Finding Your Voice
For the lung cancer patient, diagnosis literally changes everything. For most, we have several decades of life behind us by this point and we are well established in our families, our careers and our social circles. We have a degree of confidence in knowing who we are and what we're about. Then, those dreaded words, "You have cancer," are spoken to us, and everything is thrown into chaos.
Family members, friends, acquaintances, work colleagues...everyone begins asking us questions we have no answers for. Sometimes they speak accusingly to us, or perhaps to others about us. Other times, they disappear altogether from our personal universes. At the same time this is happening, we may feel clueless about what may lie ahead. All of this brings emotional responses that can range from curiosity to frustration, anger, sadness and even depression.
Creativity through the Chaos
I have found that opening ourselves to the creativity within us has a way of diminishing some of the negative energy that can quickly build as we learn new dire statistics or experience the harsh realities of treatment side effects. Our minds are consumed with cancer, especially in the early days, and this can be confusing, hard, even alienating. What we do with this, however, can make a world of difference.
No matter if the stage is the same, the treatment is the same, and many other material elements are the same, every lung cancer patient's experience with the disease is solitary and different. Reactions are different, emotions are different, hopes and goals are different. This makes how we deal with our own personal journeys not only individual in nature, but also provides all kinds of potential for educational and inspirational communication with others in our sphere of influence.
Because I had known for most of my life that my communication strength usually came through the written word, I began a letter writing campaign from my day of diagnosis. It not only kept my circle of contacts informed, but it was cathartic for me. It helped me release my own thoughts, questions, frustrations, and to many people's surprise, humor about the cancer I was facing. Eventually, the first nine months of letters even became a book I titled Trekking Through Cancerland.
Find Your Strength, Your Outlet
Some may find photography helps them reflect on the lights and darks of life, or the beauty still to be found in the midst of day to day trials. Others may grab a guitar and write songs that tell their story. Some channel their energies more directly into patient advocacy by contacting their legislators, writing to editors, and seeking ways to fund research.
There are creative paths to be found, whatever your interest areas are. If you've been an auto mechanic throughout your life, maybe you can mentor someone with similar interests. Show them that cancer doesn't stop a person from being an active participant in life. An engineer might create artwork using all of the analytical and mathematical skills inherent to his experience. Whoever you are...whatever you are...let your creative juices flow.
Finding your voice in the midst of cancer can be a journey in and of itself...one that opens a whole new world of beauty even while it unleashes the harsh inner turmoil that must come out.
Editor's Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on June 8, 2019, Karen Loss passed away. Karen was a valued member of the lung cancer community and an incredible advocate and avid writer. She will be deeply missed.
Do you considered yourself to be a well-informed lung cancer patient?