Let me guess…no one checked with you to see if now would be a good time for you to battle cancer? It just got dumped into your lap. During an already crazy time! That’s the way it was for me. Both times! Yep, I’m a two-time cancer survivor, and neither time did someone check with me first to see if it was a good time to cope with cancer. But I made it work. What’s the alternative, right? You can climb this hill. You can. Now is the time. For you. And for your friends and family that wish more than anything, they could remove this for you.
But, you and I know. Friends can’t take it away. And, if you believe like I do, I know that God didn’t take it away either. Sooooo there must be purpose in the struggle. Because God does not make mistakes.
Even though knowing this isn’t some random punishment certainly helps, I also relied on some practical daily must-dos to get through each day of the battle. I share them with you because I long to make your uphill climb less steep, and I hope to settle your stomach as the waves rock your boat during this journey.
You can do this! Every day, each minute-click on the clock proves you are stronger than you thought.
Jot down this list and sticky-note-it to your brush-your-teeth mirror, bathroom wall (we spend enough time in there, don’t we?!), or the front of your journal. Embrace these thoughts as a gift for my fellow sister in the fight, not as a chore. Together let’s: take it easy, nurture your insides, and remember the truth.
#1: Take It Easy On Yourself
Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. I remember when I was going through chemotherapy, and it was all I could do to walk two houses down the block and back. I swear those lawns expanded to the length of a football field some days! No end zone in sight! Instead of getting down on myself for going such a short distance, I celebrated the win.
Little wins and big wins—I encourage you to celebrate them! Remember sticker charts when the kids were younger? Do you need something like that? A visual reminder of a task set before you that you accomplished? Recognize your wins, look for them, and celebrate them. I’m pretty sure that’s why God invented ice cream.
Not sure what those wins might be? Lay out a loose agenda for your day. I know that may sound odd at first. And maybe you didn’t realize you had an agenda before cancer, but you did. You went here, you did this, you did that. Give yourself a little of that structure to count on again. Plan in some naps, music time, or snacks so you can look forward to them and check them off the day’s list. This will help you plan and prioritize your time, so each day doesn’t just slide into the next like Bambi on the ice with Thumper.
Identify two or three things that are important to you and incorporate them into each day. Think on this one. What lifts your spirits? What challenges, but satisfies you? For me, it was starting each day settling in with God. Listening, praying, and sometimes just sitting in His presence. Determine what is important to you. Pick a couple of those things and plan some purpose into each day.
One final way to take it easy on yourself is to live life in smaller bites. Take it moment by moment if it’s a rough one. Maybe tomorrow you can take it hour by hour, but today it’s okay just to trust through the next 60 seconds.
#2: Nurture Your Emotional Health While You Cope With Cancer
Cancer tends to drown out a lot of other priorities in life, but one you hear a lot about is your health. Eating, sleeping, medicines, etc. But what about your emotional health? If your body is doing its best and making progress, but you are completely bummed about everything, will you see your physical progress? Can it break through the negative mire?
One great way to nurture your emotional health is to eliminate negative self-talk. Stop and listen to your thoughts. Don’t let them just run wild without any regard. It’s like brushing your teeth. You don’t need the water to run while you scrub, scrub, scrub. You just need water for the task at hand. Your thoughts are like that. Don’t let your thoughts just run, run, run wild in your mind. There is no benefit in letting your thoughts run freely through your mind if they are negative. Stop, turn off the spigot, and take note.
Studies show there are—both—physical and psychological benefits of positive thinking. Positive thoughts lower levels of distress, provide a sense of well-being, and offer better-coping skills during hardships and stress.
With all that’s going on, your feelings and emotions may feel like they are all over the map. That’s okay. Feelings can change quickly. Allow yourself some time to unpack what you’re feeling and work through it then or maybe later. Journaling is a good way to “grease the wheels” and get some of those emotions down on paper (or on the computer). Talking with a coach or a pastor is a healthy choice too. I’m honored that God chooses to use me to guide women through this giant challenge in their life. In the past, I used to wonder why I got cancer (twice). I don’t anymore because I see how I was designed to help others navigate difficult times.
Other ways you can nurture your emotional health are:
- Feed your soul – read the Bible, a devotional, or a favorite book
- Get creative – art, writing, cooking, etc.
- Spend time with others – on the phone, in person. Soak up those around you.
- Get outside – spend time in nature, talk a walk, sit on the porch.
- Start a gratitude journal – no deep thoughts necessary, list at least three things each day you’re thankful for.
Find little ways to make your heart sing and feed your soul. You are an emotional being. That’s by design. Prioritize your emotional health along with your physical health.
#3: Remember God’s Promises
This is one of the places I had to start each day when I was battling cancer. Nothing seemed 100% or solid or unshakable except my God. He is exactly who He says He is. And I find His love and grace and purpose in my life anchors me in the unpredictable waves.
“Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ.” Philippians 4:6-7 TPT
Cancer tries to pull you in many directions. Up, down, down further, and then right and left to care for others or just survive another stomach-heaving day. But I don’t need to feel pulled in those directions. I don’t need to worry about a thing. He will give me His peace when I can’t remember where I put mine. God is reliable, and He is always there for me.
One way to spend time with His promises and think through what you’re feeling right now is to take some time with a free eBook I made for people navigating the rough seas of life. I’d love for you to enjoy the photos, quotes, journal prompts, and stories while you fight this daily fight.
And you know I am always here for you. I’ve been to the bottom of the pit, so nothing much surprises me, and I know I felt like I didn’t walk my walk the best at times, so there is no judgment from me as you cope with cancer. There is no perfect way to do this. Just grace and compassion and some more practical ways to live your best life in the midst of this poorly timed diagnosis. You have cancer. It doesn’t have to have you.
Be good to yourself, and give yourself grace in these hard times.