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The calm before the storm: 15 steps after a cancer diagnosis.

Author: Aideé Granados

April, 2016

Where to start? If you receive a positive diagnosis for cancer, or any other serious chronic disease, chances are you feel overwhelmed and not knowing where to start walking.

The days surrounding a diagnosis are days of tortuous waiting: to make medical appointments; to do studies and images; to obtain authorizations with health insurance; to organize help at home, etc.

The other day I went through the journal I made during my treatment to cure cancer. The title I gave to my first entry caught my attention: "The Deep Breath Before the Plunge ..." "The Calm that Precedes the Tempest." Wow! This described how I felt in those moments, just after receiving the news that I "had cancer."

Only Tolkien fans will recognize where this phrase comes from. In the extended version of "The Return of the King", Gandalf and Pippin talk and wait for a tremendous test, the definitive one, from which there is NO escape. It is imminent. There is total silence. Contents. You smell fear. And there is no other way than to jump, to get out, to pass the test. Pippin doesn't want the "proof" and says: "Being on the verge of a -test- that I cannot escape from, is even worse".

Right before starting all the treatment, I sometimes imagined that I had a horrible black tunnel in front of me. Of course, he did not want to enter. However, on the other hand, I was also urged to start walking and go through it, to get out of there as soon as possible. That was always my best motivation to start the path of SuperVivencia: walking quickly, with rhythm, forward; get out as soon as possible.

Where to begin? Here I share some practical recommendations that I hope will be useful to you:

  • First, acknowledge, accept and be very patient with your initial emotions. From there, propose to start building. Even if it is slow, even if it is little, but make up your mind to build.

  • Do everything possible to find doctors that you like, that you “click”, that generate confidence in you. With them you will live a good time. With them you will cry, argue, laugh. They will be your teachers, your friends.

  • Buy your notebook to write down all the information that you will be receiving in the first days after the diagnosis! Here is the article I wrote a long time ago regarding this simple and powerful tool:

  • In your notebook, iPhone, or whatever you have, write daily 3 positive things that happen during the day. Open your eyes wide! Yes they happen. Even if they are trivial, write them down. This will help you generate a habit of positive thinking that is key to SuperVive, as this way your brain will help generate those substances that help strengthen your immune system.

  • Keep a journal. How you want to wear it. With the depth that you like. Write healthy. Writing helps to organize thoughts, emotions, feelings. Writing helps to make decisions and to learn. Writing helps you remember without pain.

  • Find a professional nutritionist or trophologist to help you make changes to the way you eat. This is key! A good example of this type of help is the Gerson Institute They have a totally natural therapy and model that allows the body to reactivate the ability to heal itself, based on a practically vegan diet, with mainly juices, enemas and supplements.

  • Find a professional naturopathic doctor to advise you on alternative or complementary practices. I mention only a few: integration of supplements, vitamins, enzymes, minerals; acupuncture; colon hydrotherapies and enemas; play therapy; detoxification; salt baths; use of essential oils; applied kinesiology; bio-magnetism; healing massages; among other.

  • Walk or get some exercise. My recommendation is that you do not stop moving. Of course, as long as your doctor authorizes it and your body allows it. Even if it is 10 minutes walking. This will help reduce stress, oxygenate you, and strengthen your immune system.

  • Stress management. Consult a professional, or seek support from friends who can help you with some simple practices to address the stress generated by treatment, information, etc. Exercise helps. The deep, slow breaths, too. Meditation and prayer are very good stress management practices.

  • Spiritual direction. Whatever religion you profess and practice, it is important to measure this health test from a spiritual point of view. Studies show that prayer and meditation help the brain to reactivate mechanisms to help the body heal and strengthen. Find a spiritual director to accompany and strengthen you.

  • Organize without being a “control freak”. Define some simple guidelines for how you want your home, family, and work to be organized in the coming months. Communicate them clearly.

  • Be practical. The same and not everything will be "squeaky clean"; however, it is important that these details do not cause you too much stress. Indicate what things you want to keep doing. Communicate which ones you want to delegate.

  • Ask for help. Accept help. Forget the grief! That is useless. I am sure there will be many who will want to help. It will mean a lot to you. For them too!

  • Choose things that will make you feel "spoiled" in the coming months. Comfortable clothes or shoes that you like. A shawl or blanket. Favorite books or movies. Some rich teas. A massage. A present for you. What else? I must confess that I gave myself a “little gift” after every chemo session! Ha ha ha! After my first chemo session I remember that I bought myself new natural and organic makeup. Then came some headphones for my music, some shoes, some bag that crossed my mind there…;).

  • Don't keep track of your unpleasant symptoms. Yes, you will have to tell the doctor. However, don't keep a log of them. Better focus on first describing the achievements you will be making. I remember that a few days before my second chemo session, I had a consultation with my oncologist. Very proud I presented her with a graph, in colors, with bars and percentages, of some "new" symptoms resulting from the new medicines: what if the cough, what if the pimples on the skin, what if the nausea, what if the dizziness, What if canker sores ... All "controlled" and plotted to know when it had started and when it ended. I got a good scolding! Now I laugh; However, that day I had a hard time understanding it. "Focus on all the positives that you are accomplishing, and let us fix the unpleasant symptoms." Was the doctor's reply.

From the bottom of my heart, I would like NO ONE, ever, to receive news of a positive diagnosis of cancer or other serious illness. If you have already received it, I accompany you from my heart; you can count on me. The worst tests prepare the best Survivors. You are already one of them.


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