By Judi Wallace
When faced with life’s challenges, we have a choice to put ourselves in the driver’s seat and take control of our own destiny.
For me, life is about the choices we make when dealing with difficult situations. The first time I was diagnosed with cancer, I thought I was taking control of my situation. However, looking back at that time, it was really my family that had taken control of the journey for me, and I was happy to let them. The second time I was diagnosed with cancer, our family was grieving the loss of my mother in-law. We had her Celebration of Life and 10 days later I was told I had cancer again. This time I knew it had to be me who took control.
I decided right away that I would have a bilateral mastectomy and that I was not open to discussion. I was starting to take control.
I found out that the surgery would be on Valentine’s Day 2012—my husband was getting a new woman for Valentine’s Day! I started preparing my mind and body for what was going to happen. Every day I would sit and visualize a successful surgery and that I would remain calm. I started choosing the music I would listen to during the surgery. The surgeon told me it would be about a four-hour surgery, so I picked songs and meditations to listen to during the procedure. I also started preparing my body by walking everyday and doing exercises that would help me after the surgery. It became my mission to have the best outcome possible. When February 14th came, I was ready. I put on my MP3 player and went to sleep listening to Enya.
My MP3 player became my trusted companion through this journey. I listened to Belleruth Naparstek’s pain visualization after I came out of surgery and all through the night. The next morning when the surgeon came in to see me, I was ready to go home. He asked if I would stay until suppertime just to make sure I didn’t need any pain medications. I was very fortunate that my husband and daughter arrived early in the morning and then my daughter stayed with me for the rest of the day. She learned how to change my drains and by early evening, she helped me get dressed so I could leave. Unfortunately, the doctor had not left instructions that I could leave because he was worried I would be discharged even if I wasn’t ready to go. By 8:30 p.m, I told my nurse that I was leaving and I would sign the “leaving against medical advice” form. As my husband arrived with the car, the surgeon phoned and I was discharged. As we were leaving the hospital, my daughter said, “Quick, Dad get the car!” In a way, it did feel like we were escaping! I took control.
Once I was home, I began doing the exercises I started before the surgery. Each day I could see the little improvements in my abilities. When I went in to have my dressings changed, I informed the nurses that I did not want to hear what was going on, as I do not do well with blood or descriptions of medical procedures. One nurse started to tell me what she was going to do and I almost fainted. After that, my file was clearly marked with “DO NOT SPEAK TO PATIENT.” My husband was wonderful because they would describe what they were going to do to him and I put my music on and went to my quiet place. The nurse actually had to tap me on my shoulder to let me know that the drain was out. I took control.
About three weeks after my surgery, I was back at the cancer clinic. I had decided I would not go through chemotherapy again unless the chance of five-year survival was 20 percent or better. The oncologist I had the first time was away for a few months and, although she was still following my case, I had a new oncologist delivering the news. She told me without chemotherapy, the chance of recurrence was between 40 to 50 percent; however, chemotherapy would cut that in half. She wanted to start the chemotherapy immediately but I said no. My 50th birthday was in a few days and I would start chemotherapy after my birthday—I was taking control. By delaying the chemotherapy, it also gave me time to start preparing my mind and body for the journey. I continued to visualize the chemotherapy drugs searching my body for any stray cancer cells followed by a warm wave that washed everything out of my body.
Once the chemotherapy started, I had my chemotherapy kit prepared and I took it with me to each appointment. My kit consisted of my MP3 player, which I listened to while I was prepped for the intravenous drugs. It also held an amethyst angel that my sister had sent me to help me let go and trust the process, as well as a symbol of the Stonehenge she sent me for courage and strength. I was also extremely lucky that I always had my husband, son or daughter with me at all times providing unconditional love and support. My chemotherapy kit made me feel like I was in control.
I truly believe that by taking control, making the choices that felt right to me, and preparing my mind and body for the journey, I sailed through with relative ease.
Initially, the oncologist was worried on how I would do this time because I had been so sick the first time. I believe taking control helped make the journey a little easier.
We never really know what life holds for us, but I believe every now and then we are fortunate enough to find the strength within us to challenge the obstacles thrown in our direction. We have choices on how we want to handle what life throws at us. I found taking control helped me through the journey. And of course, the love and support of an incredible family certainly helps!
Judi Wallace, MA, studied Positive Psychology during her Master of Arts. Her research focused on happiness. She uses her knowledge of Positive Psychology to help people navigate some of life’s challenges such as chronic illness. Judi has faced her own challenges with cancer and shares her wisdom with people on their own journeys. Judi is an accredited life coach and a member of the International Coach Federation. She is on the executive of her local chapter, a Competent Communicator and Leader through Toastmasters and a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow. Judi facilitates a cancer support group and is a peer support volunteer. Visit www.judiwallacecoach.ca.
This article is a chapter from the book Transform Your Life! written by 60 real-life heroes and experts and available at Amazon.com, BN.com, www.Transformation-Publishing.com and all ebook formats.