Cancer Thrivers

Coming To Terms With Having Metastatic Cancer

Coming To Terms With Having Metastatic Cancer

When I found out that one of my cancers had become metastatic I found myself being very angry. I was intolerant of others, generally a miserable person. After basking in my unhappiness I decided that I didn't want to live the rest of my life with these horrible feelings. So, I went to bed, along with my anger, and decided that when I woke up the next morning I will no longer be angry or mad. I realized that I was unwilling to live any more of what was left of my life with these terrible negative feelings.

By some miracle and the force of my mind, I was successful. I had let go of my bad feelings. I am not saying that I don't have moments when I feel depressed and angry, but those feelings no longer rule who I am and who I interact with the world.

Has anybody had a similar experience, or how have you dealt with your negative feelings?

Joel

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Joel,

I wasn't angry I was full of self pity. My attitude was why me. How did God let this happen to me? I ignored my friends and family and wallowed in self pity. After about a week my wonderful wife put me straight and asked how I could have become such an a $$ hole over night. After some thought I new she was right. That night I prayed to the God that I thought let me down. I realized I let Him down to think He didn't stop this cancer. I let my wife, family and friends down by being such a arse. Since then I have accepted my cancer and will continue to fight it. I found this group on line and my life has changed. I AM NOT ALONE. The very first post I read was from Cericwin. I made him my brother in cancer and was astonished at his attitude and spirit. I prayed for him as I now pray for all my friends in HealthUnlocked PCA.

Dennis

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Eric was a mentor to me when I first was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

He displayed what Hemmingway called true courage- grace under pressure. He also had a droll sense of humor that I related to.

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Hi Joel,

My worst reaction came when I first found out I had cancer in January 2014. It was mostly shock and sadness. I knew little about it and struggled to learn what the future might hold for me. After RP and IMRT I now have just found out it in my lungs. I am beginning to explore with my Oncologist what to do now. Over the last four years my faith is what has sustained me. I have taken an active role in managing my disease but it is in God's hands and trust in him is my strength. I look to the many positives in my life and focus on them each and every day.

I have found prayers are a great help when I am feeling a little down.

God bless and keep up the good fight.

George

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George,

You seem to have been able to blend in both your faith along with taking a very positive and involved role in making your personal medical decision. Good for you.

Joel

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Guess there was a lot of self pity at first, more after becoming metastatic, and grief at possibly having to say Good Bye to loved family members and friends. Find that with the passage of time, staying educated and being certain every effort has been made for treatment, and with God's help eventually there are extended periods when I don't even think about it.

Enjoyed the VA Beach meeting; gave me a lot of hope!

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Joel,

I had a similar journey, but my ascent was substantially less steep.

My starting place wasn't anger but despair and apathy. For me, it seemed mostly or entirely biochemical — during my research phase before primary treatment, I was engaged and eager to learn, and following the failure of primary treatment, I was spurred to learn even more and investigate all options.

My depression and despair started about two or three months into my first stint with ADT. Losing my testosterone was accompanied by losing all drive, not just sex drive, and my cognitive decline was torture for me. I withstood it like a beaten dog withstands its abuse — passively sinking into doing less, caring less, wishing less, feeling less, and being less.

A few years later (condensing a lot), my mind and heart were in a better place but not a good place. I had accepted that I was going to die of prostate cancer, although not for a while, and that I therefore needed to rethink my priorities. Saving for a good long retirement was now off the table. Another decade or two of climbing the corporate ladder for greater financial reward and greater stress was no longer appealing.

An honest self-assessment was in order to determine what gave me meaning in life, what constituted value, what realistic changes I could make to adjust to a new outlook. I opened my mind to new ways of knowledge, found most of them lacking, but held onto the insights I received from Mindfulness training, making them my own.

I entered psychotherapy to see if conventional western approaches to grief counseling and near-end-of-life counseling spoke to me; they mostly didn't, but I did come realize. that I wanted to give more to others and take less from them, so I started a support group and became involved in other support and advocacy groups.

More importantly, I shifted my daily attitude from one of calculating the "best" (by some abstract metric) response to a stimulus to one of appreciating the situation and feeling grateful for each opportunity, even/especially the ones that occasioned discomfort. The more I practiced mindfulness and gratitude, the better my experience of myself and my life became.

The Niebuhr prayer ("... serenity to accept what I cannot change,

courage to change what I can, wisdom to know the difference") had always spoken to me, but my life before cancer had overemphasized the third aspect, focusing more on knowledge than on wisdom. The first years of cancer helped me with the first aspect. Now, meditation on my new stance towards my remaining existence told me to develop the second. Accordingly, I became much more open, more free, in daring to do new things, daring to re-form myself into a person I might previously have judged undignified or unseemly or common.

Exorcising the ghost of my past self's judgment on my present and future self has been freeing. Past-self had his reasons for his judgment; but he's no longer here, and I must move on without his input, while honoring his past contribution.

But my framing of feelings differs somewhat from yours, Joel. I now see feelings as signals of communication from my organic lager body to my specialized organ of consciousness. Just as feelings of hunger or cold or sleepiness tell me something, so do feelings of anger or sadness or joy. This is a perspective I've long had on pain — by reinterpreting pain as information rather than an alarm call necessitating reaction, I can withstand a good deal of it — but it's a fresh outlook for me on anxiety or anger. I no longer consider them "negative" feelings, merely "feelings".

/Paul

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Great reply Paul

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Paul,

Thanks for the reply. Each of us will respond differently, but what I do find is that all of us respond strongly.

Joel

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Elequintly put. A great perspective Thanks.

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Thanks Joel. I like the replies as well.

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My initial reaction to my diagnosis was a kind of numbness. It didn't help that from the day the first tumor was found (May 2013) to the removal of 2 tumors and the upper lobe of the left lung, neither of my 2 surgeons would even suggest that it could be cancer. The first time I heard that word was when my thoracic surgeon walked into my hospital room and said "young lady, you had a very aggressive, very fast moving form of cancer. But we got it all, your'e fine." Then he just walked out leaving me laying there alone and stunned.

After that I was just determined to do whatever was within my power to keep it from coming back, so I tried (and failed) at doing chemo.

I think the hardest part of this journey for me is that I really cannot talk to my family about it. They are of the mindset that "if I don't see it, it's not there". The last time I made a remark to my husband that the cancer may be back, he shot me a look and said "it's not back!".

For me, being mad at the world is just a waste of time and energy. I will however admit to having the occasional cry when I am home alone.

We all have moments, but I am glad you decided to not allow yourself to wallow in it for too long.

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I'm so very sorry Katherine. I hope hubby becomes better able to console your worries and pain. We all need someone to tell us it's going to be okay. Healing hugs.

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I do have someone to tell me that it's going to be okay, I have me, I have all of you guys, and I do know that if it is verified in March that the cancer is back, hubby will be there to help me. I had a surgery in November 2012 and was sent home with a large open wound that had to be cleaned and dressed 3 times a day, he did it without batting an eye. I think hubby's attitude toward the cancer comes from the fear of knowing I could die.

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We all have the same fear and thoughts. We want to be here as long as we can. Many surgeons don’t have any bedside manor. Jackass! You can always share here. We are listening. Don’t beat yourself up too much. We re all doing the best that we can .

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Yep, I am a firm believer in the fact that all we can do is the best we can do.

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Everyone’s true colors come out when a person gets terminal C. You have integrity.not everyone does.

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Katherine,

You have offered a lot and touched on so many issues that many of us experience. First I would like to thank you for your being willing to share with us.

Your experiences with your doctors are really inexcusable. I am so sorry to hear how poorly they handled your situation. To tell someone they have cancer, especially aggressive cancer, and then simply to walk out of the room feels to me to be cowardly.

If doctors decide to become a doctor they need to realize that our minds and our emotions are a part of what they need to treat. This doctor should have sat down on your bed or in a chair and just been there, in the room with you. Even if it meant just sitting there with you as you cried, asked questions, or just lied in your bed and stared at the ceiling. I am so sorry that you had to have that experience.

Then, to have your family deal with your fears in a similar manner is just as bad.

I do feel that sometimes having cancer is harder for the family than it is for the Thriver. Of course, this is no excuse, but I often think that I would rather have the disease than have a family member have it. Denial in both the Thriver and in the family members is a common response.

I suggest that you make a little private time with him and share your hurt that he is not willing to listen to and try to understand your fears. Let him know that ignoring the possibility of cancer coming back will not influence what course it might take. However, ignoring your legitimate concerns does take a toll on you.

Joel

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You have been through so much and still find time and energy to reach out to help others, for that I am grateful.

I have talked to my husband about this, but I never put it quite that way. I know his attitude comes from fear of losing me, but maybe if I can get him to understand how difficult it is on me and that talking about it helps. I will try again.

As far as my surgeons go, they were both a**'s, the general surgeon who ordered the chest x-ray that found the spot said "we have to cancel your surgery, they found a spot on your lung and I'm not touching you until we know what that is" then he added "by the way, you have emphysema" then he walked out of the room. But at least he had the common decency to call my husband and myself in to tell us. When the thoracic surgeon dropped his bomb I was alone.

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I’ve gone thru the same experience .. wasted much of my limited time here on earth being mad.. mad at my self for allowing myself to slip into #4 with mets , docs said that I had this in me for years.. what an idiot I was. So much in fear and self loathing.. That can be a man thing.. thinking that everything’s rest on our shoulders...acceptance arrives then we say “ Thank god I’m alive” instead of staying in a downward spiral of self worthlessness and self pity.. the clouds have lifted. That’s my hope for those beginning this fight. Time can heal and acceptance will come also .. the clouds can lift and you will be able to see clearly again .. Hard to gain that perspective while in the midst of pain and suffering.. Thank you ! Joel T....

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Brought a tear or two to my eyes Joel. I'm so glad you awoke with a healed heart. That is such a precious gift. I just love the PIC!

Jackie

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Pic is our daughter & friend. Thanks

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Just got around to reading these responses to your original post, Joel.

You obviously touched a nerve.

As we have discussed previously, cancer attacks the body,the mind, and the spirit, at different times and with varying degrees of intensity.

About 2 years ago, my prostate cancer got in my head. I could think of nothing else except how to crush it. I became obsessed about developing new strategies for graphing my PSA test results so that I could compare different rates of my disease's progression across various phases of treatment. I wrote an article after I researched a hundred or so papers about about PSA kinetics and talked about it incessantly to anyone who would listen.

When it became obvious that I had used up all my options short of Hormone Deprivation Therapy, it almost crushed my spirit.

My period of Attitude Adjustment came more slowly than the one you described. However, with the help of the Serenity Prayer, as Paul mentioned, and through the fellowship and support provided by Malecare and other support groups, I have been able to reclaim psychic equilibrium and achieve a proper balance between Serenity, Courage, and Wisdom.

Conversations such as the one you initiated on line, as well as in person with family,friends, professionals, and fellow " reluctant warriors" fighting in the trenches along side each other, are so important to our collective survival.

Thanks for trigering this outpouring of advice and shared experiences.

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