Living with Cancer - Attitude is Everything

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Age to Age: Living with Cancer – Attitude is Everything




Guest:  Anonymous – Cancer Survivor

Host:  Sally Smith – Author of The Circle


Sally Smith:  Welcome to Age to Age.  I’m Sally Smith.  Let’s talk.  Today we are so lucky to have a very special and dear friend of mine, who wishes to be called my friend, a friend who has taught me so much about one of the key elements that we keep touching on in our discussions, this magic word, attitude. 


My friend, here, has an amazing attitude and has agreed to share some of how she feels about something that is not exactly our topic.  She has been living with a cancer and dealing with cancer and surviving with cancer for several years.  It has not been an easy journey but one in which she has become, I must say, more, like, light all of the time, as she has this amazing spirit.  So, she is going to be kind enough to read us a few notes that she wrote in contemplation then we’ll also have a couple of interviews about specific titles.  So, if you would read us your notes, it would be lovely.


Guest:  Well, I’m very honored to be here and to be able to share the lifestyle that has sort of changed since I was operated on for colon cancer.  I had the operation but it spread into the liver and that was inoperable.  So, I know that I have a certain amount of time left but I don’t know how much.  It keeps stretching out, so here we go.  My prayers must be helping. 


An amazing thing happens when you’re told you have cancer.  It’s an education.  Somehow, I felt glad to know that my life might end soon.  ‘I have time’, I said to myself.  My first reaction was to tidy, to write messages, and connect with faraway relatives, sort of a subtle farewell.  Life does not stop dead in its tracks.  I’m still around, you’re still around.  So, how do we handle this reprieve?  At first, it’s easy.  You’re the star.  Affection and concern sustains you. Everybody’s happy to be with you and do things for you and it gives you a tremendous boost and a lot of courage.  So, I think of them mostly.


Those nearest you, in whom you detect a certain panic, tell me that I’m going to be fine, “be positive.”  A tip:  When I feel lousy, I count to five before answering the phone.  The voice has to be cheerful, upbeat.  It’s so sad and so boring to talk to somebody who is depressed.  You have to try and sound really chirpy.  You need these phone calls.  Steer away from talking about you.  Your heightened awareness will help you recognize when you’re doing this, so you concentrate on the gifts around you.  Be aware of them.  Friends appear from nowhere, be it the mailman’s special smile that I hadn’t noticed before or the cashier at the checkout.  Count these spurts of kindness.


The cashier at Lowe’s was placing my little plants in the car and she turned around and said, “Can I give you a hug”?  Why?  She didn’t know I just had my first chemo.  This happens all around us.  We have to let everybody in.  These gestures are where I get my strength.  You are not alone; you join a club.  From the first day of treatment, you’re aware of the general cheerfulness of the nurses and the interaction of the people being treated.  You see the devotion of the family members who are willing to spend hours sitting next to them while they’re being treated. 


It takes away the fear and the trepidation to see those whose problems are so much worse than yours, the athletic young man, the young lady with no hair, the old grouch, all sympathizing and smiling and talking to each other.  It can become a forum to talk about that treatment, to deal with side effects.  Or, you can find yourself swapping recipes.  No one seems to feel victimized and they’re all very brave. 


Now comes the hardest part, facing your loved ones.  The partially hidden expression of concern, dread, panic, it’s harder for them.  They are left behind, the empty chair, the empty bed, the silent car seat, the meals at the family dinner.  I’m so glad not to be the one left behind.  I am strengthened by the presence of my god; my constant companion.  I read books that give me strength, and they lead me towards heaven.  After all, I’m on my way to paradise, as we all are.  Why be sad about that? 


Sally Smith:  Wow.  That is amazing.  It’s absolutely beautiful.  It’s beautiful.  I thank you and I want to talk about some of the things in there.  But, wow!  What a light you have and I love that song, This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, and, boy, are you doing that, and it’s so sweet of you to come out of your cozy privacy and share with people that really can be helped.  Thank you so much.  Thank all of our listeners, too, for joining us.  We welcome your suggestions and comments.  This is Sally Smith, Age to Age, saying goodbye and wishing you courage and joy on your own journey.  We are all connected.


If you enjoy listening to Sally Smith, you can buy her book, The Circle.  It’s the story of how she personally responded to her mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease.  It’s a wonderful gift of hope for anyone with a parent who has dementia.  Just click on ‘Sally Smith’ under the health professional’s tab on the podcasts homepage.  All profits support research at the Center on Aging. 


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