I think one of the biggest battles we face is that of self-awareness. Truly knowing and understanding ourselves. I know for me personally the path I have traveled to “find myself” has been a pretty interesting trip. My cancer challenges have certainly instigated a major part of that exploration and I count the fact that I have made the effort to learn about myself as one of the many positives resulting from my diagnoses.
Some things I knew about myself long before being diagnosed with cancer: I’m intuitive, energetic, and positive (even though all those things really came into my awareness from hearing other peoples’ perspective on my personality. In other words, they told me that I possess those traits. Only then did I really understand that I am intuitive, energetic, and positive.
As I recovered from my first transplant, I had a serious craving for personal growth to increase my understanding of myself and this big huge thing we all fit in, call it universe, whatever. I was blessed to have a friend in my life who provided amazing guidance on the initial steps of this self-awareness journey. A couple of tools were used initially and I have made them a part of the ongoing journey. The Myers-Briggs personality test is one of those tools. I initially did the test in early 2000 and have recently completed it again. I have confirmed that my personality hasn’t changed within the 16 type grid of the test. However there is an interesting change.
One of the four categories of the test involves “thinking vs. feeling.” We all have both parts in our personality but some of us prefer to use one or the other. I am a “thinker,” and a pretty strong one at that. However I recently learned that my score for thinking has increased dramatically since last taking the MB test. I’m sure many have an idea how why that might be but an early suggestion involved the addition of a second cancer challenge and the resulting fallout from that, the major element being my view on the rest of my life.
Awareness is the key for me when it comes to tackling challenges. Once I’m aware of an issue, I’m all about getting into it face-first. So I’m aware of this thinking tendency, or thinking domination is probably more accurate. Which means the next step for me is to address it.
The presentation of cancer in my life the first time was seen as a challenge, and while I had times of fear and frustration I truly never doubted that I would attain the “victory” I was playing for (remember my hockey series approach). The second time out everything changed. First, I relapsed at a time when I was told my risk for relapse was dropping off considerably. That shook my belief in the predictability of my situation from the medical perspective and further added fuel to the internal belief that I have the greatest influence on whether or not I am healthy. It’s not about medicines, hospitals, or procedures. Sure all those things helped tremendously and I like to look at them in relation to my first two challenges as the necessary 10 per cent but I’ve always had this core belief that what goes on inside me is much more influential than what goes on outside me. My thoughts and feelings are inside.
The relapse brought forth a very “thinking” approach with the creation of the My Journey email group and how I approached things. Still I had times of fear and frustration but the more I reflect the more I see I didn’t allow myself sufficient time to feel what was happening. My natural instinct is to mechanically get into the fire, start to deal with what needs dealing, the feelings will work themselves out later.
Well, it’s later.
I’m feeling that I need to share some new things, new perspective on my approach to life as it stands today. And more specifically I going to attempt to allow myself time to feel as I encounter new challenges on the road ahead.
A short story: Last year RealTime Cancer (RTC) went through a strategic renewal process instigated by me in an attempt to develop a strategy to accomplish some very important things: independence, sustainability, tap this national opportunity at our door, continue to help young people deal with cancer and communicate this core message of positive attitude. That first point, independence, was key for such an important reason because one day I want to take off for a year and go on a safari in Africa.
That really is true, I would love to do a big safari but the real truth is that every time I have explained that desire in the past one or two years I have been thinking in my head “what I really mean is that if I get sick again I want RTC to be independent so that it can continue the work I started.”
For the first one to two years after my second transplant I know I really wondered how long I’d be around. And that wonder was in terms of months not years. I still believed I could get through this massive challenge, again, but I know and remember the feeling in my gut as I write this that my confidence was shaken, for lack of a better way to explain it.
From the medical side the main difference between the first and second diagnoses was that all the good numbers first time out were now bad numbers and all the bad numbers the first time out were now shit. But I’ll tell you those numbers didn’t really shake me, as I had beaten the odds a collection of times. However the simple fact that my cancer came back, that is what shook me. And I stayed in that state for a long time. After my first transplant I had ongoing thoughts fairly consistently that it may come back but I never felt it in my gut the way I did when it truly did come back.
RTC strategy process was instigated in part to combat the fear that RTC may disappear if I were to get sick again. I wanted, and want this organization to continue on with the work I started. The interesting part is that just as we get this plan to attain independence, sustainability and take advantage of our national opportunity my feelings of angst and fear have dissipated slightly.
Today I feel comfortable with where I am. But I recognize that I have a long way to go to improve my health, to make myself stronger, emotionally and medically. And I feel as though getting fingers to keys here with you all is a good step towards finding the elusive balance between chasing new opportunities outside and dealing with the ones already present inside.
Thanks for listening, back soon…
Live life. Love life.