The old idiom of “there are two sides to every coin” or “two sides to every story” can be a powerful way to think about the story that you are writing when it comes to your breast cancer journey.
It is not uncommon for women to have feelings of fear, depression, anxiety, or distress when they learn of their breast cancer and proceed through their treatment. Yet, 79% of breast cancer survivors report finding benefits from their breast cancer journey.
Furthermore, life satisfaction has been shown to be higher among breast cancer survivors compared to the general population. The growth you achieve can take many forms, including a greater sense of purpose, appreciation for life, strengthened relationships, increased compassion, creativity, and heightened spirituality.
How does one achieve personal growth? Research has shown that patients with breast cancer who repeatedly focus on negative aspects of their cancer experience greater levels of distress. Whereas those who focus their thoughts on positive aspects of their life and treatment tend to have less distress.
Let yourself feel what you’re feeling. But don’t get stuck in negative emotions. If you find yourself having repeated negative feelings and thoughts, reach out for help. Whether it be to a family member, friend, or mental health professional, reach out to someone who can help you work through your emotions.
Challenge yourself to write a journal of three positive things that happen every day. In every obstacle you face, think of ways to push you to grow yourself in new ways that may ultimately make you an even better version of yourself. Think of prior life stressors you have been through, and consider what personal strengths you showed in those trying times to overcome them. Then, focus on these personal strengths and how you can use them to overcome the stressors you experience in your breast cancer journey. Were you previously able to deal with a stressor by being particularly strong in the face of adversity? Write down a plan on how you will use those strengths now.
Additionally, focus on your personal relationships. Think of relationships that you want to grow, and actively work to strengthen them. Look for ways to show gratitude to those who you have never properly thanked.
Make time to have deeper conversations with those around you. Likewise, take an active approach to implement spiritual growth and creativity.
It may feel overwhelming to navigate all the medical decisions, appointments, and questions that come along with a breast cancer diagnosis. But, you have likely shown strength by overcoming difficult situations in the past. With that strength and a sense of purpose, you can use this process to grow yourself in profound ways.