Crafting a New Perspective on Cancer Treatment
by Rex Jones
Yes, fun and games. That’s how I wanted my treatments to be seen. Of course, it sucks to be going through any sort of cancer treatment; I’m not even going to pretend that it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter the diagnosis, the stage of tumor growth, or the treatment plan, it’s going to be tough. It’s surreal, that moment, the precise moment you are told you have cancer. I don’t think I have ever been so scared in my entire life as I was at that moment when I was told I needed to see an oncologist as soon as possible. But here’s the thing: That dreaded “C” word is bad enough, so why do anything that might make it worse?
No, I’m not talking about health or lifestyle practices. I’m talking about the mind game that every cancer survivor (and their loved ones) has to play. From the moment of diagnosis onward, none of us really knows if cancer will be the thing that kills us. Of course, we all are hopeful that treatment will work the way we want it to so that we never have to worry about it again. But deep in the dark corners of our minds, we know there’s always a chance it could come back; there’s always a chance we won’t beat the odds. This is a terrifying place to be. And staying in that mental spot can make the already bad so much worse.
I decided several weeks before I even began my chemotherapy that I was going to dress up as some character or another for each chemo appointment. I thought it would be a hilarious way to inject some positivity into my cancer journey.
I had a thought, early on, before my cancer was even staged, that helped me get through treatment. I realized I truly was powerless to change my new reality. I had cancer. There was no way around it. So why make things worse? From that point on, I was determined to find every possible way to turn this crazy ride into something positive. Enter the chemo costumes. I decided several weeks before I even began my chemotherapy that I was going to dress up as some character or another for each chemo appointment. I thought it would be a hilarious way to inject some positivity into my cancer journey. The costumes totally worked in that regard, but over time they became something more than just an entertaining pick-me-up for my personal cancer journey.
The chemo costumes came to be something that my caregivers and fellow cancer survivors looked forward to. All of them knew that on my chemo days some weirdo would be showing up in a silly outfit. What started out as just a little thing I did to help myself stay positive during cancer treatment morphed into something that spread positivity to so many more people.
I realized I truly was powerless to change my new reality. I had cancer.
There was no way around it. So why make things worse?I’m not saying that people undergoing cancer treatment need to dress up or do anything as ridiculous as the shenanigans that I pulled (including the time I showed up for chemo dressed in a full-body T. rex costume and burst in on all the doctors in their offices). My reason for sharing this is simply because I am convinced that even the most difficult things in life can be made easier when we focus on finding ways to be positive.
I believe that positive energy trumps negative every time. When circumstances – like cancer – are out of our control, then the only option we really have is choosing how we want to go through that experience. I’d rather make something miserable more fun than stay in a mental state that makes the experience feel worse. Practicing positivity, in both little and big ways, can make any outcome a better one. Besides, it might even create some smiles along the way.
Rex Jones was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in July 2019 and finished his treatment in January 2020. Rex is a writer, landscape photographer, tour guide, and avid outdoorsman residing in Utah. You can connect with him via Facebook (facebook.com/rex.goes.hiking), Instagram (@rexgoeshiking), or his website (RexGoesHiking.com).
This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, March/April 2020.