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4 Life Lessons from a Cancer Patient

4 Life Lessons from a Cancer Patient

Look at what you’ve got and make the best of it. It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. ~ Proverb

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One Sunday night almost five months ago, my father broke the news that one of my uncles had been diagnosed with stage-three colon cancer. I remember my reaction as being somewhat surprised and not surprised. I was surprised because it was the first time that cancer came this close to our family. Most family-related cancer stories I’ve heard until that point were from second cousins and great-aunts and -uncles. And yet I wasn’t too surprised because my uncle was a heavy smoker and a former heavy drinker. Four days later, my uncle underwent his first chemotherapy session. Some relatives gave us weekly updates about his condition. Dad himself visited the hospital three weeks later and noted how fast he had lost weight. Although still under chemo today, my uncle is strong enough to do most of the things he used to enjoy before his treatment began. What is more notable, however, is his radical change in attitude towards life. Several weeks ago when mom and dad visited him, mom said that my uncle didn’t care about passing soon. “If I die, then I die”, she recalled him as saying. Today, however, that fatalistic attitude seems to have vanished. I’m not sure how the change came about, but he’s very enthusiastic about life now. He smiles a lot and seems to be more concerned about enjoying life with his family. By nature, he’s bossy and arrogant. But even that attitude is now tempered with a bit of brighter thoughtfulness. In my recent visits to his home I simply couldn’t help but be drawn to him. His brand new zesty character is highly contagious to everyone, including me.  I want to share with you what I learned from him:

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1. Appreciate and Enjoy Food More.

One of the first things that struck me about my uncle is his change in attitude towards food. Although he ate a lot, he actually used to complain habitually. He’d complain about being served too much vegetables; he’d complain about stews having too much broth; he’d complain about desserts being too heavy and cloying. Today, he is now more appreciative and thoughtful. At a recent family lunch, there was one “experimental” pasta dish prepared by one of my aunts that I found really weird-tasting. Not my uncle. He complimented the dish and told my aunt, who was a beginner cook, how he appreciated her trying something new. My aunt reveled in the praise and promised all of us that she’d continue learning how to cook. I think us well folks complain too much about what we eat, just like my uncle used to do. But if we think about it more deeply, eating is not just about food—it’s also a bigger aspect of our culture. It brings families, friends and colleagues together. Whenever we take the time to appreciate food and express it, we invite good vibes at the table. With good vibes follow fun moments, and with fun moments follow stronger bonds and relationships. Now I am an advocate of good food. If something has to be said for the sake of improving the dish or educating the cook, my suggestion is to sandwich constructive criticisms between positive comments. Or even better reserve the criticism for a one-on-one conversation later. Or maybe, just forget about the criticism!

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2. Find the Good in Everyone.

My uncle used to talk bad about people from time to time even if they had not done anything that would trigger that kind of tirade. I think it was his inner narcissist expressing itself. He liked to draw attention towards himself by belittling other people. Today, when family conversations turn gossipy, my uncle terminates the topic by injecting a positive alternative reason. He’d say “I don’t know. Maybe the pressure from work just got him. We know how crazy his supervisor is” or “Cut her some slack, everyone. She’s done it many times before. It could have been a simple error!” Sometimes, our own inner narcissists manifest themselves too. We focus on or exaggerate negative stories in order to impress our cliques at the expense of other people. One of these scenario’s possible consequences is that our friends could develop feelings of resentment toward the other people. Before we know it, tensions flare between them. Once the truth comes out, we’ll be exposed as nothing but a fantastic story-teller who’s desperate for attention. For all our sake, I believe that it’s always best to find the good in other people. If we need to speak up in order to prevent damage resulting from someone else’s action, we should simply go directly to that person and talk to them about the consequences of their action.

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3. Think Short Term—What Really Matters is Now

To my uncle, every moment became precious when he started chemo.  He appreciates simple things now and he’s not too concerned about the future. He cherishes his time with his family, especially his granddaughter. Whenever I hear his wife or one of their daughters talk about a problem, he’d go “that’s not even a problem! You know you can do it.” We all are guilty of worrying too much. We often think that it’s normal, but in truth, it’s nothing more than unnecessary stress which causes us to miss the good things that we have in front of us. Instead of fretting, why don’t we think of solutions? And if there are no solutions, well, let’s just forget the problem and enjoy the moment.

4. Remember That You Can Do Anything.

I want to share my own story. When I was about 14 years old, I did something that my mom told me not to do. That day I went home with a wound on my left hand. My mom, ever the panicky pessimist, angrily machine-gunned me with names of all kinds of fatal diseases that my wound could lead to. That night I had trouble sleeping because I thought that I would die soon. I was afraid I would contract a deadly infection. In the morning, she and I visited a doctor who, in less than five minutes, cleared my case. My mom with a big smile told me, “I told you so! You didn’t have to worry!” I ignored her comment because I was so thankful that I wasn’t going to die. The sun never looked so bright that day and I felt like I was given a new lease in life. I felt that I could do and face anything in the world. Nothing could stop me.

Final Words…

We fear and worry about too many things today: leaving a job, moving to a new town, opening a business we’ve always wanted to open, etc. But I believe we all have it in us to survive and come up with all the ideas and strategies that we need to deal with all these challenges. The thing is, however, all these instincts will only surface when we’re already in the middle of the battle. My uncle thinks that no other challenge in the world is more difficult than dealing with his condition. Today, he is the family’s biggest cheerleader. How do you deal with a loved one who has cancer? How do you think you’d live your life if you found out you had cancer? I would love to hear your stories. Please share them in the comments section below.

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Faisal Rehman

Faisal Rehman writes about work and productivity, trying to help businessmen build their brands and increase sales.

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Last Updated on August 19, 2019

How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

We live in a world that constantly tells us what to do, how to act, what to be. Knowing how to be true to yourself and live the life you want can be a challenge.

When someone asks how we are, we assume that the person does not mean the question sincerely, for it would lead to an in depth conversation. So telling them that you are good or fine, even if you’re not, is the usual answer.

In an ideal world, we would stop and truly listen. We wouldn’t be afraid to be ourselves. Instead, when we answer about how we are doing, our mask, the persona we show the world, tightens. Sometimes even more so than it might have been before. Eventually, it becomes hard to take off, even when you’re alone.

Imagine a world where we asked how someone was doing and they really told us. Imagine a world where there were no masks, only transparency when we talked to one another.

If you want to live in a world that celebrates who you are, mistakes and all, take off the mask. It doesn’t mean you have to be positive or fine all the time.

According to a Danish psychologist, Svend Brinkman, we expect each other to be happy and fine every second, and we expect it of ourselves. And that “has a dark side.”[1] Positive psychology can have its perks but not at the expense at hiding how you truly feel in order to remain seemingly positive to others.

No one can feel positive all the time and yet, that is what our culture teaches us to embrace. We have to unlearn this. That said, telling others you are ‘“fine”’ all the time is actually detrimental to your wellbeing, because it stops you from being assertive, from being authentic or your truest self.

When you acknowledge a feeling, it leads you to the problem that’s causing that feeling; and once you identify the problem, you can find a solution to it. When you hide that feeling, you stuff it way down so no one can help you.You can’t even help yourself.

Feelings are there for one reason: to be felt. That doesn’t mean you have to act on that feeling. It just means that you start the process of problem solving so you can live the life you want.

1. Embrace Your Vulnerability

When you are your true self, you can better self-advocate or stand up for what you need. Your self-expression matters, and you should value your voice. It’s okay to need things, it’s okay to speak up, and it’s okay not to be okay.

Telling someone you are simply “fine” when you are not, does your story and your journey a great disservice. Being true to yourself entails embracing all aspects of your existence.

When you bring your whole self to the table, there is nothing that you can’t beat. Here’re 7 benefits of being vulnerable you should learn.

Can you take off the mask? This is the toughest thing anyone can do. We have learned to wait until we are safe before we start to be authentic.

In relationships especially, this can be hard. Some people avoid vulnerability at any cost. And in our relationship with ourselves, we can look in the mirror and immediately put on the mask.

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It all starts with your story. You have been on your own unique journey. That journey has led you here, to the person you are today. You have to be unafraid, and embrace all aspects of that journey.

You should seek to thrive, not just survive. That means you do not have to compete or compare yourself with anyone.

Authenticity means you are enough. It’s enough to be who you are to get what you want.

What if for the first time ever, you were real? What if you said what you wanted to say, did what you wanted to do, and didn’t apologize for it?

You were assertive, forthcoming in your opinions or actions to stand for what is right for you, (rather than being passive or aggressive) in doing so. You didn’t let things get to you. You knew you had something special to offer.

That’s where we all should be.

So, answer me this:

How are you, really?

And know that no matter the answer, you should still be accepted.

Bravery is in the understanding that you still may not be accepted for your truth.

Bravery is knowing you matter even when others say that you do not.

Bravery is believing in yourself when all evidence counters doing so (i.e. past failures or losses)

Bravery is in being vulnerable while knowing vulnerability is a sign of strength.

It’s taking control.

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2. Choose Your Attitude in Adversity

You can take control of your destiny and live the life you want by being true to yourself. You can start anytime. You can start today.

You can start with one day at a time, just facing what happens that day. Most of us get overwhelmed when faced with the prospect of a big change. Even if the only thing we change is our attitude.

In one instant, you can become a different person with a change of attitude. When you take control of your attitude, you become able to better understand what is around you. This allows you to move forward.

Originally, you may have had a life plan. It could have started when you were little; you were hoping to become a mermaid, doctor, astronaut or all three when you grew up. You were hoping to be someone. You were hoping to be remembered.

You can still dream those dreams, but eventually reality sets in. Obstacles and struggles arise. You set on a different path when the last one didn’t work out. You think of all the “shoulds” in your life in living the life you want. You should be doing this…should be doing that…

Clayton Barbeau, psychologist, coined the term “shoulding yourself.’[2] When we are set on one path and find ourselves doing something different. It becomes all the things you should be doing rather than seeing the opportunities right in front of you.

But in all this disarray, did you lose sight of the real you?

It may be in our perceived failures and blunders that we lose sight of who we are, because we try to maintain position and status.

In being who we really are and achieving what we really want, we need to be resilient: How to Build Resilience to Face What Life Throws at You

It means that we do not see all possibilities of what might happen, but must trust ourselves to begin again, and continue to build the life we want. In the face of adversity, you must choose your attitude.

Can attitude overcome adversity? It certainly helps. While seeking to be true to yourself and live the life you want, you will have to face a fact:

Change will happen.

Whether that change is good or bad is unique to each person and their perspective.

You might have to start over, once, twice, a few times. It doesn’t mean that everything will be okay, but that you will be okay. What remains or should remain is the true you. When you’ve lost sight of that, you’ve lost sight of everything.

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And then, you rebuild. Moment after moment, day after day. We all have a choice, and in this moment, that matters.

You can choose to have a positive attitude, seeing the silver lining in each situation and, where there is none, the potential for one. Maybe that silver lining is you and what you will do with the situation. How will you use it for something good?

That’s how you can tap into yourself and your power. Sometimes it happens by accident, sometimes on purpose. It can happen when we aren’t even looking for it, or it can be your only focus. Everyone gets there differently.

You can rise, or you can remain. Your choice.

When the worst happens, you can rely on your authenticity to pull you through. That’s because Self Advocacy, speaking up to let others know what you need, is part of finding the real you.

There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Or sometimes, helping others can help us deal with the pain of a hurtful situation. You decide how you’re going to help others, and suddenly, you become your best self.

3. Do What Makes You Happy When No One’s Looking

Being the best version of you has nothing to do with your success or your status. It has everything to do with your Character, what you do when no one’s looking.

In order to create the life you want, you have to be the person you want to be. Faking it till you make it is just a way to white knuckle it through your journey. You have the fire inside of you to make things right, to put the pieces together, to live authentically. And Character is how you get there.

If you fall down and you help another up while you’re down there, it’s like you rise twice.

Along with attitude, your character is about the choices you make rather than what happens to you.

Yes, it’s about doing the right thing even when obstacles seem insurmountable.  It’s about using that mountain you’ve been given to show others it can be moved.  It’s about being unapologetically you, taking control, choosing your attitude in adversity and being the best version of you to create the life you want.

How do you know what you really want? Is it truly status or success?

Unfortunately, these things do not always bring happiness. And aspects of our image or “performance driven existence” may not achieve satisfaction. Materialism is part of our refusal to accept ourselves as enough. All the things we use to repress our true selves are about being enough.

“Enoughness” is what we truly seek, but ego gets in the way.

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Ego is the perception of self as outer worth. It’s not REAL self worth.

Ego represses our true self with a new self— the self of chasing ‘“Am I ever enough?”’ questions. And instead of filling our true selves with self-love and acceptance, when we “should ourselves” and chase “enoughness,” we feed the ego or our image.

It’s important to realize YOU ARE ENOUGH, without all the material trappings.

Stanford psychologist Meagan O’Reilly describes the damage of not thinking we are enough. One of her tactics for combating this is to complete the sentence,[3]

“If I believed I were already enough, I’d ____”

What would you do if you felt you were enough?

By believing you are enough, you can live the life you want.

So many fake it to try to get there, and they end up losing themselves when they lose more and more touch with their Authenticity.

Final Thoughts

By being yourself, you are being brave. By acknowledging all you can be, you tell the universe that you can until you believe it too. The steps are easy, and you are worth it. All of it is about the purpose you are leading and the passion that is your fuel.

Being true to yourself is all about mastering how to live life authentically rather than faking or forcing it. Having the life you want (and deserve) is about being trusting in yourself and the purpose you are living for. Both need passion behind it, fueling it each second, or you will experience burn out.

When you are authentic, you can call the road you walk your own. When you live your life for you and not just the results of all your actions (faking it till you make it), you can let go of what you don’t need. This clarifies and pushes purpose to you, living for something that is greater than you.

You will find that making decisions based on what will actually achieve your goals, will help you attain the life you want, and your success with each step, will allow you to enjoy the process. Good luck!

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Featured photo credit: Ariana Prestes via unsplash.com

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