Adjusting to life after cancer is not simple. It can be stressful, frustrating, and isolating. Undergoing cancer treatment is grueling, so it’s understandable why many survivors feel like a different person coming out of it. Going through such an intense and unexpected life event can make you rethink who you are and who you want to be. It’s a lot.
Hopelab has been talking with young survivors, medical experts, and researchers to better understand the challenges of life after cancer and find ways to help (even just a little).
With her optimistic and spunky personality, Vivibot can help you generate a positive outlook on your future. Vivibot was designed to help cancer survivors learn helpful coping skills and hear stories from other survivors after treatment.
Here’s what some survivors are saying about Vivibot:
“I liked expressing myself to something non-judgemental, who could also talk back to me in kind words.” – Jennifer
“Many times we need to tell our story and frustrations without feeling guilty for shaving it we like to rant without thinking how it will impact the others” – Guadalupe
“I feel better and more positive after the demo.”- Jesse
“It made me recall/relive positive moments from the week and made me feel lifted.” – Maggie
Until very recently, I didn’t realize there were different types of meditation. I love my subscription to Headspace but I didn’t realize that their guided meditations are only one type of the many varieties to try!
When I was a kid, I used to read anything I could get my hands on, whether it was suitable for my age or not! I just loved reading and my mother would often find me tucked away in a corner with a book. My room had 3 bookcases and even that wasn’t enough to hold all of my books!
But when I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at the age of 14, I stopped reading. Just stopped completely.
Obviously, the shock of my diagnosis had a massive impact and I just didn’t feel like picking up a book at all. I listened to music and read magazines about celebrities, travel, and real life. Things that didn’t require much thought.
I really missed reading a good story, getting involved with the characters lives, and becoming engrossed within the plot. It was strange for me because books had always been my escape into another world and suddenly, there was only my life to concentrate on.
Thankfully, all of that changed about two thirds of the way through my treatment.
Someone, just by chance, had left a copy of The House at Riverton by Kate Morton in the hospital kitchen. I’d never read the book but I’d talked to a friend at school about it a few months earlier and she’d said how brilliant it was. The House at Riverton is quite a chunky book so I wasn’t sure whether I’d be up for reading it or not. Plus I wasn’t even sure who the copy belonged to!
My mother suggested that I take it back to my room and just give it a go. So, after trying and failing to locate the owner of the book, I told a nurse that I had it and if anyone was looking for it, to come and find me. Like a gangster.
As soon as I got back to my bed, I climbed in (with a bit of help!) and started reading.
I didn’t stop for a week! Seriously, if you’re looking for a book to read while you’ve got chemo brain, The House at Riverton is the one!
Like all of Morton’s books, it’s set between two time periods and it tells the story of an aristocratic family in 1920’s England from the perspective of an ex-housemaid who is now in her 90s. A film crew want to make a movie about the tragic events that unfolded at the family home and Grace, the housemaid, holds the answers to many of their questions.
It’s a gripping book that you haunts you for a long time after you’ve put it down and it has many twists and turns that keep you enthralled.
While I was reading, I was in a country house in England and not in a hospital bed, hooked up to chemo. The book took me away from everything around me and I finally realized what I had been missing by not reading books.
After I finished The House at Riverton, I made a note of Kate Morton’s name and now I’ve read all of her novels! They are written in such a compelling way that I just devour them. Reading that first book – that I did return to the kitchen, by the way! – made me want to read all the other books that I’d pushed aside and from then on, I went back to doing what I love – reading.
For an hour a day, I wasn’t a kid with cancer stuck in a hospital bed. I was a ballerina in London, I was getting off the train at Hogwarts, I was soaring above Neverland.
I love to write and create my own worlds but books are definitely the next best escape.
This post was lost in our drafts and written over a year ago, while I was getting ready to move from Central Illinois to California. I stumbled across it while taking care of some of our website backend and thought I’d share it…even outdated as it is (I’m completely situated in California now…goodness moving is tough).
I am moving soon. By soon, I mean VERY soon. While I’ll definitely go into more details later this summer, suffice it to say that I have a lot on my plate this week. The plan was to pack and work until I dropped, get the house ready (and dog proofed) for someone to stay in it and watch the pups, go on vacation, and then get back this week and pack until the move.
Well I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off, I packed and worked, the house was cleaned and straightened, I went on an awesome vacation, and now I’m back home….with a full blown sinus infection AND pink eye. (Seriously though, who gets pink eye at 29 years old?!)
I am experiencing my last chunk of time in a community where I have lived for almost 11 years, trying to say goodbye to dear people, and lovingly pack up the rest of my belongings… and instead of being able to do this on my own terms, I am on antibiotics, contagious, and not feeling very well. This lack of control over my health and my environment makes me frustrated and frantic. I can feel the rest of my stuff vibrating behind the closet doors, screaming to be packed into nicely rectangular boxes.
Don’t you love plans? As a young adult cancer survivor, I can tell you that plans are just beautifully drawn outlines of what we’d like to happen in a perfect world. But you know what? This world isn’t perfect. So, I’ll level with you. My sinus infection and even my pink eye are not cancer’s fault. So much else in my life feels like cancer’s fault that I often jumble it all together into a look-what-cancer-stole petting zoo of sorts.
There, at the petting zoo, I can arrange all of the things that cancer stole and took and bribed away and pinched and squandered, while I stare in amazement at the whole of my life and it’s possibilities, both lost and intact.
I want to enjoy my last moments in this wonderful home of mine. I want to do it on my own terms and in my own time. And I most assuredly want to do it without my head throbbing and my eyeballs being contagious.
That is what the cancer stole petting zoo evokes in me. This melodramatic approach to living where every second counts and yet this strong need to understand the purpose of the second pushes forward. While I can wish I were healthier at this exact moment and sit here feeling pitiful, the seconds of my time in Central Illinois tick by. While my pulsing sinuses keep the boxes from being packed, I have a choice. Even with the look-what-cancer-stole petting zoo looming from the distance, I can realize that this moment is mine to do with as I wish. While reality gets it’s awful chance to climb on into the boat, I can assess the situation and choose to take care of myself. I can realize that cancer was here, and has a presence at the table (as does my sinus infection and my pink eye), but that my heart and self-care also have a place set. So, with compassion and care, I will move forward into this week of packing and add dashes of love and self-care along the way.
How do you add self-care into your stressful moments, either cancer or non-cancer related?
I recently ran across this article, written by a young woman who suffers from chronic illness. Many young adult cancer survivors are left with lasting side effects from their cancer and the treatments involved, including chronic illnesses. Hiding behind a veil of sickness can sometimes seem easier than attempting to live a full and happy life though, as people start to ask questions when “so many” “carefree” photos of you show up on social media. How is it, in a time when everyone and their mother is on social media posting the happiest photos of their days, we can still forget that there is more to life? There is pain, and sadness, and loneliness, and worry that we often hide from the world of social media.
“Someone’s ignorance and unkind judgments had made me feel guilty about enjoying my life to the best of my ability…”
Ever struggled with self-care or even deciding what you needed in a given moment? Well now there is a website, just for that. This interactive self-care guide asks you a series of questions, even offering you time to work through suggestions based on your responses, helping you to take steps towards greater self-awareness and self-care.
The prompts invite you to take steps to assess your own state of being and to make any necessary adjustments to improve it.
Try the self-care guide out! Let us know what you think!
It was recently Valentine’s Day and while the day is meant to share love with others, I also think it’s a great time to remember to love yourself.
When I first started going on dates and had my first relationship (which wasn’t until sophomore year of college), I was incredibly nervous. Not only was I late in the game compared to many of my peers, but I was also incredibly self-conscious. Sure, I had the same questions running through my head that most girls consider – does he really like me, does he think I’m pretty, will he ask me out again? But, the nerves really came from the fact that I simultaneously contended with some more serious questions, ones that most girls don’t have to worry about – is he going to be grossed out if he sees my scars, does seeing my scars mean I should tell him I had cancer twice, and what should I do about the stretch marks (caused by all the steroids I took during treatment) that cover my lower abdomen and lower back?
Before I knew it, the normal questions had spiraled into this realization that I found fault with my body for things that could not be changed. I had not accepted those parts of me, so how could I expect someone else to?
Often, we think only of body image in relation to cancer treatment, considering how the impact of hair loss, weight gain, weight loss, surgery, etc. can all take a toll on the body. However, I think body image is equally as challenging after cancer treatment, when the rest of your life is back to “normal” but your body doesn’t catch up and is not what it once was. To some extent, you can work to restore your body’s health by eating well and exercising regularly. But, there are often things that you can’t do anything about.
How can you learn to accept those things you can’t change? I’ve learned that a lot of it has to do with perspective. You don’t have to think of scars, stretch marks, etc. as faults. Rather, think of those things as strengths. They are signs that your body got through things most other bodies don’t have to do. Find empowerment in them. I found this change in perspective gave me a big self-confidence boost and enabled me to view myself in a much more positive way. Maybe it can do the same for you 🙂
How do you conquer self-love and self-image? How have you dealt with body image after cancer?
Clarissa Schilstra is a two-time cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia for the first time when she was two and a half years old. She went through two and a half years of chemotherapy and survived. She led a happy and healthy life until June of 2007, when her cancer relapsed. So, she went through another two and a half years of chemotherapy, this time accompanied by radiation. She is now twenty-one years old and a senior at Duke University. Her passion is helping others cope with the ups and downs of life during and after cancer treatment. It is her goal to become a clinical psychologist after she graduates from Duke, and she would like to help improve the psychological care available to adolescents and young adults who have serious illnesses. You can read more about Clarissa on her website and blog at www.teen-cancer.com. You can also find her book, Riding the Cancer Coaster: Survival Guide for Teens, on Amazon.
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Welcome to our new series of easy self-care tips! If you have an easy self-care tip that works for you, share with us!
Easy Self-Care Tip #6:
Take a deep breath today, every time you find yourself becoming anxious or stressed.
Taking a second to yourself, to breathe deeply, helps you disconnect from the stressful situation at hand. You give yourself a few extra seconds to contemplate and readjust before diving back in. Whether you’re about to call your insurance company, stressed by a badly behaving friend, caring for a fast-moving child, you name it, closing your eyes and taking a deep breath can make all the difference.
Welcome to our series of easy self-care tips! If you have an easy self-care tip that works for you, share with us!
Easy Self-Care Tip #5:
Move somewhere today.
Allowing your body the exercise and movement that it needs to stay healthy and to work off your stress and worries is crucial to self-care. Try taking a brisk walk instead of the bus. Put on a yoga video (so many of them are free on youtube!) for 20 minutes before you slouch on the couch for the rest of the evening. Meet a friend out for a bike ride or at an exercise class. There are so many options to get yourself moving today.
Welcome to our new series of easy self-care tips! If you have an easy self-care tip that works for you, share with us!
Easy Self-Care Tip #4:
Take a mental holiday.
Daylight savings has ended and the clocks have moved back 1 hour. For me, that is as good an excuse as any to take a mental holiday. Take today and do something nice for yourself!
I like to pick days every once in a while for a mental holiday. I work on exactly what I want and nothing more. I relax in between some loads of laundry. I cuddle with my two pups. I basically do exactly what my body is calling for. Bank holidays are great excuses to take a mental holiday. What to do though when a bank holiday is no where in sight? Invent your own 🙂
Do you take a mental holiday from time to time? What will you do for yourself today?