Clare Reed CBT Therapist
Finding Your Joy After Cancer
Updated: Oct 13, 2018
For some people finding their joy in life after Cancer seems to be nearly nigh on impossible. For those of you reading this who haven’t had Cancer this can seem really weird. Surely, you think, surely you would be jumping round the place with a new zest for life having escaped Cancer? Of course, for some people this is the case. But it is estimated that at least 70% of people do not have this new zest for life, in fact they have ongoing anxiety about their health. They wake at night terrified of the Cancer returning. Every holiday is planned with trepidation, worrying they might not be able to go on holiday if the Cancer comes back. Life affirming actions like getting a better job, having children, buying a house, getting married, are marred with thoughts like, ‘This is too risky, what if the Cancer comes back?’. Imagine living like that. When normally exciting decisions are fast followed up with such negativity and self-doubt. That is what life looks like after Cancer for many. I want to make sure it’s not your life.
If you are struggling with the reality of life after Cancer I want to help you move on to find joy and a lust for life.
A first step is to find your joy. Joy is hugely underestimated by adults. The odd laugh here and there is not enough. Even once a week is not enough. Joy provides our body with a stronger immune system. It produces feel good chemicals in our body such as serotonin and endorphins, these in turn boost our immune system and produce more cancer fighting cells. I think that will have given some of you a jolt! I hope so. Joy along with other contributing factors will help keep Cancer returning. How great is that?
What is your Joy?
What is your joy in life? This is one of the first questions I ask my clients, once I have got to know them a bit more. Because it soon becomes obvious to me that it may be lacking. Joy may have been lacking for a long time, even before Cancer. Can you answer this question as you are reading this? What gives you joy? For some of you the answer may be your children, grandchildren or partner. That is lovely, but it is not the answer I am looking for. Children, grandchildren and partners can also cause stress, upset, frustration and angst too. What I mean by joy is something that just gives you joy, it doesn’t make you stressed, worried, anxious. A simple pleasure.
My clients often go quiet at this stage, they can’t think of anything other than the children etc. I ask them to go back in time, back to when they were children and remember what gave them joy then. This helps enormously, as children really do know how to have fun. They’ll remember playing with toys, reading books, climbing trees, go-karting, painting, singing, playing cricket so many things and yet they aren’t doing them now. They left their joy behind in their childhood and replaced it with responsibility and working hard, the grind of daily life. Ask a child the question, ‘What is your joy in life’ or ‘What do they find fun?’ I bet they won’t say being with their parents! They will name one or more of life’s simple pleasures that makes them joyous. See if you can do that too. Then when you name your joys think of the last time you did them.
I appreciate climbing trees and other action pursuits may be a step too far for some of you. But there are compromises. Instead of climbing a tree you could go mountain hiking, or rock climbing for the more agile. Symbolically, climbing a tree was all about getting as close to the top as possible, without falling out of the tree. There was a little bit of risk, a little bit of adrenaline but once at the top, it was all about the view, the different perspective. That perspective shift is all that is needed too for rethinking your childhood joys. You can do adult versions of most childhood joys. Singing can be joining a local choir. If you loved being in the school play - join an amateur dramatic group. Enjoyed painting – get a set of paints and go for it. Playing a sport can be joining in or supporting a local team as a volunteer or just going along to watch others play. Think of what your adult version of joy can be. What can you do? Where can you do it? When can you start?
Now you have rethought your childhood joys as an adult. It’s time to start doing them.
If you hear that niggly voice saying, ‘But what if the Cancer comes back?’ Please do this, say to it, with a loving voice, ‘Thank you ‘caring me’ but there is no sign of Cancer and I feel well. Right now, I am going off to do my 'x' activity and I am looking forward to it.’ Don’t chastise yourself for worrying about yourself, but you can only worry if there is something genuinely to worry about and fear is not genuine, it is imaginary. Speaking to yourself lovingly and respectfully is key to loving yourself and having good self-esteem. Thanking the niggly voice is offering respect for it’s opinion but dismissing it with fact and truth.
So go, rediscover your joy or start doing a new joy.
If you are struggling with your life after Cancer please get in touch. Over a third of my clients that I work with come to me to work on this. It is not to be disregarded or thought of as being unnecessary. Life does not have to be full of fear and worry just because you had cancer. I have great techniques and tools to share with you and help you move forward.
Get in touch with me and let’s get started on this.