “you have cancer” came an extreme discussion on the intensity of six months of chemotherapy treatment, having to move back home, applying for disability, dealing with financial responsibilities, and fertility.
by Sarah A.O. Isenberg
This month’s topic here at CKN is “transitions.” I have to admit, it’s been tough for me to get down on paper how I feel about life after cancer. It’s multifaceted. It’s complicated. One thing I know for sure is that cancer is a catalyst. For better or worse, no one touched by cancer is left unchanged.
After both my cancer diagnoses, I came out swinging – determined to use my cancer experience to fashion a better life for myself. I had almost ten years between rounds of breast cancer, and by the time the second diagnosis came, I’d fully assimilated the first. I’d transitioned from a hard-nosed go-getter to a soft and gentle stay-at-home mom, admittedly retaining a little bit of an edge (if you saw me working out, or dealing with contractors, you’d understand). I’d changed our eating habits and started cooking almost all our food from scratch using whole-food ingredients and as many local, in-season vegetables as I could; before this was trendy. I committed to exercising every day. I became a prevention fanatic, determined to do all in my power to avoid another cancer.
Turning Your Life Around is an ongoing series exclusive to the Cancer Knowledge Network. It is written by Jen Luce, CKN’s Life After Cancer Editor, ovarian cancer survivor and young adult cancer advocate. We hope this series will become a useful, peer-reviewed resource that will help to facilitate dialogue between cancer patients and their physicians with a view towards creating an individualized plan of action regarding treatment and therapy.
Turning Your Life Around: Introduction
Turning Your Life Around: Transition
Turning Your Life Around: Fear and Uncertainty
The Merriam-Webster’s dictionary definition of “isolate” is: to set apart from others; also quarantine. I can’t say that I ever thought of the two being synonymous, but when I think about it now, I must agree. Feeling isolated through my cancer diagnosis in many ways felt as if I’d been quarantined. There are different types of isolation as well: internal and external.
by Timothy W. Buckland
As we transition from adolescence to young adulthood, much of who we are is solidified. We begin to think for ourselves, learn from our experiences and in turn, produce the people we become. Along with this personal development, we also mature on a social level. We begin looking for emotional and romantic relationships which complement this personal change. So what happens to these relationships when there is a crisis or more specifically a cancer diagnosis?