“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
~Hebrews 6:19a (NIV)
As my cousin pointed out on her husband's blog, "Sometimes we sugar-coat what is really going on in our lives - those of us with cancer." She is correct, sometimes we do. It is not always easy to face the daily realities of our future when cancer is always at the forefront of our minds. We often do not realize how it affects, not just ourselves, but all those that we love. I found this Hospice web site that has put into words some of my true feelings. I did not copy all of it just those parts that spoke to me.
Acknowledge You Are Dying
Acknowledging you are dying is the first step to living the rest of your life. If the onset of your illness was sudden or unexpected, you will likely feel shock and numbness at first. This is a natural and necessary response to painful news.
You can only cope with this new reality in doses. You will first come to understand it with your head, and only over time will you come to understand it with your heart.
To acknowledge you are dying is to let go of the future. It is to live only in the present. There is no easy way to do this, and you will probably struggle with this task every day until you die. Know that if you work at acknowledging the reality of your coming death, however, instead of denying it, you will open your heart and mind to the possibility of a new, rich way of living.
Accept Your Response to the Illness
Each person responds to news of terminal illness in his or her unique way. You, too, will have your own response, be it fear, excitement, anger, loss, grief, denial, hope or any combination of emotions.
Becoming aware of how you respond right now is to discover how you will live with your terminal illness. Don’t let others prescribe how you feel; find people who encourage you to teach them how you feel. After all, there is no right or wrong way for you to think and feel.
Respect Your Own Need For Talk, For Silence
You may find that you don’t want to talk about your illness at all. Or you may find that you want to talk about it with some people, but not with others. In general, open and honest communications is a good idea. When you make your thoughts and feelings known, you are more likely to receive the kind of care and companionship you feel will be most helpful to you.
But if you don’t want to talk about your illness, don’t force yourself. Perhaps you will be able to open up more later on, after you have lived with the reality of your illness for a time.
Be an Active Participant in Your Medical Care
Many people are taught as “patients” to be passive recipients of the care provided by medical experts. But don’t forget this - this is your body; your life. Don’t fail to ask questions that are important to your emotional and physical well-being out of fear that you will be “taking up someone’s time.”
Learn about your illness. Visit your local library and consult the medical reference books. Request information from educational associations, such as the National Cancer Institute or the American Heart Association. Ask your doctor, nurses and other caregivers whenever you have a question.
If you educate yourself about the illness and its probable course, you will better understand what is happening to you. You will be better equipped to advocate for personalized, compassionate care. You may not be in control of your illness, but you can and should be in control of your care.
Be Tolerant of Your Physical and Emotional Limits
Your illness will almost surely leave you feeling fatigued. Your ability to think clearly and make decisions may be impaired. And your low energy level may naturally slow you down. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Nurture yourself. Get enough rest. Eat balanced meals. Lighten your schedule as much as possible.