My “Not to Do” List

Making a list of what I'm not willing to do is a way to stand up for and take care of myself.

Making a list of what I’m not willing to do is a way to stand up for and take care of myself.

I am learning to stand up for myself in several ways. I find that I no longer do things that make me uncomfortable, add stress, or bring me down. Cancer has taught me to take care of myself if I want to be alive and well. That means, emotional health, as well as physical. Staring death in the face has brought home the fact that life is not a dress rehearsal. If not now, when?

It seems the longer I live with stage IV cancer, there are more and more things I’m not willing to do. And slowly but surely, I’m not feeling guilty about it. A very good friend of mine, Pattie Noel, died last week. I am in mourning, but it also is putting an exclamation point on why I need to do everything in my power to be around for my 14-year-old daughter. She needs me now more than ever, and she is my main priority.  I’ve spent my life as a people-pleaser … so much so that I neglected me.  I don’t have that luxury anymore, and if that makes some people not like me, it seems a small price to pay.

Don’t get me wrong; I am still a nice person. I love giving back to people, especially other survivors. But I do need to draw the line somewhere. Being an author, blogger and long-time stage IV cancer survivor somehow puts me in an advice-giving role. The reality is, I’m no expert; I’m just someone who is doing the best she can to live fully every day. I don’t have answers. I can share my experiences and resources,, but I can’t wave a magic wand. I wish I could; I’d certainly use it on myself!  Everyone is different, and everyone responds differently to treatments. For some reason, Afinitor didn’t work for my dear friend Pattie, but it worked for me. I loved her dearly, and it seemed so unfair. We both had identical cancer diagnoses: ER/PR positive, stage IV cancer and were diagnosed a month apart. This is why I always add a disclaimer when people ask me what treatment I’m taking.

With this in mind, I have compiled my ” Not To Do” List

  1. Give my medical history to everyone who asks. When people ask me where my cancer is located, I can tell them I don’t like to talk about it. When I talk about it, I feel a sense of powerlessness and sadness, and it diverts me from focusing on what is right in my life. Bottom line: it makes me uncomfortable, so I don’t do it anymore!
  2. Answer the phone when my demanding, narcissistic and drug-addicted relative calls me. I also don’t listen to the voice mail messages. She drains and frustrates me, and I simply don’t have the energy to give away anymore.
  3. Volunteer for things that don’t fulfill me. My time is valuable.
  4. Turn down opportunities that are fulfilling, fun and grant me the opportunity to meet amazing people. In the past, I’d let obligations or fear stop me. Not anymore!
  5. Worry about  if people like me. Real friends rise to the surface. I can’t do anything about the ones who don’t.
  6. Feel guilty … unless I’ve done something that is wrong (if so, apologize and commit to acting differently in the future).
  7. Constantly fear the prospect of death. It takes away my joy of living.

These are just a few of the things I’m NOT doing to maintain my serenity and sanity. I find I keep adding things to my list as I grow along this journey. Life ‘s a gift, and I want to make the most out of the present.

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2 Comments

  1. I so love what you have written. Many of your points are my points too. Cancer is a bitch, but how we/you approach it, is what will matter most. I too got tired of talking about it. I lost my hair from the chemo and when I see prople who know me from having Long Hair and they comment, :you cut your hair.” I reply, “yes, it was time for a change.”
    Life IS a present.
    Live it fully. Laugh, sing, dance and praise God eveyday ’cause he is the reason why we survivors are still alive.

    Reply

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