The Elephant in the Room is Cancer. Tea is the Relief Conversation Provides.

Choose Happiness

by Carrie TSurvivor, Endometrial CancerOctober 2, 2023View more posts from Carrie T

Don’t get me wrong, cancer is f’in hard and filled with ups and downs. It’s a really crappy rollercoaster that we don’t want to ride but were forced to ride. In order to maintain a bit of sanity, I needed to find ways to prioritize myself and focus on self-care and self love. Nowadays, some people ask me, “Carrie, how do you do it? How do you keep a positive attitude?” Trust me; it takes A LOT of work and dedication. When my endometrial cancer came back and spread into my lungs, I was on leave and had a lot of time to think. I thought to myself, “Why did I let work consume and drain me for so many years when at the end of the day it’s not worth it? Why am I doing this to myself?” I decided that life is not all about work. Having a disability, like cancer, sometimes gives us a unique opportunity to choose happiness, and in my case, it did. I chose ME and MY happiness.

Whenever I go to see any doctors or medical professionals, I get a serious case of white-coat syndrome. My heart rate increases and my blood pressure rises to alarming rates. It’s the worst when I go in to see my oncologist and go into the infusion center. The memories of getting my two diagnoses still rush over me. There were a couple of times when they didn’t want to discharge me until my blood pressure went down to a “normal” rate. Therefore I needed to calm myself down a bit. If I don’t have any tools at my disposal, I choose to practice mindful breathing and meditation. I do the 4-7-8 breathing technique: breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, and breathe out for 8 seconds. It’s also helpful to tell myself that I’m breathing in when I am breathing in and breathing out when I am breathing out.

Sometimes, I picture myself walking in a bamboo forest or a Japanese tea garden, since these are my happy places. I love the guided imagery meditation called, “My Secret Garden,” where I visualize walking through my own little private Japanese tea garden. Then, I picture myself turning into a statue within the garden, usually next to a small waterfall. I LOVE waterfalls. Then, I take in all the sights, sounds, smells, and nature around me. Physically walking in a real garden is a major plus for me. Whenever I got a chance, I would walk with my husband to the Japanese tea garden near our house. And yes, there is a waterfall and statue there, just in case you were wondering.

After I got my recurrence and metastasis diagnosis, one of my best friends got me the “3 Minute Positivity Journal.” At first, it was hard for me to gain momentum on writing since I have never been much of a writer. Then once I got rolling, I loved it! The journal has daily morning and evening pages. I have to write down three things that I am grateful for, three affirmations, my goals for the day on the morning page, and my accomplishments at the end of the day on the evening page. It also has me tracking the number of cups of water I drink in a day. This journal really changed my mindset and put me in a better mood. When I look at the list of accomplishments, it gives me a better sense of fulfillment. Also, since the journal isn’t automatically dated, I can skip some days if I want to without feeling guilty about it.

I also take virtual yoga, qigong, taichi, and meditation classes. As a survivor who has metastasis in my lungs and nodules that may never go away, I crave exercises that help me move with my breath. As I’m practicing, I visualize breathing in the clean golden air and sparkling energy and breathing out the dull crap and cancer that’s in my body, letting it drain deep into the earth far far away. After my practice, I always feel much lighter and more refreshed.

Arts and crafts is a welcomed escape from reality, and gifting crafts is also my way of giving back to some of my friends for showing me love. Working with my hands helped with my neuropathy during treatment and continues to help post-chemo. Being creative keeps my mind sharp and gives me a sense of accomplishment when I finish a project. I love how there are so many YouTube videos out there to teach me things like how to crochet a bulldog, make a colorful bowl out of old magazines, and make friendship bracelets with Morse code messages.

Another major contributor to my happiness is my strong support system. My husband has always been my rock and my hero. He’s been with me throughout all my treatments, pushed the button when I got an allergic reaction to one of my pre-meds during chemo, took care of the chores, and dealt with my occasional mood swings. I can’t thank him enough. I also have friends who are my cheerleaders and I am very fortunate to have them on my team. My friends are my therapy.

Through my participation with various support groups and Young Adult (YA) activities, I have met an amazing group of survivors and made some lifelong friends. I felt like I was welcomed with open arms and even though our journeys are different in some ways, we just get it and can relate to each other. This gave me a sense of connection and community, which made my path less lonely. With the power of technology, I’m glad that it gave me the ability to meet folks in the cancer community who are located throughout the country and even throughout the world. As strange as it sounds, I feel that experiencing cancer has broken down certain barriers, culturally and socially, and brought us closer together.

I have a strong belief that the mind and body work in mysterious ways to fight cancer. Everything that I do for my mind and body helps keep my cancer at bay and compliments the conventional treatment that I am getting. I want to continue trying different things and find more things that work for me and would like to encourage other survivors to find things that work for their minds and bodies as well.

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