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Facing Cancer Without Fear: 7 Strategies That Helped Me During My 3 Battles with Cancer

I’m 76 years old. A gift I’ve received on my life journey is an attitude of gratitude and the ability to let go of fear, worry, and obsessive thoughts.

April 1, 2024

(This article is being republished, in honor of our upcoming virtual live conference, Women In The Face Of Cancer: Navigating The Path Forward)

A diagnosis of Cancer arouses fear.

It means you are going to die, right?

Well, I am going to die, but not today. And, I don’t know when. And, maybe I’ll get hit by a car and die before cancer gets me.

I’d like to pass along the spiritual principles I’ve adopted that led me to develop immunity to self-sabotaging, anxiety-causing, obsessive thinking in order to deal with these life challenges without fear:

 

1. Gratitude.

A gift I’ve received on my life journey is an attitude of gratitude and the ability to let go of fear, worry, and obsessive thoughts.

I’m 76 years old. Earlier this year, I had a hysterectomy due to endometrial cancer. It was caught early because I’m being followed with annual PET scans and there was an area on my last PET scan that urged me to follow up with my gynecologist.

I did.

After a biopsy, I scheduled a hysterectomy.

 

2. Reframe the situation; find the humor or put a positive spin on it.

I was having PET scans because when I was 68 an unusual mark under my left thumb nail turned out to be melanoma that had invaded the bone.

I had the distal phalanx of my thumb amputated. As we drove to the hospital for my surgery, I said to my son, I need to find some humor in this situation.

I decided to give myself a fun alias. Stubby Bubby was created.

I also wondered if I could get a discount on my manicures.

A recurrence occurred two years later, but it was localized in my thumb. Another surgery, less invasive than the first.

It’s been 7 years since that last surgery and so far, I’m alive and well!

 

3. Become self-aware. Know thyself. Listen to your body, mind and spirit and take action when you are concerned.

I continued living my life, working, managing my husband’s Alzheimer’s disease care.

Melanoma and endometrial cancer didn’t kill me, but one week after my hysterectomy, I noticed that I had black stools, a sign of internal bleeding.

Feeling dizzy and vomiting, I called 911.

I arrived at the hospital by ambulance and gave my recent history to the admitting doctor. He told me that the medication prescribed by my surgeon to take after my surgery was causing my bleeding. According to him it is a common side effect of the medication, especially for older adults.

During my weeklong stay in the hospital, I needed 8 pints of blood and the ulcer caused by the medication was finally found and treated.

At one point I passed out and was taken to the ICU.

The cancer didn’t kill me and neither did the medication. If I hadn’t been aware of the symptoms of internal bleeding, I could have bled to death.

 

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4. When you are aware, and notice self-defeating thoughts, use distraction techniques and meditation.

At times like these it was easy to let my imagination start a downward spiral.

What if this is the end?

Recognizing my automatic fearful response, I was able to distract myself, comedy reruns on TV, magazines, a compelling novel were on hand.

Mind tricks like planning a vacation to visit friends and family out of town helped. I love to listen to the music of my teen years or dance to Latin music.

Lying in my hospital bed my mind had me doing the salsa. There was nothing I could do to find out why I was bleeding, that was in the doctor’s hands, but I could use my imagination to take me away from this scary situation.

My meditation practice was a life saver!

 

5. Attitude

I’ve learned that a positive attitude and fear can’t exist together.

I don’t ask `why me’ or feel sorry for myself.

All I have is the one life I’ve been given and I want to savor it.

I make sure my life is filled with things I enjoy.

I do work that’s fulfilling, spend time with friends and family, go on vacations, and attend concerts, plays and visit museums.

I’m still here; celebrating life.

 

6. Affirmations

Regarding my health, anytime I notice fearful thoughts I chant to myself: With every breath I take, healing energy and light flow through every cell, organ and system in my body, bringing me to perfect health.

 

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7. Be present. Deal with what is happening now. Don’t project into the future, or slip into the past. It’s not the situation that matters, but how I deal with it.

 

`What if’ is not in my vocabulary.

So far, cancer hasn’t been a death sentence.

I continue to be followed by an oncologist.

Could cancer strike again? Sure.

If it does, I will continue to use the strategies mentioned above to deal with fear.

In my younger years I spent too much time worrying about things that never happened, trying to control things over which I had no control, and not taking responsibility for my mindset, mainly because I didn’t know that I had choices.

All opinions published on SomeDocs-Mag are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of SoMeDocs, its staff, editors. SoMeDocs is a magazine built with the safety of free expression and diverse perspectives in mind. For more information, or to submit your own opinion, please see our submission guidelines or email opmed@doximity.com. Do you have a compelling personal story you’d like to see published on SoMeDocs? Find out what we’re looking for here and submit your writing, or send us a pitch.

All opinions published on SomeDocs-Mag are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of SoMeDocs, its staff, editors. SoMeDocs is a magazine built with the safety of free expression and diverse perspectives in mind. Do you have a compelling personal story you’d like to see published on SoMeDocs? Submit your own article now here.

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