Cancer thrivers are faced with decisions all of the time.
These choices are varied and range from small day-to-day choices to bigger decisions that require a little more thought.
Nonetheless, each and every decision one has to make as a cancer thriver is of importance since—you guessed it—it can have an impact on your survival!
For me, one of the major decisions I was required to make was when I faced my recurrence.
The radiologist and my hematologist, whom I was meeting with to discuss possible treatment options, each explained to me that I had two options.
The first option was to go through a stem cell transplant.
The second one was to complete a month of radiation.
As I asked questions to my health care team, I learned more about both options.
Each option had its medical benefits.
Stem cell transplants were, on average, way more successful in cases like mine.
Radiation, on the other hand, was to be easier on my body and on my mind.
Each option also had its medical downside.
Stem cell transplants were going to be very difficult on my being.
Radiation only had a 50/50 chance of getting rid of the cancer that lived in my body.
Moreover, each option was also going to have an incredible impact on my life.
For me, this was the most important aspect to consider.
What could keep me in school?
What could keep me at work?
What would give me the best quality of life?
What would keep me able to be social? What would keep me independent?
And what would allow me to go back to 'normal' life as soon as possible after the treatments were completed?
In the end, I chose to complete the 20 sessions of radiation.
I believe that this was the best choice for me.
I was comfortable and confident it was the best option for me at the time. Thankfully, it worked.
But even if it would have failed and a stem cell transplant would have been necessary, I knew that the peace of mind that came with knowing I had exhausted all other options prior to the transplant was worth it.
This choice ended up being a huge one in the grand scheme of things.
Other decisions I have made have had various degrees of impact on my life.
Other decisions I took included becoming vegetarian for the health benefits that are associated with this kind of food, continuing my university education during chemotherapy treatments and living on my own, a mere two weeks after my last treatments.
All these decisions, as well as countless others I took as a cancer thriver, were difficult to make.
What made it even more difficult was the controversy that they started. Many, if not all of the decisions I took had alternatives as well as benefits and downsides to them.
Still, someone had to make the decision.
I, as the cancer thriver, was best positioned to make such choices as everyone’s cancer experience is so different. Especially when we come to consider the psychological hardships associated with cancer, only the individual living with cancer can truly understand the consequences that a choice can have on their lives.
I guess, what I am trying to demonstrate is that cancer forces individuals to come face to face with treatment options and care decisions that they must choose from.
This may cause acute stress to cancer thrivers. Feelings of self-doubt (did I choose the right treatment for me?), blame (am I doing everything in my power to live the healthiest life I can live?) and guilt (am I doing enough?) are also associated with this stress.
How do you avoid the stress that follows choosing cancer treatments and care options?
Be confident in your choices
Making cancer treatment-related decisions is not something that, as a cancer thriver, you take lightly.
Chances are, you have done your research and have considered the benefits and downsides of all of your options.
You must now be comfortable enough with your decision to be confident that it is the right choice for you.
This isn’t easy.
Nonetheless, learning this skill can have a positive impact on your life by decreasing the stress associated with having possibly made the “wrong” decision.
Ask and accept others' opinions only when you need them
I found it extremely difficult to make decisions related to anything treatment or care during my cancer experience because my own mind had too many opinions.
Asking others for general opinions and information therefore became overwhelming very quickly.
That doesn’t mean that you don’t turn to others for help and support. You must simply keep in mind that boundaries can be put in place for off limit topics and specific questions can be asked to keep the conversation productive.
Your values, beliefs and goals must be driving every decision that you take in regards to your care and treatment plan as a cancer thriver.
This means that you are the only person who can make the right choice for you.
Now, you must believe in the ‘you’ that will find the answers.
Evaluate your decisions
As the cancer thriver, you run the show. You are the most in control of your health.
This means that evaluating the decisions you have made and are making can keep you on the right track.
But remember, evaluations like these can only be done periodically to ensure that you are gauging your situations and not second guessing yourself.