Donna Pepin was diagnosed with ovarian cancer – a disease she knew very little about - at the age of 49.
She educated herself, underwent surgery and chemotherapy and a year later went into remission.
She went on to live a healthy and balanced life, assuming cancer was behind her. But in the summer of 2016 – 10 years later – she found out the cancer was back.
While she’s not happy about her situation, or the side effects that come with her medication, she’s managed to find acceptance.
“I accept that cancer is in control and I’m not in control … so I’m just focusing on my life right now and doing the best that I can,” Donna said. “If you fight against it and you live in fear, you’ll be in a high state of anxiety all the time.”
While it sounds simplistic, it took some time to get here.
In honour of World Health Day, Donna shares some advice on how to find acceptance:
When you’re first diagnosed with cancer, it’s hard not to feel frightened and alone. Seek out support groups and if you can – try to connect with someone who has survived (lives with) your particular disease. For example, I became a member of Gilda’s Club in Toronto.
You will find comfort and understanding with your peers. Fellow cancer patients can be a source of strength. They can help to alleviate your fears of the unknown, and you’ll feel less isolated.
Don’t try to learn every medical detail or worse-case scenario related to your disease. Don’t upset yourself by going online and obsessively reading everything you can find. (Ignorance can be bliss.) Only seek out information that is positive, helpful, and pertaining to you personally. Avoid the gory details, they will not help you.
When you feel well enough, it’s important to do things you associate with wellness. Challenging yourself with exercise will make you feel stronger mentally and physically. Just a short walk in fresh air can do wonders for your mental well-being. Did you have a fitness regime in the past? Try to return to it – even if it’s only for a few moments at a time. Seek out yoga classes for cancer patients.
Neuroscience has shown us that meditation has a positive effect on the part of the brain that controls fear and anxiety. Less anxiety and fear translates to less stress. Less stress opens our minds and hearts to more joy. Meditation has a calming effect, and can strengthen your interpersonal relationships.
Choose your attitude
Try to have faith. Believe in your medical team. Believe in your treatment. Believe in your body’s ability to heal – its capacity is extraordinary. Believe in those who love and support you. Be kind to yourself.
You must accept that there will be many things which are beyond your control. Come to terms with things as they are….this will be your path to healing.
Cancer is an extraordinary path which will lead you to your inner strength.
Cancer can be the gift of becoming the person you were meant to be.