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Keep Your Spirits Up

Words of Wisdom from Someone Who’s “Been There”

by Jim Pesoli Sr., Founder of Kids Fight Cancer

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It’s no secret that battling cancer is tough. After successfully fighting cancer four times in my life, I have gotten used to dealing with the difficulties associated with the disease. Based on my own firsthand battle, I have put together some tips to help you keep your spirits up.

Let your family know.
Being diagnosed with cancer is not like having a baby. You don’t want to shout it from the rooftops, call everyone you know, or even talk to your closest friends about it. However, being open and communicating with your family is crucial to successfully dealing with your situation.

The first thing I did when I was diagnosed was sit down with my kids. I explained to them exactly what was happening so they heard it from me and felt reassured that everything would be OK. I then gradually started to tell the rest of my family. I found that as I talked to people about my cancer before they had heard it from someone else, I was met with unbelievable support.

Stay positive.
Staying positive is one of the most important things you can do. When the going gets tough, think about what makes you happy and why you should keep fighting. For me, the inspiration of my children was what kept me sane. Seeing them in the waiting room, happy to see their father, helped me stay positive, keep my head up, and go to treatment every day.

If you don’t have a solid family support structure, reach out to your local hospital support group. These groups can really make a difference in your positive mental attitude.

Engage your doctor.
Your doctor is an important part of how you cope with cancer. It is important that you trust your doctor. Don’t be afraid to find a new doctor if your current one is not working out. You need to feel confident in everything he or she does.

When the going gets tough, think about why you should keep fighting.

Author of Article photo

Jim Pesoli

Once you have that confidence, start engaging your doctor. If you don’t ask your doctor questions, he or she will just assume you know what’s going on. Ask specific questions about your treatment and anything else on your mind. Trust me; they will answer your questions. Getting those answers will not only help you to communicate better with your family when they ask questions, but it will also ease your mind and help you build confidence in your doctor’s skills and abilities.

Communicate with family and friends about how you’re feeling.
When you are going through some of the intense moments of treatment, your immune system is practically nonexistent. During this time, whom you engage with and where you go must remain top of mind.

Contracting a secondary illness while fighting cancer can seriously hurt your ability to fight the disease. So when you are unable to go meet friends or be with family, be open and honest about why. No one likes to sit on the sidelines, but being honest about why you’re doing so will help keep your friends and family close.

The more you keep your family and friends in the dark, the more difficult it is for them to support you. Keep a steady line of communication every day, letting them know exactly how you feel and what you need to be doing. They will understand.

Family members can be a pillar of strength.
People going through cancer treatments should never have to go it alone. And things will likely get very tough. Throughout the process, family members need to stay strong.

It’s also important for family members to act as spokespersons. The last thing I wanted to do was tell 40 different people about every daily update. I was so thankful to have my son there to answer phone calls, talk with friends and family, and reassure them about what was going on with me. Taking that burden off my shoulders was a tremendous help.

If you don’t have a gatekeeper to help communicate with friends and family, start a blog. A blog is a great outlet for you to talk about what’s going on in your life, and your friends and family will be able to stay on top of all the news without having to bother you with a phone call every minute.

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Jim Pesoli Sr. is the four-time cancer survivor who brought Kids Fight Cancer to life. After receiving a great deal of support from family and friends after overcoming his second bout with Hodgkin lymphoma, Jim was determined to share the generosity he experienced by helping children afflicted with cancer. For his full-time job, Jim operates ICON Electric, an electrical contracting company specializing in commercial, industrial, and municipal projects in Chicago, IL.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, July/August 2010.