Nadia Booysen offers three wise words when you are tired of everything being about your cancer: stop, breathe and rethink.
You can listen to this article below, or by using your favourite podcast player at pod.link/buddiesforlife
Most people going through a cancer journey reach a point where they feel like everything is starting to revolve around their cancer (thoughts, activities, conversations). There are various reasons why this happens and is therefore a good time to stop, breathe and rethink.
What you are thinking
Thoughts are mostly a very active and conscious process; other times more intrusive.The intrusive thoughts are the ones that creep in (mostly between midnight and early morning) when you can’t sleep. These thoughts often contain themes that revolve around your fears and topics you keep to yourself. The active conscious thoughts are the ones you give life to, that you allow to grow by giving them attention and time.
The secret lies in moving your focus from active cancer thoughts if you feel that they consume too much of your time. This is also applicable to the uninvited intrusive thoughts, but they do need active attention by talking about them, crying or journaling. The idea is to get them out of your subconscious mind so that they lose their power.
What you spend time doing
Activities relate to the things you choose to spend time on as well as the things you don’t have control over like going for treatment or resting during recovery time. In The wheel of life , I discussed the importance of hobbies, please have a look at that to better understand the value of filling your life, days and identity with things which aren’t related to cancer.
Maintaining a strong self-identity throughout the process does make it easier to not allow cancer to take over every area of your life in terms of how you spend your time.
Who you allow in your life
Communication is often one of the more challenging aspects of the journey. People are either caring or curious; regardless of the intention it’s important that you determine what is healthy for you. This is another vital area where you need to take time and remind yourself that you are in control.
I very often hear the words, I have to, I need to, I must (I have felt the pressure myself, so I say this with the utmost respect): please take a moment and ask yourself: Do you really need to, or do you feel obligated as it’s the polite thing to do?
We become so accustomed to giving our power away that we start believing ourselves when we utter those words. Maybe it’s a good time to evaluate all the musts, needs and have tos in your life.
Rethink your narrative
Rethink how you want to contain and translate your own journey. You are in control of this and you can decide how much, how long and with whom you want to interact. You are capable and allowed to put boundaries in place that make you feel comfortable and safe.
Take control of the narrative. Often people write your story for you. You can write your own story at your own pace and on your own time. Each journey is subjective. And the way you’re feeling and experiencing things should be yours alone. It doesn’t have to look or feel the same as anyone else.
You can direct conversations and choose who you spend time with. Be authentically you, regardless of what that means or how it looks. The future is a blank canvas in front of you, spend time designing your new future and start living that truth. Reality is that cancer will journey with you, but it doesn’t have to continue to be more than a season in your life that pops up to remind you of what was. Own your journey; stop, breath and rethink.
MEET THE EXPERT – Nadia Booysen
Nadia Booysen is a cancer survivor and an oncology counsellor (BSW Hons (Social Work) (UP), BA Hons (Psychology) (Unisa), PGDip (PallMed) (UCT)). She consults at the DMO practices: Sandton Oncology and the West Rand Oncology Centres. Serving in oncology is not a profession to her, but rather a way of life. Nadia has a keen interest in mental health and believes that it’s an underestimated and stigmatised topic.
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