As a stage IV colon cancer survivor, Randy Cox has been a volunteer and Buddy with the Colon Cancer Alliance since April 2012. We’re inspired by Randy because even while struggling with ongoing treatment, he continues to reach out to the community with his story in an effort to save lives and improve treatment for colon cancer patients. His willingness to help with any volunteer opportunity has been touching to the Colon Cancer Alliance, and his strength has been a pillar of hope for newly diagnosed patients all over the country. From one patient to another, Randy put together this list of 7 ways to maintain your sanity in the face of a cancer diagnosis.
1. Educate yourself (and those around you) about your diagnosis and treatment
Every cancer patient should understand their diagnosis, their current treatment and treatment options. I've gone beyond this, trying to understand the science of cancer and current research into future treatments.
2. Connect with others
Cancer has given me stronger bonds with friends and family. I think it's important to be as honest as you can be about your cancer. I encourage you to reconnect with old friends if possible, and connect with others who are living with cancer or those who are caregivers.
3. Lend a helping hand
Helping others is always good for you. One of the best things is to find little ways to help other people. The trendy phrase is random acts of kindness. Little things like holding a door open and helping a stranger who needs directions add up. The little things can make you feel better.
4. Accept help
I'm still working on this one. I try to let my medical team know what's happening in my body. I'm gradually learning that it's not whining or complaining. Sometimes a little annoyance is the tip of an iceberg that won't be seen unless you report it. Also, have someone with you for key meetings. A lot of information can be packed into those meetings, and you can't take notes on everything. I get help for lots of things, and sometimes the help can be really simple but profound. My favorite help is with a daily injection that I need to give myself. Needles freak me out. I was the kid who passed out during the TB tests at school. Sometimes I "forget" and need a little push, so, my wife asks me every night if I did my shot. On most nights, that reminder is all I need.
5. Follow the advice of your medical team
Again, I'm not perfect, but I've learned that I should let the team know if I just can't do what they've told me because there is usually an alternative.
6. Don't dwell on your disease
A positive attitude won't cure cancer, but it's critical for your mental health and the well being of those around you. I encourage all cancer patients to practice denial; forget that you have cancer. Accept that other people have no idea what to say. Whenever I see someone for the first time in a while, they inevitably say, "You look great." They may be saying this because they expected me to look sick, but since no one ever told me I looked great before cancer, I accept the compliment.
7. Celebrate the silver linings of your disease
I love hearing "You look great." I can't work the long hours of my past, but that means more time with family and friends. There are lots of little silver linings that are unique to each of us, but I think we've all got one great silver lining in common; a greater sense of wonder and appreciation for this whole beautiful crazy world.
Don’t forget, the Colon Cancer Alliance serves as a source of information about colon health. If you have additional questions about screening or are in need of support, please contact our free Helpline at (877) 422-2030. We’re here to help!