Choose to Look on the Bright Side

“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.” –Willie Nelson

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With the arrival of some good news, comes a bit of reflection on this whole cancer process so far. One thing I’ve been meaning to expand on further is that throughout this journey I haven’t really felt sick. That’s not to say that I haven’t had ANY side effects from the treatment, because I have, but even those have been relatively mild by comparison to other people I have spoken with and researched who have undergone treatments for cancer.

I know I have a lot to me thankful for, and that even sounds strange to ME, considering that I HAVE CANCER. Each time a nurse arrives in my little chemo-cubicle, (where I receive my treatments) to change out one of my chemo medications, or check my blood pressure, or insert the very large needle that goes into the chemo-port in my chest under my skin, I find myself thanking them before they leave to move on to their next patient. And each time, I snicker in my head over how ridiculous that actually sounds. Thank you for stabbing me with a gigantic thumb-tac-looking needle in my chest that throbs with pain the entire time I sit here for treatment. Thank you for coming in every 30 minutes to put that uncomfortable blood pressure cuff on, when I might’ve JUST started to doze off into a nap that I’ll NEVER get at home. Thank you for effectively poisoning my body with these chemotherapy drugs that make me feel cruddy. But I DO thank them, and I truly AM thankful. These nurses come to work every shift and do these awful things to their patients, all with the hope that it will cure them. We know it’s all part of the healing process; the nurses do too, but it still sucks, and it has to suck for them as well.

These dedicated nurses have to stop whatever THEY are doing every 30 minutes for EACH patient to come check vitals and make sure that their patients are doing okay. They have to jab that needle into port after port, or insert an IV into their patient’s arm day after day, all while knowing that it’s just another thing making this poor cancer patient uncomfortable on top of everything else they are going through. And what has GOT to be the very worst part for them: receiving the news that they no longer HAVE a specific patient to treat, because the reality of cancer is that not everybody survives it. But that won’t be ME. I am SO incredibly thankful to these nurses.

I am SO incredibly thankful to my new oncologist, who discovered that my previous oncologist hadn’t been giving me the full 5-points of treatment, which I should have been receiving all along for my kind of cancer, before my scheduled 6 cycles of treatment were completed. That was a set-back, sure, but it could have been worse. And for that I am grateful. I had intended to post this blog before Thanksgiving, considering the subject matter, go figure it’s now after the NEW YEAR before I finally have been able to do so…But hey, I am also a firm believer that we should count our blessings all year long, not just during a specific time of the year. It’s actually one of the main reasons I’m not the biggest fan of Thanksgiving and never really have been, if I’m being honest. I don’t need a holiday or designated time of year to remind me of the many, many things in my life that I have to be grateful for. Though I do always enjoy ANY reason to get together to celebrate those things with loved ones! In any case, this is being posted long after Thanksgiving, but it is still being written with a heart filled with gratitude and thanks-giving.

Which brings me back around to where I began, I know I have SO much to be thankful for. I could look back at all that has happened to me over the past (almost) 6 months and be bitter, but how does that help ANYONE in this scenario? Does it suck for ANYONE to be diagnosed with cancer? Yes. Does it suck harder for those with SO much to lose, should the worst happen? Possibly, but far be it for me to judge when this type of scenario should be considered “worse” for one person more than another. I can say this without a doubt though: Being diagnosed with cancer as a mother of 4 children, one of whom was born within days prior to finding an almost 10cm cancerous mass, aggressively growing around my heart in a non-operable location was NOT ideal. I could’ve wailed and shouted to the rooftops about how UNFAIR this all is, and I would’ve been justified in doing so, but that’s simply NOT who I am. There is no wrong way to cope with this sort of life-altering news, and I’ve discovered through this journey that my way of coping tends to be in two major ways: One, is that I find that reassuring and comforting other people about my situation is what comforts MYSELF the most.

When I was first diagnosed with this MASShole, it wasn’t until my mother arrived and I could tell how much it was upsetting her, that I was able to unplug my focus on myself and zero-in on comforting her, which, in turn comforted me. I wrote in a previous post about it, saying, “hearing her (my mom) getting choked–up allowed me to focus outside of myself, which is really what I needed at the time. I didn’t want to see my mom cry.” Since those first hours knowing about this invader from within, I have been asked by family, friends, loved ones, and strangers how I’m doing. And each time I answer, always with the intent to reassure and comfort them, I feel better. I don’t want people to worry about me, I never have. And while sometimes I may not be feeling QUITE as great as I try to convince everyone, I always feel BETTER after telling them how good I’m doing. “Fake it until you make it.”

The second coping mechanism for me has been something that has just come naturally to me: putting a positive spin on each and every single thing I can think of. If you’re going through this kind of battle, or someone you love is going through it, you’re going to feel a mix of negative emotions ranging from anger, fear, bitterness, frustration, etc. And this isn’t me telling you NOT to feel those things. Feel whatever you need to feel, but don’t stay there. Let yourself feel those emotions, and then try to find the positive spin to it, because there is ALWAYS something positive you can find in every situation. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. Just find SOMETHING. I guarantee it will help you in the long run.

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Focus on what you, or the person you love who is going through this, has to fight for. Because it is a fight; it’s a battle. But the struggles will make victory over cancer THAT much better. Remember that there is NO inspiring story that ended with the words, “giving up”. So celebrate the small victories! Less nausea after another round of chemo this time? That’s a WIN! Scan results show the cancer is getting smaller, even if only by a little? That’s a WIN! Stuck sitting in a chair for 8+ hours receiving treatment…but you have an amazing nurse, or a family member or friend stops by for a visit? That’s a WIN! Focus on the good my friends; it helps!! Have a grateful heart, because that in and of itself is healing. Until next time my friends…thank you for #FightingWithNikki. You are ALL #NikkiStrong.

XoXo-Nikki

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