Take a breath

A cancer diagnosis is overwhelming.  Your world starts to spiral out of control.  You, for the first time in your life, think seriously about dying.  Your life will never be the same.  Will I lose my hair?  Will I be sick?   I am too young to die!  Why me?  This isn’t fair.  This is ruining all of my plans.  How will this affect my family?  My marriage?  Will my insurance cover all that I am about to go through?  How will my friends react?  I don’t want people to look at me with pity.  How will I tell my family?  How will I tell my friends?  I can’t believe this is really happening to me.  I don’t want to die!  Am I going to die?

These are the crazy, negative thoughts that will keep you up at night, and when you do fall asleep, these will be your consuming thoughts when you open your eyes.


Take a deep breath because all of this worry is not helpful.  A deep breath will stop the cycle of negative thoughts.  Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Melon, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer (YouTube: The Last Lecture).  In an interview, Randy and his wife said that they had a saying, “Not Helpful.”  Adopt this saying as your own, take a deep breath, and say, “Not helpful” when the thoughts listed above or any other crazy, negative thoughts start to enter your head.  I know you are thinking this is easy for me to say now, but this is exactly what my husband and I said every time a crazy, negative thought came into our heads.  Use it to leave the diagnosis behind you in order to become focused on what can be helpful.

I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t think.  And then I got angry!  Angry at this cancer that was inside of me.  I told it that it was not going to ruin my life!

Between the diagnosis (5/25/12), the crazy, negative thoughts, getting angry, and the surgery (6/22/12), I lead a near-normal life.  We continued our yard sale, I went to a friend’s wedding in Philadelphia.  We went to MD Anderson and scheduled surgery.  We went to Boston for a few days.  We started telling family and close friends.  I continued to exercise to keep my body strong.  I started eating, sleeping and thinking better.

The diagnosis confirmation had put an end to my denial and started my search for more information.  The anger and the surgery woke up the realization that I needed to make peace, to be normal, to focus, to make additional decisions, and to move forward.  I had accepted the situation:  I had accepted that I had cancer and that it had been removed.  I made peace with my body and my life.  I was ready to recover, pick up my life and move forward.


Take a deep breath.

Say, “Not Helpful.”

Make peace.

Move forward.


Download a printable version here.

For I will restore health to you and heal you of your wounds, says the Lord
Jeremiah 30:17

…if you have faith as small as a mustard seed…nothing will be impossible for you.
Matthew 17:20

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13

For with God nothing is impossible.
Luke 137

Oh God I know you can heal me.  If you will you can make me clean.  Jesus said, I will, you be clean.
Luke 5:12

And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your heart and your mind in Jesus Christ.
Philippians 4:7

And He said to her, Daughter, be of good cheer, your faith has made you well.  Go in peace.
Luke 8:48

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:34

Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
Mark 11:24

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
Psalm 34

Only in god be at rest, my soul, for from him comes my hope.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 62

He is the God who makes me strong and fills me with strength.
Psalm 18:32

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Psalm 103 1:5

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
Psalm 23

I lift my eyes to the hills-where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1-2 

He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction.
Psalm 107:20