I spent all of last week at what I affectionally call "Colon Camp." Part of my role with The Colon Club involves writing the bios of young colon cancer survivors who become models for The Colondar, a calendar featuring 12 men and women who've been diagnosed with colon cancer "way too young."
There's a portion of the experience that is exactly what you'd expect -- a photo shoot for a calendar. But every year, something magical inevitably happens. The week becomes so much more than a photo shoot. It becomes a critical piece to the emotional journey of cancer.
Fighting Cancer Emotionally
Over the past decade of survivorship, I've experienced a major shift in how healthcare practitioners handle, and sometimes treat, patients' emotions when it comes to cancer. A few years ago, I was only asked if I experienced pain, had fallen lately or was peeing OK. But nowadays, nurses tag on "How are you emotionally handling everything?" after their long list of questions.
I'll go ahead and be the first to admit that I've not quickly or readily addressed the emotional aspects of cancer. Sometimes I blame it on the fact I was a teenager when initially diagnosed -- I had other things on my mind.
But I've found that no matter what age you are, it will eventually hit you. Whether you're 17 or 77 -- facing your own mortality isn't easy. And it's quite the burden to carry on top of the "I feel sick from chemo" or the "I'm terrified my scan will come back showing something's wrong" days.
Finding Emotional Support
Despite the difficulty in confessing you're feeling sad, angry and mad (I mean, a survivor is strong!), intense emotional healing often lies on the other side of such acknowledgements.
I, by no means, am an expert when it comes to this -- as my counselor gently put it, I can become "emotionally unattached" quite easily. But after another opportunity to experience "Colon Camp" last week and recognizing how far I've come, I wanted to share some experiences that have helped me fight the emotional cancer battle.
Here are my top 10:
But I can always pull out a box of cards, gifts, emails and other encouragements that have come my way over the past 12 years that remind me to keep my head up, carry on the fight and remember I am loved.
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