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CancerLynx - we prowl the net
February 20, 2006

Coping Strategies ~ Name That Cancer
Velvet Girling

  How does s/he do it?  Wish I could be like him/her. You'll find a way to cope! You'll manage! Have you heard one of those? All of those?  

It is quite remarkable how we deal with different situations. Sometimes we just cope without knowing why or how. Ask someone how they got through a problem and you can take a bet that they won't be able to fully explain the mechanisms involved. I use two that are clear and anyone is welcome to try them.

First the theoretical model, don't click back at this point ~ I shall explain. Theoretical models can be pictures formed in the mind but can be written down to explain further.

When I was diagnosed the first time with breast cancer, I just sobbed, how am I going to tell my sons, my father? Everything the oncologist said about a treatment plan washed over me. There is too much information when you are simply, emotionally, somewhere else. (Always take someone with you for results, stop thinking my problem ~ go it alone. This does not work!

After a few days of sobbing on and off and my sons sobbing on and off, I called a halt to it. Yes, I was pretty miserable and actually depressed.  But you can either let your condition rule your life or your life rule your condition. Simple as that, your choice! Sorry if I lecture here.

I took pencil to paper and just wrote everything down that was important to me in my everyday life. Cancer, surgery, feeling ill, sons, their emotional wellbeing, father, his emotional well being, relatives, friends, my job, house, bills, car, cat, garden, (no husband or partner) etc.

Then I coloured them. Being an artist and art teacher (and teaching other subjects too at a prison education department) I had a supply of colouring pencils handy. I just selected the first colour that came into my head and stuck with it.

Cancer came out black background with red writing, surgery two reds, feeling ill, red and grey, sons and father blues, relatives and friends pale soft colours, the rest remained in their original pencil state. At the time I had written them in this order and to this day, except for cancer the list remains the same. I then drew my theoretical model:-

Cancer Surgery Feeling Ill Sons Father Relatives Friends

I could see the cancer would dominate and indeed it did for a while but I planned to get the cancer sign away from the dominant position for I knew it would rule my life. Everything I did would be based on cancer. I thought about this for months, (sorry no overnight miracle here) but one day I realised that I needed cancer to be fairly dominant because I had to be alert to any new signs or symptoms for years ahead, so where could I place it? It needs a respectful place; it needs to be considered fairly regularly, I must not forget it, but I must not be reminded of it too often, I need to live with it, not be ruled by it. So I wrote them out and coloured them again, surgery and feeling ill from radiotherapy had gone by this time and I did this:-

Sons Father Cancer Relatives Friends Other Responsibilities

AND I suddenly realised that I was living with cancer, rather than being dominated by it and amazingly cancer had lost its black background. I had things in perspective at last. Instead of all the boxes touching they had separated. They were distinct from one another. It demonstrated I had a healthy respect for cancer, I was cautious but it was not ruling my life.

Name That Cancer
So 10 years on and I now have bone metastases that came and progressed then shrank and came back, diagnosed 5 years ago.

Now I play a new game and name them all. All the people I have disliked or simply names I dislike, I use. The large site in my pelvis is called after my ex husband; my pubic ramus site is called Cedric, (sorry all you Cedrics) I have 18 sites, I have Bert, Fred, though Fred disappeared on the last scan. I have Duncan, Kevin, Shirley, Gordon, Mo, Ada, Ethel and so on. (None of these names are meant as a personal insult to anyone reading this.)

Think of a name you loathe and use it to visualise your cancer. The reason I name the sites is that naming gives you power. Power makes you feel good. Feeling good makes you smile. Smiling makes you feel happy. Happiness engenders a positive outlook. A positive outlook creates a sense of wellbeing. A good sense of wellbeing makes others feel comfortable around you. Having a comfort factor produces enjoyment. Enjoyment gives you verve for life. Life is what you desire. Desire creates planning, stimulation, get up and go feelings, reaching out to others ~ I have my life back!

Be safe, be happy, be well.

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