When you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, your whole world feels like it’s been flipped on its head. Your priorities have suddenly changed, all your plans are up in the air and you feel like you don’t know your left from your right.
I was diagnosed with cancer at 14 and people used to ask me how I stayed so positive throughout my treatment and surgery. The truth is, there were multiple reasons. Firstly, I could only see the good. That might have been because I was a naïve 14 year old but honestly, something just told me that everything was going to be okay. Secondly, I was lucky to be surrounded by my lovely friends & family. Everyone around me was so brilliant that I couldn’t help but feel uplifted by them all. And thirdly, I knew that being negative would get me nowhere.
That doesn’t mean I was positive all the time – there were a few tears and tantrums along the way (hey, I was a teenager who suddenly found herself becoming a child again!) but for the most part, I stayed focused on what I could do, not what I couldn’t.
And with that in mind, here are my top tips for staying positive while going through cancer treatment.
Don’t hold it all in
You know what I said about those tears & tantrums?
No one can be positive 100% of the time – we’re human beings and you have a right to feel upset, frustrated or angry at your diagnosis.
When you do feel that way, don’t try to hide it or put on a brave face. Let your feelings OUT, my friend. Go to a beach and scream, or rant and rave to your bestie. What you’re feeling is entirely normal and trying to hide how you really feel will just make you feel worse.
So however you do it – whether it’s talking to someone or shouting into a pillow for ten minutes, just get it out.
Build a strong support network
It’s times like this when you need really good people around you – the type that let you be 100% honest.
If you don’t already find yourself with a strong support network of family or friends, try joining a local/online support group or phoning a helpline. That way, you can chat to people who have been in your situation or trained professionals who will be able to help you.
You might even be able to make friends at the hospital while you’re having your treatment. Chat to your nurse or doctor and see if they can recommend any support groups in your area.
Here are some other resources you could try:
Macmillan Support Line: 0808 808 00 00
Cancer Research – Nurse Helpline: 0808 800 4040
And remember I’m always here if you just want someone to chat to 🙂
Focus on what concrete evidence you have
It’s easy to get lost in your thoughts when you’re going through cancer treatment. All the what if’s and worrying can lead to you frantically Googling things in the middle of the night and that is not good for ANYONE.
Instead, try to focus on what concrete evidence you already have before you. Write a list of the things you KNOW to be true. This is the stuff you need to focus on, rather than the thoughts your mind presents you with.
I know it’s easier said than done but any time you feel your mind running away with you, tell yourself they’re just thoughts. All you have to work with is the facts right now.
Centre yourself in the here and now
My best piece of advice for anyone going through cancer treatment is to take things one day at a time.
The present moment is going to be the only thing you can focus on so just keep getting through this moment. And then the next, and then the next.
When your mind is going into overdrive, take notice of what’s around you. What can you see? What can you hear? Focus on the here and now.
Chat to your doctor for more support
Your doctor will be the best person to signpost you to resources in your area so don’t be afraid to chat to them if you feel as though you need to talk to a therapist or counsellor about what’s going on.
There are people on hand to help you. I had to speak to a psychologist about my panic attacks – I only saw her once but in that session, she helped me immensely by explaining why my panic attacks were happening.
Don’t be afraid to reach out.