Does Having Cancer Mean You Have Courage?

by Brittany McNabb-WhatNext

Debbie Woodbury, breast cancer survivor and one of our guest bloggers, has provided us with another powerful post. It is an excerpt from her second book, How to Build an Amazing Life After Treatment; 10 (more) simple secrets to creating inspired healing, wellness & your joyous life after cancer. This is the second part of her After Treatment Book series.

Debbie Woodbury

In this excerpt she gives her first new secret: Celebrate Your Courage. Debbie has already inspired WhatNext readers through her post called “Is keeping a positive attitude about cancer exhausting you?” and this post will continue the theme of fighting cancer head-on.

“Secret No. 1: Celebrate Your Courage"
Once upon a time, you were blissfully unaware of cancer. Then, out of nowhere it seemed, it reared its ugly head and everything changed.

As you faced each day of testing, diagnosis, radiation, chemotherapy, surgeries and recuperation, it became clear you had no right to expectations. There were no road maps, no clear answers and every moment brought new, unexpected challenges. The one constant that never left you was fear.

 Despite your doubts, you looked fear in the face every time and did what you thought you could not. I remember awaiting yet another painful procedure. My nerves were shot, my stomach hurt and my fight or flight instinct was screaming for me to choose. I threatened to run from the waiting room, telling my husband it was easier for me to do so the longer I sat there. It was excruciating, but I resisted the lure of becoming a run-away patient and walked into the room when my name was finally called.

Now we know life after cancer isn’t for sissies either. The fear of recurrence looms large, especially when you meet with your oncologist or go for tests. Overwhelm, anger, loneliness, stress and abandonment issues arise when you thought you should be celebrating. You’re slowly learning that just because you’re finished with treatment, it doesn’t mean cancer is finished with you.

The good news is that you now have secret weapons you didn’t have before. First and foremost, you know for a fact you have the “strength and courage and confidence” to face your fears head on, because you’ve done it before under the worst of circumstances. 

Secondly, you have resources and support you didn’t have pre-cancer. For a year after my mastectomy, I met with a therapist to talk through the emotional effects of my diagnosis and treatment. When I was unnerved by my first post-mastectomy mammogram, she assured me that, even if I had to face cancer again, things would be different because I had a support network I didn’t have before.

How To Build An Amazing Life After Treatment

My most recent mammogram experience proved her point. I originally intended to downplay my anxiety by staying quiet and not talk or write about my upcoming mammogram. Finally, as I sat in the waiting room, my nerves got the best of me and I reached out the only way I could – on my Facebook page, WhereWeGoNow as Cancer Survivors:

Mammogram this morning. I've been trying not to think about it but it's time. No problems (that I know of) but I'm still nervous. This part never gets easier for me.

When I got home and opened up my laptop, I found 22 comments from 22 women offering me hope, peace, hugs, reassurance, understanding, prayers and camaraderie. I was blown away by their support. As I wrote in my first book, You Can Thrive After Treatment, “Show Up to be Supported” is hands down the number one secret to creating inspired healing, wellness and live out loud joy after cancer. I showed up and built my support network, and it showed up for me when I struggled with test anxiety.

As Mark Twain so aptly put, "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear." Going into that mammogram knowing I’ve handled worse and calling in the troops for support gave me the courage I needed to manage fear.

I’m reminded of a childhood hero, the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz. As he follows the Yellow Brick Road, the Cowardly Lion is convinced he is more of a scaredy-cat than the brave king of the jungle. It’s only after the Wizard gives him a medal for standing up to the Wicked Witch despite his fears that he holds his head up high and roars. 

Celebrate your courage (with a medal or anything of your choice.) You stood up to your own Wicked Witch and have the courage and tools to stand up to whatever comes next in your life after treatment.”

Debbie is also the author of You Can Thrive After Treatment; 10 simple secrets to creating inspired healing, wellness & your joyous life after cancer. You can also find Debbie on Twitter and Facebook.

You Can Thrive After Treatment

What do you think about courage and the role it has played before, during or after cancer treatment? What are some of your positive perspective changes?

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