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Cancer – Don’t Think Too Hard About It

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by Danielle Burgess, two-time colorectal cancer survivor and Fight CRC’s Communications Director

I recently received surprising advice from a counselor. I explained that losing friends to colorectal cancer doesn’t only sadden me – it scares me. Especially as someone with Lynch Syndrome.

I can go from mourning the sudden loss of a friend, to feeling a strange pain in my side, to worrying that the pain was more than just gas, to assuming that if it hasn’t already – the cancer will come back, to sorting out how I’m going to tell my family that I’ve been diagnosed again… all in about two minutes.

I think this is pretty common among survivors.

Typically, counselors encourage us to process feelings and pull back the layers. However as I explained my mental trainwreck to her, she quickly encouraged me to not think too hard about it. Addressing emotions and fears in the moment is good. Walking down the “what if it comes back” and “why do I have to deal with this” roads… not so good.

Those roads lead to unhealthy emotional and mental places. So if possible, avoid.

Rarely does someone tell me to not think too hard about an aspect of the cancer journey – often it’s quite the opposite. And for good reasons. Getting involved in treatment plans, scoping out clinical trials and asking for survivorship tips are all good things to think through and process. Finding support groups, discovering ways to use the experience, volunteering, running – also healthy ways to handle cancer.

But constantly worrying about a recurrence, obsessing about what caused the cancer, over-controlling life to ensure it won’t return (even if I have no control) – not so healthy. Sure, the fear is real and must be addressed. But just for a moment – it shouldn’t take over my life.

I’m still getting used to the idea of not thinking ‘too hard’ about cancer, or really, not letting the fear of ‘what ifs’ take over my mind. It’s an aspect of survivorship I didn’t anticipate, but one I’m finding will be important as I strive to stay healthy.

Being strong doesn’t just mean physically battling the disease. I’m learning it’s mentally fighting, too and letting myself not think too hard about cancer.

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