I have never liked to write. I have always preferred to be face to face when sharing information, not in writing. I was the kid in class given a 1000 word assignment and 950 words would be alright, the last 50 would be the word ‘very’ everywhere it could pass. Someone suggested years and years ago that it might be a blank page causing my ill ease, if I were to edit something it might make it easier. Easier–yes, easy–no.
The whole concept of cancer was essentially a blank page for me. There had been no diagnosis of cancer in my immediate circle of family and friends. A grandparent and far away cousin had died due to cancer when I was little, later in life friend’s parents had cancer, no direct connection to everyday life. Not quite a blank slate, but close enough.
It may be tempting to broadly Google symptoms and diseases. I do not recommend it. Specific questions maybe, the more specific the better. Otherwise the information can be overwhelming and most often pretty bleak. Since the internet can be a dark place I went to a bookstore and a library for information.
I judged the books by their covers and the titles and was overwhelmed. I used my Google strategy, be as specific about what I wanted as possible. I wanted positive books with actionable advice. For example, everyone says to reduce stress, great, how? One book said to take up meditation to help reduce stress and to use melatonin to help get to sleep to help reduce stress. Here is a good set of tips for meditation: https://zenhabits.net/meditation-guide/ .
Meditation has never interested me. I like group activities, meditation isn’t really a group activity. Meditation seemed like it was trying to create the ultimate blank page in my mind. I mentioned that blank pages are their own source of stress, this seemed like a pretty rough spiral to be in. I tried to meditate for two minutes the first time.
After diagnosis the quiet, alone times were by far the roughest. Alone with my thoughts is when I would go to some dark places. Imagining all sorts of terrible things happening. Meditation is quiet, alone time. But only for two minutes. I had help through work, we have access to Whil. They have programs for people who have never meditated and start at two minutes. I learned to meditate.
I actually like meditating now. Learning to meditate made the quiet, alone times much more palatable, even a little enjoyable. Oddly, a blank page no longer causes me stress. I am not sure that the two are connected, I am not sure that they are not connected either.
The best evidence of this is a WordPress blog opens as a blank page. It doesn’t cause me any stress or nervousness and I don’t have to edit one to make another one. I won’t make it to 1000 words today, thankfully there was no assignment to do so or you would have read ‘very’ as every other word.
If you have access to Whil, give it a try, if not, there are good resources online for free. Trying to calm your mind in the middle of a cancer tornado while on the cancer runaway train is difficult. I would imagine being able to meditate prior to a critical illness would prove invaluable. Reducing stress can help to reduce the likelihood of ever having a critical illnesses, if you learn today, maybe you will never have a critical illness.
These are interesting side effects, I guess since they are positive they are benefits. There are not a lot of benefits to cancer, but the ones that come are pretty huge. Take a few minutes to learn to meditate, practice often to reduce your stress and never let a blank page get you down.