• Nathira Salim

Things to keep in mind if you have cancer

Welcome back to my blog peeps.

Having cancer is a life changing event not only for those diagnosed but for the caretaker as well as for their families and unless you personally know someone who had cancer - learning to navigate in the new road that just showed itself is going to be new, different and hard.

Most of the content in my blog that you are reading right now is all about my experience with breast cancer, so I can only let you know what I went through. My experience may not be the same even for a person who has the same type and stage of cancer I had. Different people have different reactions to the treatments given and the care given after the treatment.

Let me list out the first few things you should do if you are given the diagnosis ( lets hope not)

1. Get second or third opinions.

So Doctor number 1 has given you a diagnosis. Say thanks, get all your reports, make appointment with the next doc and get another opinion. I think some doctors go through the reports you have given and other doctors need some more tests such as x rays, mammogram reports and so on and will give a diagnosis based on their experience dealing with something similar. You have the right to know about your health and you have the right to check as many doctors as you want to get your diagnosis confirmed. But stop it at three is my advise.

You may have heard about the case in which a local hospital misdiagnosed breast cancer in patients and they had to go through un necessary treatments. Get a second opinion. Period.

2. Talk to someone who has gone through cancer.

If you know someone, (it could also be a caretaker) who has gone through cancer treatments, you can ask them for advise. You can ask, what to expect, what happens from thereon, what you should be doing and so on. Like I mentioned earlier, different people's experience differs from yours. My cousin in India was the first person in my entire family who I know had cancer - but her diagnosis, cancer treatment and side effects and rate of recovery was so different - nothing we had was alike. Her main advise - drink lots of water.

3. Do your research

Reading and researching about the causes, pre treatment and post treatment of cancer can help you mentally prepare yourself for the challenges ahead. I mean, the first mental image we have about cancer is being frail, sick and having no hair or head covered in a scarf.

Not all cancer treatment gives you hair loss and constant nausea.

But reading what the typical side effects of going through the treatment gives you an idea of what to expect and this is important. Some would feel that they rather know about it first hand than getting to know all about it beforehand. Different people, different perspectives. Always know that the journey ahead is hard, but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Nothing lasts forever you know. Go through websites, books, ebooks, scientific papers etc for the specific cancer, they do provide a huge resource for your questions and most importantly look out for blogs written by cancer patients like mine, living or dead. It will give you a rough idea of whats coming up.

4. Gather your tribe for support

This is vital. Your family would have done the research portion for you by now, or would have started to prepare healthy nutritious food for you - whatever they can do to prepare for your journey ahead. Don't keep the diagnosis to yourself. Talk to your closest allies. I say allies instead of friends because not all friends can understand your journey. Some will start with you, some will drop along the way and some will stay throughout holding your hands - so it depends.

5. Stop the blame game

This is entirely on each individual on how they react to their circumstances. Some blame themselves, some blame it on everyone else but themselves, some blame God or the Higher power. By blaming or pointing fingers - you will not get anywhere and with that kind of mindset the journey will not only be hard on you, but it will be hard on your caretakers, family and friends as well.

Not even the scientist know what exactly causes cancer because there are so many many factors such as food, lifestyle and so on. So stop blaming yourself, others or God.

Everything happens for a reason - and yours could be a call to change your lifestyle, or maybe provide inspiration to others in the future. I was always telling myself that I am relived I was the one with cancer and not my boys. I rather be the one suffering than see them suffer. So stop the blame game.

6. Be your own coach

No one else can help you but yourself. You have to remember that. I am not saying the "all is well" crap - what I am saying is that the cancer shit is real and the treatment sucks and it hurts like hell. But don't beat yourself up for that. I used to cry some nights lamenting and whining about the "healthier" days of my life - but I never was "healthy" in that aspect. I was atleast 60kgs overweight and my BMI was over the tops but I was yearning for the days that I was not in pain or fatigued. Borrowing the quote my friend Danny told me - "Its a cross you have to bear." Those words sort of rang a bell for me the first time he said and it made sense. Be your coach - talk to yourself, remind yourself who you really are and that cancer has no power to stop your real self. You are a fighter, hell - we are all fighters who fought hard to inseminate our Mum's egg and we cannot give up just like that.

Many many people have given their lives to cancer trials so that we can live. Treatment can only work with stellar results if you are mentally strong - so be your own coach and don't let yourselves down.

7. Stay down

If you can't exercise or run anymore - its ok - just walk. If you can't walk - its ok just take few steps and rest. If you can't even take a few steps, stretch your hands up. If you can't stretch, then take a deep breathe. Breathe in, you got this.

As long as you can breathe just stay down and let your body do its work.

We fail to understand that our body is not only complex, but it's highly intelligent too. It needs to recover, it needs to repair the gut linings and cells that have been ravaged by the treatment. Your body is doing all it can to help rid itself of the cancer cells and it can do that if you allow it. Stay down, don't fight the fatigue. If all you can do is lie down - then do so bravely. You are not lying down for a rehearsal of your funeral - you are lying down to gather the time for your body to gain its strength. Stay down.

8. Acceptance

One of the most important tip I feel - is acceptance. You have to accept that you have cancer and you also have to accept that you need treatment and all its side effects because that's how you can live a few more years with your family and loved ones. In the same note - you also have to accept that this shit you are feeling and go through in your journey - is not permanent. It will look and feel like that - but its not. Accept that and start your treatment. Whatever comes, let it come. You will not be given anything that you cannot handle.

9. Live everyday

Its simple to think that once your treatment is over, you would treasure every living moment of you life and make every single day a day to remember, It does sound good if its on a website, or a Hollywood movie, but I personally think and this is my perspective mind you - life is still really full of the same mundane things you do. Well right now its school holidays, so some of the stuffs we do here as a family is different from a school day - but yet - I don't remember every single day - maybe I should. But I don't. But I do say thanks to God when I wake up - thanks for giving me another day I would say when I breathe in and take the first steps of the day.

10. You write the ending

If your cancer diagnosis is grim - I am sorry. None of my advises, suggestions or blog posts could be relevant to you or it may sound un related to you. But don't let the doctors or anyone tell you how many days you have - that has been decided by God or the higher power. If you have been given so and so number of days to live by the doctors, then live them on your own terms. There have been so many people who have lived years past their so called "death decree" by the doctors. If it's not your time then it's not your time. You could live decades past the diagnosed date and time who knows?

Don't let the terms of men dictate the trajectory of your life.

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