During a time when you probably are preoccupied with appointments, symptoms, lifestyle changes and tough decisions, I pose a vital question: What is truly important to you right now? Of course, regaining health is usually a top priority. Yet we must be mindful of our spiritual and mental health as well physical. What are those things or people who get us through the tough times on a daily basis? We may need to step back and examine what was important to us before diagnosis to get a clearer picture of where our focus should be now.
When I was first diagnosed, I met with a patient navigator at the cancer center. She gave me a binder with some helpful forms to list all of my doctors, sheets to take notes at my appointments, and a place for diagnostic and lab results and other helpful information. I personalized this and added calendar pages as well.
As I recently culled through this notebook, I found the calendar which I used to organize my many appointments and treatments during 2013. I wrote other pertinent information there as well, noting my activity and how I felt each day. This was important to, not only establish a pattern of symptoms and energy lows during treatment but to see what activities I actually was able to continue and to what degree.
I realized during that time that I simply did not have the brain power or energy to dwell on things that were insignificant. Facing the reality of disease forces us to sift everything through a finer sieve. On my lowest ebb on the chemo cycle, I would tell myself I could do just three things that day. Guess what…emptying a dishwasher was NOT one of them (Okay, maybe I did get one load of laundry done just to satisfy my need for some sense of order!). I focused on things that would give me some energy or joy — even a short walk around the block can make a big difference.
What is important for all of us, wherever we are in this journey, is to honestly assess those things that are truly meaningful to us — the relationships we value, the activities we want to continue to whatever degree we are able and the peace to be felt within. Sure, we still want to get to those daily tasks that seem to call us, but we are better able to tackle those later if we are caring for ourselves today in the best possible way.
Here are a few practical tips to help you maintain a focus on the important things at any stage in life:
- Simplify your life as much as possible. There really are things that do not need to be done right now.
2. Accept help. There are probably many who have offered their assistance. Friends want to help and this is not the time to play martyr! I was resistant at first when my friends wanted to organize a meal train for me. I then realized that they truly wanted to help in a practical way AND my family wanted to eat well.
3. Consider doing things you may have put off because other things seemed more urgent. Maybe it is organizing the photo album, doing a craft you enjoy or catching up on a TV series.
4. Journalling is a good way to sort your thoughts and no one else has to see them. Honesty will emerge from those pages.
5. Be mindful each day of instances of gratitude. A friend gave me a blessing jar right before I was diagnosed. I gathered seashells and wrote words or phrases to signify what I was grateful for. It was very helpful in allowing me to be more positive each day.
6. Dig deeper into your faith. That is where I am reminded that my joy is not based on circumstances but in my relationship with God.
Take a little time for yourself and explore those meaningful ways that can bring more joy to your life. Please feel free to reach out if I can help you clarify these areas of importance.