The day I was diagnosed with cancer, it took me an hour to roll out of bed because I was in so much pain. I could not get up vertically because I had such a hard time breathing. I kept thinking, “Hurry up,” because I was afraid I would die.
Luckily, when I arrived at the hospital at four in the morning, my wonderful doctor quickly ordered all kinds of tests. The next time I saw her, she leaned over, hugged me, and said, “Sweetie, you have cancer.” If I could not breathe beforehand, hearing that news took away all the breath I had left. I was in so much shock that I could not even cry, and all I wanted was to be alone.
When people receive a difficult diagnosis, they tend to isolate themselves. This is not a healthy approach. In the months and years that followed, I learned that you need support. Here’s why you should resist the urge to isolate yourself and allow others to help you heal.
You Can’t Live in a Sick Way
If someone has been diagnosed with cancer but they stay at home all day wallowing and obsessing over their diagnosis, they will not make progress. Even if they say they want to live, they are not moving forward in any productive way. Their actions aren’t aligned with their decision. If you continue to live in a sick way, you will be sick.
Deciding to live is not enough without belief, support, and action. When you choose to live, you have to actually do something about it. And you can’t do something about it alone. You need other people because you must continue living a fulfilling life throughout your treatment. If you shut yourself off from the world, you will wither away.
Design Your Life Around Joy
One of my favorite and most sacred moments is when I encounter like-minded people and have profound, mind-blowing conversations. Do you know when you are with or talking with the right people? When you leave them, you feel amazing and exhilarated. You feel understood. This type of connection is key to my happiness. Every day, you have to show that you are living your life to the fullest. Your body will respond to that effort.
Ever since my diagnosis, I decided to design my new life like a tourist in the City of Angels. I love living in Los Angeles! I have the canyons half a mile from me, Santa Monica Beach thirty minutes away, and a short two-and-a-half-hour drive to the magical mountains and desert. I am blessed that no matter where I go, I easily meet incredible people who have added joy and happiness to my life.
Widen Your Support System by Talking
It will be very hard to get support if you refuse to talk about what you are going through. Do not be ashamed by the cancer in your body. The worst thing you can do is not talk about the disease in your body. Instead of suppressing it, acknowledge it. Talk to people. How do you expect anyone to support you if they do not know what you need from them?
We need to learn from each other’s experiences. There are multiple ways to give and receive support, and they all begin with talking to others about your experience. For example, I found my naturopathic doctor from a stranger whose best friend survived cancer because of her. The more you share information about yourself, the more you widen the pool of people working to help you. By speaking out, you widen your support system, often in the most unexpected ways.
Open Yourself and Accept Support
For many years, I generously gave my support to other people. After my diagnosis, it was my turn to receive help. One of my best friends encouraged me to accept that support willingly, instead of feeling like a burden to those around me. “We know you’re strong,” she said. “You’re probably such a badass, you can do this on your own. But it’s time for you to surrender and let us help you. Let us be your rock, as well.”
Asking for support does not make you weak. Quite the opposite, in fact. To ask for help and support requires strength and courage. It is an important lesson in humility. Open yourself up to any help that comes your way.
Find the Light
Whatever you do, avoid isolation. The more you surround yourself with family, friends, and allies who promote healing, the better you will feel emotionally and physically. Being fed love is an important part of your healing process, as is the love you feed yourself.
Science backs up the assertion that social support facilitates healing. When people feed you love, the hormone associated with happiness, oxytocin, is released in your body. Not only does this hormone naturally reduce stress but it is an antidepressant and is anti-anxiety. To maximize your body’s ability to heal, surround yourself with people who can give you love, inspire hope, and build your strength.
In the words of Helen Keller, “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” Receiving a difficult diagnosis certainly feels like a moment of darkness, but I promise that if you rely on others in your time of need, it will be much easier to find your way back to the light.
For more advice on how to accept support, you can find The Grace of Cancer on Amazon.