Hand outstretched letting dandelion seeds fly out

Moving On

How do you move forward when cancer is part of your life, either as a patient or a caregiver? How do you set aside the disease to immerse mind, soul, and heart into the good things life offers, to ban the cancer from stealing your joy? There are days when that may seem impossible, or be impossible, so you take a breath, move through the day, and start fresh the next day. Some days that may be the only answer there is.

But there are other days when there’s more than the cancer. It doesn’t steal your joy or your peace. It doesn’t control everything you are, everything you do, everything you think.

The power to keep going

For many, prayer and faith provide a spiritual power to keep going. Knowledge of a good and loving God can give some of us strength that we never knew we had, or needed. Bonnie Raitt has some wise words in her song, “Just Like That.” In this song, she writes about death and sorrow. The song says “They say Jesus brings you peace and grace. Well he ain’t found me yet.”

But she then writes and sings about a peace that comes later through circumstances that replace the darkness with grace. We have to be open to letting grace and peace find us if we can’t find it ourselves. Open our eyes, open our hearts, be perceptive, be receptive.

Trying to find someone who will listen

As a caregiver, I found myself with days where I didn’t think I had the physical or emotional energy to keep going. So many unknowns, so many needs I felt I couldn’t meet, so many fears. On those days, it helped to find someone who would listen. I needed to speak about my sadness, feelings of inability, frustration. Most likely, whoever I talked to didn’t have answers, but it helped to literally release those words from my mind and my lips. It was almost a physical purging of anxiety and fear.

Fighting cancer opens your eyes to the people who really care about you. There are those who claim to be friends but who disappear when your needs appear. There are others who you never knew had enormous servant hearts who make themselves available to do whatever they can or give you whatever you need that’s within their grasp.

There's more to life than this enemy

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that we can also learn through our trials. We learn how strong we can be. We may find our compassion far exceeds what we expected. When we are more tired than we thought was humanly possible, somehow the energy we need shows up. We learn to set boundaries for ourselves, our families, and for the caregiver, for our patient. We find that what might be a very difficult challenge today can become easier tomorrow. We grow, we learn, we move on. We become more aware of the need to be grateful for today, for no one is promised tomorrow.

I know that in the past decade and more, cancer has been a big part of our lives. I refuse, though, to acknowledge those years as the cancer years. Yes, we have experienced illness, sadness, fear, pain. There have been enormous challenges and struggles.

But the last 14 years have also been lived. Passing years have been full of joy, family births and deaths, graduations, anniversaries, and many celebrations. I remind myself that cancer may have been an unwelcome and uninvited member to some of these life events, but it has not been the star. Nor will we ever let it become the star. There’s so much more to life than this enemy.

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