Valentine’s Day is approaching, so what better time to put YOU first and think about what makes you happy? Our client, Nat, who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when she was 45, shares some of the things that have made her life happier (and easier) throughout her diagnosis, treatment and recovery…
Cancer arrived like a hurricane, ripping through my body, mind and life, and shaking me to the core. It changed something deep down inside me. I developed strength and vulnerability at the same time. I’ve found one of the bravest and hardest things ways to show self-love is to ask for support and rest when my body and mind most need it.
When I think about self-love, it isn’t all pink and fluffy and posh chocolates, but a deep acceptance of my incredible journey. It’s about the pain, trauma, glimmers of hope and owning my own story. It’s about the different ways – unique to us all – that I’ve been able to show myself some deep, meaningful love. It’s easy to read those words, but it’s harder to put them into practice without feeling a sense of guilt of a life that was before cancer arrived. Self-love, for me, has been about accepting that some things will never be the same, but embracing a new way of living.
Here are some of the physical, practical and emotional things that continue to help me:
-Taking time to rest and realising I can’t do it all. I need time to heal. Not just the scars, but all parts of me. My body needs time to rest so I can cope.
-Making a big pot of easy homemade soup to freeze. It feels like happiness in a bowl.
-Getting outside, even if it’s a short walk or a cup of tea in the garden; feeling the sun on my face, hearing the birds. Heartfelt hugs, gentle exercise and simple Yoga moves are also great!
-Doing or making something. The feel of my hands in the soil, or flour while I’m making a cake. Crafting – even if it’s just a kids’ kit. It’s not about the final result, it’s how the process takes me to a happy place.
-Reading a good book or listening to a Podcast, guided meditation or audio book
-Singing an uplifting tune in the bath. Who cares if I can’t sing!
-Learning something new on an online course
-Having a good chat with a friend over Zoom to lift my spirits
-‘Dumping’ the day by writing in my journal
-Having honest conversations with my friends and family. Because of my thyroid cancer and treatment, I find it hard to swallow so this affects me being able to eat out in public. I also find big outings tiring, so have asked people to adapt to more manageable things, like a small walk or a movie afternoon
-Asking for and accepting support. I found that connecting with others who have been affected by cancer hugely helpful. In support groups I’ve found a safe space to share the highs and lows and be there for each other. Personal counselling sessions have made a big difference. So have complementary therapy sessions like Reiki, reflexology, acupuncture and mindfulness.
Little things keep my overwhelm in check. These include:
-A small notebook with dates, procedures, up-to-date medications, the names of my consultants, GP contact details and my hospital number. It’s helpful for filling in forms and there were times when I was in A&E that I couldn’t communicate or remember all my details, so this really helps.
-A folder divided into sections for all the paperwork to do with my appointments, test results and notes.
-A small phonebook with all the contact numbers for things like pathology to book blood tests, hospital wards, etc., I have them on my mobile phone, too, but it’s reassuring to have a back-up that’s easy to find and all in one place.
-A small hospital bag with a phone charger, toothbrush, hairbrush, pen and pad, change of underwear, tissues, earplugs and something to keep me occupied. It’s much easier to pack it and store it away in advance, rather than having to throw things together at short notice. It’s come in handy a couple of times!
It can be hard to put ourselves first, but please remember that self-love is vital for our wellbeing. Be kind to yourself. Make time for something that makes you smile. Your body, mind and soul will thank you for it.
You can read Nat’s story here.