By Dann Wonser
How many things have you learned since your cancer journey began, that you wished you had known right from the beginning? If you’re like me, it’s a long list.
How do you get through the shock of those first few weeks? (Umm… months?) How do you share the news with those people that you care about and what do you say as your path takes new turns? There may have been a person or two that has been a drain on your life. Should you hit the “eject” button on the unwanted baggage? It’s possible that your other relationships have now become more important and you are talking to the people you love in ways you never thought you could. Even your priorities may have come into clearer focus since your first days A.D. (After Diagnosis).
One of the most critical things we learn is how to be our own advocate in treatment. That was simpler back when I was first diagnosed twelve years ago, when “personalized medicine” meant that someone fluffed your pillow. At that time, the only treatment options available were chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. And yet, even with those limited options, I almost lost my life because I wasn’t an advocate for myself at a critical point. I am alive partly because of dumb luck and I want to make sure that nobody else ever has to rely on dumb luck because of simple things they didn’t know.
For most of us, there has also been a shift in attitude. But what kind of shift has it been for you and in what areas? And how are you handling “scanxiety” along with your fears about those nasty statistics you can’t stop yourself from reading?
I have gone through all of these experiences and quite a few more since I was first diagnosed. During the process of sending out countless emails to family and friends, sharing both my disease progression and my personal progress, I also learned something else about myself: I discovered that I love to write.
I started out by sending emails with Joe Friday (“Just the facts, ma’am”) medical reports and gradually I started letting my personality creep into my words. I slipped in a little humor, got much more personal and shared my growing optimism.
I was surprised when friends and family started sharing these emails with other people that had just been diagnosed with cancer of all kinds. Each time, the explanation was the same. They wanted this person to see something none of us know in the beginning: That we can develop tools for dealing with cancer that will help us to not just survive, but to live life to the fullest. In short, we can learn to actually thrive with cancer!
Learning how my emails were being used got me motivated to (gulp) go public. I put all of those emails on a blog (www.dannwonser.com) and started posting new emails to share publicly.. It is deeply satisfying to know that people from 65 countries read my blog. They frequently send their thanks for giving them hope or just for sharing a new insight about my own cancer journey..
Some people even told me I should write a book. Now, let’s get real. Lots of people get told this. But I was naïve enough to believe them. So I did!
I wrote about all I have learned through my own diagnosis and treatment: : Attitude. Relationships. Fear. Grief. Love. Communication. I touch on everything from dealing with people who give you new diets to try to people who give you the latest cancer “must read.”.. I used my twenty-five years of experience working in mental health to put these in a framework that made me dig a little deeper and think a little clearer. I also shared things I have rarely told anyone, ever. If this was going to be useful for other people, I had to make it personal.
So, my friends, I wrote Second Wind: Thriving With Cancer for you. Wherever you are in your journey, it will give you an opportunity to re-think the big issues. Maybe you can even take a shortcut or two on your own road. You might even better recognize a decision point where you can advocate more effectively for yourself with no dumb luck required.
I am thrilled that this four-year labor of love is now available and that 100% of the profits will be shared equally between Lung Cancer Alliance and LUNGevity.
After all, this is for you.
Click here to purchase Dann’s book. All profits go towards helping those impacted by lung cancer.