Brain Cancer and Beyond, part 6

Post by Jamie Buchanan for the Kind Kindred series.

Cancer changes your life, often for the better. You learn what’s important, you learn to prioritize, and you learn not to waste your time. You tell people you love them…Gilda Radner used to say ‘If it wasn’t for the downside, cancer would be the best thing and everyone would want it.’ That’s true. If it wasn’t for the downside.
-Joel Siegel


Part 6: Role Shift

Click HERE for Part 1
Click HERE for Part 2
Click HERE for Part 3
Click HERE for Part 4
Click HERE for Part 5

In photographing trees one day in Boston, I observed wind blowing, hail falling intensely and leaves whirling around. I came to the stark realization that I am so much like nature – like the leaves on a tree, I am resilient. The leaves withheld the wind and storms like I have withheld the adversity in my young years of living. Each leaf managed to hang on for its life by a thread. Similarly, I have been thrown into a windy path of medical catastrophes, but like the leaf, overcoming challenges has required persistence, lots of patience and the willpower to hang on. It is perfectly normal and okay to fall down sometimes; we all do. I have learned that the hardest part of overcoming challenges is getting back up on your two feet again.

said acceptance was easy. It requires finding new solutions, maneuvering ones’ way thru the world to find concrete answers and ultimately letting go of one’s past, which is in a sense facing grief. I, for one, know what this feels like. I have endured many of the stages of grief and loss in a more symbolic way. I lost my self, my individuality, my health and my friends. I tripled my weight, I lost half of my hearing in both ears, I have learning disabilities, I suffer hypothyroidism, had a gastric bypass surgery in 2011, and another tumor in my head in 2012. Overcoming challenges, both large and small, traumatic and trivial, requires acceptance and persistence. The practice of mindfulness techniques has helped me in times when I am extremely worried about the fear, uncertainty and unpredictably of my future and my medical conditions. I practice deep breathing in cohesion with aromatherapy and it seems to erase most of my troubles. Sometimes we all need to stop, sit down, and breathe, in order to make a decision and reach acceptance. The next time you are feeling overwhelmed, I encourage you to just simply breathe from your diaphragm.

Although these conditions are nerve-wracking, it can be believed that one’s difficulties have meaning and purpose. I have always been a firm believer in hope for overcoming challenges. I have believed that without hope, there simply is no hope, and that hope resides in the realm of possibility and change. Thus a crisis, like my illness, has been very purposeful in allowing me to expand in ways I never would have before, and it can do the same for you.

Don’t get me wrong. There are some days when I just feel like giving up because I am so tired of being rejected by loved ones and disbelieved by doctors. There are those days when I feel like I was cheated in life because I never went to “prom,” or went to “real classes” in high school, and I will never be able to have children. My feelings seem to be common:

“One universal thing that cancer survivors go through is isolation…for

cancer patients, isolation isn’t just a few bad moments in their lives.

Isolation is forced upon them by their treatment and can last months.

And it’s very real; not merely a feeling of being set apart that can be

medicated away. Because of their treatment, because their appearance

is often slightly altered, because they often miss lots of school, cancer

patients often end up spending time with a limited group of supporters.”

(Rubenstein, p 250).

Similarly, although I devoted the time, effort, energy and money to get an education; I feel that it has amounted to nothing because I am disabled and unable to work. My so-called friends betrayed me in ways I will never quite understand. I have spent years trying to understand these questions and situations. But I have learned to use positive thinking to ease the isolation, loneliness, frustration and anger of my illness and all of these missed opportunities. Since I know that my situation could be worse, it has actually helped me look to the present and understand that despite my conditions, I am in far better circumstances than I was nine years ago.

I am a passionate optimist committed to helping others improve themselves. 
I have been tested to my core and have overcome against all the odds. 
I will be a beacon, an activist, and an advocate for those who feel they cannot do it for themselves.



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