September 12, 2009

Reaching Your Breaking Point?


I got an email last night from a cancer patient.  She asked that I not use her name.  So I’ll call her Mia.  She wanted me to pose a question to you:

“The day I received my fourth diagnosis, I called my mother on the phone balling, crying. I could barely talk.  ‘How f***ing strong do I have to be?  Four times.  Four f***ing times,’ was all I could say.  I was in shock for days.  I live in a neighborhood with a lot of alcoholism.  After many years of not drinking (because I wanted my children to know they have a choice to not drink), I was at a friend’s house and grabbed a beer. Later that same night I drank more in a bar.  Driving home from the bar I got stopped by the cops. I got a DUI.

“Months after my surgeries and treatments the charges were reduced.  I’m in remission again.  Now I have to contend with all my mistakes. I honestly have no idea what happened to me.  It was something that my ‘healthy’ self would not have done.  How many others out there reach their breaking point and throw their hands in the air and just say ‘f*** it’ and have a moment of insanity or self-destructive behavior?”

Mia’s not alone.  In Everything Changes, I write about Wafa’a, a young adult lymphoma patient who cut herself as a teenager and began again after recurrence.  Wafa’a said, “When I get a cancer diagnosis, I feel sadness, frustration, anger, loneliness, and really violent, like I want to break something and freak out.  Some people get anger out externally but I want to take it out on myself.”

I too understand the need to explode from cancer’s intensity.  A few times I’ve craved dragging hard on a cigarette  but just could not go there.  The day after I received test results showing a rare variation in my cell type, I chucked a dozen eggs against my shower walls while screaming and crying.  It was satisfyingly messy and violent, but safe.  (I now think shower drains should come with disposals for shells.)

Like Mia, have you ever had a breaking point of insanity or self-destructive behavior?   Have you found any safe and healthy ways to let your violent anger out?

Read Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s to learn more about how Tracy, Wafa’a, and Geoff navigated through self-destructive thinking.

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January 27, 2009

Eight Tips To Stop Recycling The Cold-Flu

As a young adult cancer patient, I feel I have reached my quota of sickness. I don’t want more cancer, nor do I want my friends’ colds or their kids’ flus. Germs linger and it is easy to recycle colds within a household. If you, your roommate, your parents, your friends, or your kids have been sick, treat your dwelling like a New Jersey superfund clean up site.

1. Wash. Wash in hot water bed linens, towels, and the cozy throw you cuddle up with while watching TV.

2. Pillows. Launder pillows, or better yet, buy pillow protectors and launder them.

3. T-brushes. Crack out a round of new toothbrushes. (Purchase many at a time so you always have new ones on hand.)

4. Clothing. Wash scarves, jackets, or other clothing that comes in contact with your mouth or face.

5. Alcohol. Spray down knobs, remote controls, keyboards, counters, and cell phone with alcohol.

6. Pocket book. Cleanout and wipe down your purse or wallet.

7. Kleenex. Empty the mountain of Kleenex piling up in your trashcan.

8. Air. Open windows and crank a fan to get fresh air flowing. Live in a freezing climate? Air out while you are walking the dog, running to the store, or visiting your downstairs neighbors.

Do you have any other clean up tips to add to the list? Does it change your mental state to wipe away the physical grime? Do you ever avoid friends’ or family members’ homes because they don’t clean after colds?

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