Coping with Cancer

Trust me; some days are extremely tough to get through. No amount of distractions and consoling from Robin helps me. I had mentioned in my part-1 blog, and here again — chemo tests your mental strength. One goes through a range of emotions along with pain. Add to it the changing outer appearance– losing hair, rashes on the skin, etc. These make it very hard for the person dealing with cancer. One sees the changes in the external appearance and thinks that’s the hardest part. But the chemo internal side effects are most challenging to manage as a cancer patient. There is nothing much I can do about the pain other than dealing with it until the chemo cycle ends. The emotions and pain vary so much that it starts from one end of spectrum A and ends on spectrum B, not even on the same spectrum. 

Stop judging anyone for their looks. One shouldn’t take this added pressure in life for anything. Be confident of who you are; cancer cannot take that away from you. I am a firm believer and follower of this mantra. 

So how am I coping with it? The timing of the question couldn’t be more apt. I was invited for a fireside chat at work to discuss the topic — “Everything starts with us.” As I articulated in the session, here are the thoughts that came to mind. I believe many of us are born with many preconceived notions that hold us back. So a change in thinking requires effort. It has to be planted, fed, nurtured and given a lot of room to grow and blossom. Especially during life-changing situations, you must step up in your fight to comfort your family and friends just like they are doing it for you.

I realized that all along with my life, from an early age, I have followed these 3 B’sB’s diligently. The actions under each of them have changed with the circumstances.

Be in charge of your life, future, and decisions, whether right or wrong. I had to reorganize my life, offload, automate, and lean on my support systems. I have to selfishly focus only on myself after those teenage years to get better soon and live for my family for many more years.

Believe in yourself and that you alone hold the keys to your OWN success. No one owes anything to you. I increased my frequency of working out by biking every day to strengthen my body, distract my mind, and build an appetite. I started eating more protein to sustain a healthy body and digest the potent medications. I have hit more than 300 rides on my Peloton to date and try not to miss a day of my workout.

Becoming the change agent of your life with an open-minded outlook to navigate better. I increased my self-awareness to recognize how I reacted to the cancer treatment physically and emotionally. I became my advocate, coach, and cheerleader to see myself win the race. With family and friend support, I became my own change agent to take control of my life and push for the finish line.

I had to walk the talk for myself and my family. Was it easy? NO, was I scared? YES. I had to take charge of my situation with a new job, a raging pandemic, and now a new sickness with no precedence in terms of experience or knowledge. Proactively practicing what I believe in has helped me navigate the new job better, maintain an excellent work-life balance, and focus on my health. 

I continue to recognize my good and bad days and try my best to balance things out. Most Saturdays, I lie down the entire day and don’t feel like talking to anyone, as it has consistently been one of my worse days in the chemo cycle.

Learning to look within for that strength; we have it in there all the time.

  • I know resilience is one of my superpowers. It has gotten me out of some very challenging situations professionally and personally. Now, it’s helping me as part of my recovery process.
  • I never questioned why ME but wonder where all this came from and why now. Although I’m incredibly thankful that we caught it at the right time and believe the universe had everything lined up well for me for this diagnosis.
  • As a family, we are big into sports and believe strongly in winning, losing, and, more importantly, learning to bounce back. We are optimistic and confident about crossing this bump with some reorganization in our lives to better support and help each other.
  • Since diagnosis, I have not missed a single day of my workout on my Peloton. I get 20 minutes in on most days (4.5 miles), and on some days, when I have more energy, I manage to get 30 minutes. My mom has started to enjoy biking and uses the Peloton most days with me. We unconditionally love my mom’s determination and motivation at this age to keep it going. I am Binge_Biker inching closer to my 400th ride. @allymisslove @fixtkendall keeps me going on my tough days. #peloton
  • Most days, especially the week of chemo, I feel a truck has hit me or I have gotten beaten to a pulp. So waking up in the morning is a real challenge. The desire to live for my family, mental strength, and passion for work gets tested every morning. These three things push me to get out of bed every day.
  • I took a day off for my outpatient surgery to get the port inserted, but I have not taken a single day of leave from work. I take calls during my chemo sessions, and I do my emails the remaining time. During phase 1, after chemo, I wasn’t much functional after about 2–3 hours. So those days, I would wrap up my day early and lie on our couch. While everything depends on prioritization, goals, and time management, balancing it with my good and bad days is the key. I catch up on things during my good days and learning not to feel bad when I am not functional on my bad days.
  • Took a pixie haircut before shaving off, and this transition helped my children, primarily to deal with the situation better. I am not a wig person, and the beanie cap makes me look and feel like a cancerous person. Although I had short hair for many, many years, I was still obsessed with it and made sure to take a haircut every 45 days. So it was tough and emotional to shave everything away, but I decided not to overthink. My eyebrows, eyelashes, and arm hair is intact, but everything else is gone. I went ahead with the bald look, and the response has been highly encouraging, from strangers to family to friends and my work colleagues. Mainly, my kids- they think I am very cool in my new looks. I realized it is all in our minds when life puts us in challenging situations; our willpower and determination are the ones that help us to take the battle on — nothing else matters. I now join all my work meetings in the video, including customers and partners with my bald look. Kids and Robin have named my profile on the streaming platform — Baldie. Make hay while the sun shines 🙂
  • I have learned so far that there are so many things I can complain about in terms of pain, anxiety, emotions, fear of spreading, recurrence, having no taste, nausea, and many more. 

I complain about them periodically, but I am pursuing a goal — to be cancer-free by the end of the year, and I want to keep racing till I get there. I don’t want anything to stop me and take my energy away from chasing that goal. I intend to win against this cancer without it taking away my spirit.

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