Let’s play a game. We’ll call it “Ever Heard This Cliché?” Okay…first one: “Every cloud has a silver lining.” Number two: “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Number three: “Laughter is the best medicine.” Let’s end with this oldie but goodie: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
Life after a life-changing diagnosis
I think it’s fair to say, when those of us with lung cancer were initially diagnosed, it felt like a real sucker punch to the stomach. It took time to process the enormity of what we had thrust upon us. We may have even begun a journey through what has come to be known as the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
What I’ve found through conversation with other lung cancer patients is that sometimes people get stuck somewhere along the way, and it is important to note that the first four stages all have negative implications. Medical studies have shown that stress can actually increase the growth rate of cancer.1
So, what can we do to decrease the consequences stress might produce? After all, we still have cancer, and it’s still an enemy to be reckoned with. Let’s start with making a conscious effort each morning to name at least five things we are thankful for that day. Here are some ideas.
- Family members who care about us.
- The comforts of our home.
- The beauty of our natural surroundings.
- The knowledge and skill of our medical team.
- Great books or TV shows that let our imagination run free.
Now, let’s get back to the original clichés
What are some ways we can actually make them true in our circumstances, even though we may be scared, tired, unhappy and even angry at times? We can try to look at life in a different way. For me, and many whom I’ve spoken with, we found that after the initial shock of our cancer diagnosis wore off, we recognized that a new focus had entered our lives. We began to think about what is most important to us on a deep level. When life is in the balance, the little irritants and frustrations can become irrelevant. Desire to create a positive legacy and sharing time with those we love take precedence over other things in life that once seemed important, but now appear trivial in comparison. This can be our own silver lining. Making lemonade, you know.
And laughter…it does indeed have many health benefits.2 While it may not cure cancer, it can help reduce the stress and sadness that often go hand in hand with it, and it has been shown to increase people’s ability to endure pain. So, is laughter the best medicine? Well, let’s put it this way. It’s free, it’s easy and it’s socially acceptable. Why not try it?
Lung cancer is tough. In fact, it’s monster tough. That’s why we, as patients, can’t sit back and let it run roughshod over us. Even when we feel beaten down, there are always things we can do. Be tough fellow cancer warriors. Get going! Be grateful and not hateful.