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Surviving Cancer and Embracing Life

My Personal Journey

Due to my excellent medical care team and strong support network, I am a very fortunate pancreatic cancer survivor. I was diagnosed in January 2015, had Whipple surgery in February 2015, and am among the few people who developed pancreatic cancer who has lived and thrived for as long as I have. I appreciate my good fortune every single day!

I wrote Surviving Cancer and Embracing Life: My Personal Journey to inspire hope and show the value of a positive attitude. The book includes my ups and downs, anecdotes, some humor, key quotes, resources to consult, and insights and tips. I want to give back to others with a serious illness and their families. May we all live as long as we can as well as we can.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it is not as bright as before. Sometimes, we have to fight to see that light. I am NOT a medical professional. I am not alone in my battle with cancer. This is one person’s journey – with the strong determination to have the best life possible for as long as possible.

I underwent an 8-½ hour Whipple surgery to remove the cancer. I had various problems during chemo. As a diabetic, I passed out from low blood sugar a few days after finishing chemo. Thus, I missed my daughter’s bridal shower. And I had to have cement pumped into my back. I have a lot of other stuff going on. But enough of that. I am NOT complaining. I just want you to see where I have been – and where I still am going.

What have I learned from my experiences that may assist you and your family? Here are some of my self-lessons:

  • Love is a cornerstone feeling. Love someone each day, and show them you do.
  • Live life every day. Do not always rush ahead. Life goes quickly enough.
  • Be the best you can be. But don’t be too hard on yourself or others. Being a perfectionist can be a burden.
  • Life is too short for us to hold grudges. Keep things in perspective.
  • See doctors regularly and get tested for a range of possible disorders at least yearly. A late diagnosis is probably the leading reason for poorer prognoses.
  • Not only see your doctors, but don’t view their treatment plans as suggestions that are okay to ignore.
  • If you feel anxious or stressed, have trouble sleeping, get panic attacks, etc., think about seeing a mental health professional. It took me quite a while to realize that a strong person sees that everything can’t be handled without others’ help.
  • Exercise regularly. And find which activities you are capable of doing, and which of those you would enjoy doing.
  • Choose to be happy. Set reasonable goals. It’s not always easy to be happy.
  • A lot of today’s younger people have a better perspective on work-life balance than my cohort of baby boomers. Only recently did I grasp that I wanted to work to live rather than live to work.
  • DO NOT go crazy on social media learning about your ailment. Why? For me, there was virtually no positive information online. Why torture myself by reading of high fatality rates with pancreatic cancer?
  • Screen doctors. Find the one(s) right for you. We need knowledgeable, skilled doctors who are also COMPASSIONATE and patient centered. Every member of my medical team meets these criteria.
  • Your pre-surgery feelings may differ from your post-surgery feelings. For me, post-surgery, my biggest concern was the quality of my future life. What would be my new normal?
  • We must be realistic about our recovery period. What activities can we do? When will we be ready to engage in those activities?
  • Since there are times when we are alone throughout our journeys, we need a strategy to feel our best on those occasions. Do what is best for you. But don’t ignore this situation.
  • Meditation can help. It does not require classes. It may entail listening to relaxing podcasts, taking more deep breaths, thinking about things that make us happy (rather than unhappy), and otherwise getting our minds off stressors.
  • Do not underestimate the power of music to put you in a better mood – any  type of music that relaxes you.
  • Strive for a positive self-image during and after your illness. You are still you, a great person!!!
  • Cast a wide net for people with whom to interact and spend time.
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