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Finding Emotional Honesty in the Complicated Extremes of Cancer

Living with metastatic breast cancer isn’t easy. For me, one of the struggles has been with the uncertainty of this disease, which we’d love to call “chronic” when it really isn’t.

Living longer than expected, but not as long as someone else, wondering what the next scan could bring or if the drug that causes heart problems is busy doing that in your own heart can put emotional highs and lows into a whole new category of extremes.

Recognizing that we are living with extremes is the first baby step in learning to live with them. Overcoming the extremes? That takes some serious effort. The truth is that sometimes I handle the ups, and worse, the downs, very, very, very poorly.

I feel tired and I take it out on my husband by losing patience; I feel scared so I express it through anger at someone who makes a mistake while driving; I’m full of worry and I try to manage it by eating food that I once found soothing.

One of the keys to living with an ongoing health crisis is to try to smooth out those highs and lows. Yes, you want to feel joy and euphoria, but to lessen the difference between those high-flying emotions and the depths of despair, by bringing despair into a more manageable range, you sometimes have to work hard.
Fortunately, there is the occasional “oh, wow!” moment that manages to shift your perspective for you in a lightening fast rush of understanding.
I’ve started practicing something I learned at the recent Living Beyond Breast Cancer conference on metastatic breast cancer (lbbc.org). One speaker, Kelly Grosklags, a board certified clinical social worker in Minnesota, caught me off guard as she talked about how we so often think in terms of either/or: I am either hopeless or I’m hopeful. I’m either happy or I’m devastated. Most importantly, for me, is the idea that I am either sick or I am well.
As a woman with metastatic breast cancer, I accept the idea that I am just simply not going to be considered “well” by any doctor I ever meet, probably for the rest of my life.

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– See more at: http://www.curetoday.com/community/martha-carlson/2017/05/finding-emotional-honesty-in-the-complicated-extremes-of-cancer#sthash.6FUTNLq8.dpuf