Editor’s Note: According to 2009 data from the Kentucky Department for Public Health, malignant neoplasms (cancer) are the leading cause of death in Franklin County. While there are many emotions that a person might experience with a new cancer diagnosis, there is research to show that having a positive attitude and strong support system can lead to good things. Some of the benefits include a better mood, increased happiness and the commitment of a patient to endure the rigors of mainstream medical treatment. Franklin County Health Department social worker Shannan Rome shares her personal journey and uplifting cancer story. For more information contact the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 to find out about sources of support.
I was walking down a path in the woods and stepped off a cliff.
That’s what it felt like in mid-December when my doctor called with a surprise lymphoma diagnosis after an unrelated medical test revealed a tumor. I have always been healthy and had no symptoms, so I was completely unprepared for this type of news. However, even though I have only been a cancer patient for a few weeks, I have already learned some valuable lessons.
There are three cancer wisdom nuggets I would like to share.
First and foremost, don’t go it alone. You are not an island; especially don’t be Cancer Island where the weather is terrible! Your friends and family want to help and feel useful when they can do something practical for you. Take the time to come up with a list of things that you may not be able to do and things that would comfort you, such as walk the dog, take the kids to the movies, cook a meal and say a prayer. These things relieve a burden and make your loved ones feel good too.
The outpouring of support we have received renews my faith in the basic goodness of people. When I fell off the cliff, I didn’t crash to the ground. Instead, I was caught in the arms of all my friends and family and even some people I don’t know that well. It has been a tremendous comfort and something I will always hold in my heart. (Also, if possible, try to have an incredible spouse in place – mine is made of pure gold.)
The second crucial detail is finding a doctor you love. I was lucky enough to be referred to a physician I like to call “Dr. Awesome” at Norton Cancer Institute. He is the perfect blend of a capable, confident medical professional and a caring human being, who says I am precious, holds my hand and makes me laugh.
You definitely want to go for “warm, fuzzy” in the oncology department and find someone you can trust. My doctor makes me feel like he is driving me in a military-style Humvee through a really bad storm. The storm is scary, but he is there to guide me through it.
Third, flood this stupid disease with positive energy. Many people have told me how much attitude means when dealing with a health crisis and I am a believer. Of course, I have my dark moments, but when I start to slip into despair, I pull back up and remind myself that I am strong, I have powerful medicine that will heal me and I can handle all of the hard parts along the way.
Basically, I am motivated, bound and determined to push through to the other side of this and come out a stronger person for it. Lots of people have cancer and they beat it to a pulp. I am going to be one of those people. Beat cancer. Find a cure. Never give up.