Staying in the light of recovery can be very hard, especially when the unexpected happens. Life is full of surprises, and no matter how hard you try to prepare, something can strike you out of the blue. Some things you just can’t prepare for, and when they happen, you must rely on your own strength to stay in the light. When this happens, you learn how strong you are and you turn to all the coping techniques you learned while you were ill. Even though you are in recovery, at times you must still fight to stay above the hole. This is when you must decide if you’re a fighter or a quitter.
Ever since I got the diagnosis of breast cancer, I have been fighting depression. Everything seems unreal. I feel fine, yet I have cancer. How could I have such an awful illness and feel healthy? This has to be a nightmare. I want to go to sleep and wake up cancer free, but unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. I’ve even questioned God. Why would he give me such an awful disease? Did I do something to deserve it? Am I being punished?
I try to keep busy. I’ve been cleaning up around the house, and on my day off when I don’t have appointments, I go to lunch with a friend, take our dog for a walk, and do laundry. There are moments when I’m okay with things and other moments when I just start crying. My thoughts get the best of me. I start thinking about my illness and the rough road that lies ahead of me. I begin worrying about how we’ll pay our bills while I’m off work. I start to feel sorry for myself.
It’s just not fair. I fought hard to overcome mental illness and now I am suddenly struggling with a physical illness. I worked hard to overcome depression and once again I’m fighting with it. Haven’t I been through enough in my life? Why me? Why do I have to go through this? I’m tired of having problems.
Just last year I had a detached tendon repaired in my ankle, two years before that I had a procedure done for plantar fasciitis, and two years before that I had my gall bladder out. I have been to physical therapy so often they know me by name. Now I’m facing an even bigger surgery. It just doesn’t seem right.
I’ll be off work for 6 to 8 weeks. It takes both Lou and my check to pay our bills. How will we survive on one income? Disability at work doesn’t pay much. Will we lose our home? Will our gas and electricity be turned off? How will we buy groceries? The worries go on and on.
Then I start thinking I am not strong enough to handle this. I can’t do this. I can’t go through another surgery. I’m sick of fighting. I just want to go back in time to when I was cancer free. I want someone to shake me and wake me up and say it was all a bad dream. I can’t do this. I’m not strong. I’m weak. The tears begin to pour from my eyes. Then I run to Lou and he holds me while I cry. He reassures me I am strong and I can and will fight this. He talks to me until I stop crying. He even gets me laughing.
This is when I turn to my coping techniques and support system. I can’t let a disease like cancer push me back to the bottom of the hole again. I’m too strong for that, right? I can’t give up.
Lou keeps saying to me. “As long as I’ve known you, you have never been a quitter. You are a fighter. This time you’re not fighting alone. I’m here fighting with you.”
He’s right. There are plenty of times I could have quit, like when my teachers and classmates at school said I was too stupid to pass school on my own or ever be able to work a job. I fought to prove them wrong. It wasn’t an easy battle, but I didn’t give up and I proved them all wrong. So why would I give up now? Why would I allow depression to win again? Why would I let cancer ruin my life?
If you’re faced with a challenge, don’t be a quitter; be a fighter. Fight for yourself, fight to stay above the hole, fight for happiness, and fight with all that’s within you. Times will get hard and your strength will be tested, but don’t give up. You might feel like there is nothing left within you to face the battle before you, but turn to God. Trust in him. He’ll give you the extra strength you need.
Since I found out I have cancer, I have been praying a lot. I have been turning to friends and family for support, I have been practicing coping techniques and fighting. I will not quit. I will fight cancer and my depression. Because I am not a quitter, I’ll bathe in the light of recovery from both mental illness and cancer.