Accepting Uncertainty

"Doctor, will my illness return?" If the answer is "maybe," the uncertainty can cause suffering in patients who are doing well now. Since you can't live as fully as possible (the second criteria of Healthy Survivorship) if you are overly anxious, let's talk about how to accept the uncertainty, both intellectually and emotionally. 

An essential step is to get good medical care. Receiving accurate information and making wise decisions with your physicians helps calm anxiety, even if the facts are upsetting. Knowing that you are doing the best you can brings calm and confidence. After all, "best" is the best possible. 

Use self-talk:

  • "Illness doesn't make life uncertain; it merely exposes the uncertainty of life."
  • "Uncertainty is unsettling." 
  • "More than I want the comfort of certainty, I want the reality of being as healthy as possible, even if it means living with greater uncertainty."
  • "I can enjoy today, even when tomorrow feels uncertain."
  • "I will enjoy today because tomorrow is uncertain."

Take action:

  • Pursue activities that occupy your attention. 
  • Find some small way to celebrate today.
  • Get some exercise (doctor-approved).
  • Do something to help someone else.
  • Use meditation, yoga, prayer.
  • Talk with someone who understands and can help (e.g., a co-survivor, support group, counselor)

If anxiety persists, notify your physicians, because your medical condition and/or medications may be causing or exacerbating anxiety. And they may be able to adjust your therapies without compromising your recovery-- and maybe even enhancing it.

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