The ‘Eye of your Storm’- a perspective on living with cancer and treatment thereof.
The date is April 26, 1989. The deadliest tornado the world has ever seen hits a region of Bangladesh. 12000 people are injured by the tornado that either completely or almost completely destroys every home within a 6 km area of its path (1). Over 1300 lives are lost and more than 80 000 people are left homeless.
Figure 1 Saturia Bangladesh Tornado 1989 (2)
Those just outside the 6km area of the path of destruction feel some of the brunt of the storm and are somewhat affected with losses. Those within a 20 km may experience some effects such as thunder, rain and winds and even minor loss. However, those far away and even in other countries possibly have no connection with the effect or devastation it has and may not even have any interest therein.
For the people who live in the specific area, it is a personal storm that no one from ‘outside’ can fully comprehend.
Cancer is your storm, your Tornado. It is disruptive, destructive, largely unpredictable and what seems like an uncontrollable and continuous storm. And it is very personal.
If you live with a diagnosis of cancer, you most probably will understand the metaphor of the Tornado. It approaches first as a storm. As the storm approaches, hopes live on that it dissipates, but the ‘tube’ develops and a path of destruction starts. Diagnosis is confirmed, treatment options are discussed, condolences flood in pressuring logical sense and so many thoughts affecting career, family and finances fly around like the debris the tornado pics up.
This is a dangerous space, this approaching tube. Needed treatment may cause secondary problems (3). Friends you thought would pitch their tents in your front yard, do not call but others hardly give you any rest while still only talking to each other about seemingly meaningless content. It hurts, it is lonely and it may make it hard for emotional management and ego survival. Others want to know from you what the storm does and where it is going, but you are just hanging on for dear life itself and focus relentlessly on the now just to survive and not be blown away by the storm.
Your support system too is thrown around by the winds and must dodge debris. They suffer a different but equally agonizing time. Your trauma and your storm also affects them. Some manage and some do not. To some, the pain of you going through such a tough time and to feel they can do nothing to alleviate the physical pain or emotional pain, is just too much to bear and their voices die down under the mighty deafening roar of the storm. Debris is severely damaging. Physical pain tires the system, goals and needs may change, roles often change within the bigger social system and financial and social losses may be common.
And then, following several occurrences and maybe even wishes to not continue, the storm passes and for the first time in long, is quiet, you do not have to hold on for dear life itself and there is a sense of extreme tranquility. This is the eye of the Storm. Here you have rest after the long and most likely agonizing approach. And here you recover and regain your strengths. For some, this is where they remain, a place of peace and tranquility and almost disbelief. In stark contrast to the path of destruction cancer has left in its wake, this ‘eye of your storm’ is a welcome change from working hard to stay alive. For others, this may not be the end and they may have to go through another set of ‘storms’. It is unlike before and bring different challenges together. You may reach the eye sooner or pass through the storm altogether sooner than you think. And for some their storm struggles to be downgraded and powers on for long.
Figure 2 Eye of a Cyclone (4)
Whatever your ‘Eye’ represents to you is unique, but it is your safe space, your recharge and everything that works together to create some normalcy and wellness in the uncertainty and overbearing ‘now-ness’ of cancer. Know your storm and you can prepare-information from knowledgeable sources may give you a sense of control. Exercise is cited to contribute to contribute to wellness, may help with frustration, mobilization and concentration. A further benefit may even be to serve as distractor for negative and invasive thoughts. Whether it may be writing a journal, being creative through sculpting, painting drawing or singing, search the graces of the eye and recharge. Psychological stress may be disease permissive (5) thus a reduction in stressors and effective coping with stress remains key. Explore these different focus areas to find what may help you and your family: Emotional (family, relationships, unfinished business etc.), Physical (exercise, medication, rest, diet etc.), Spiritual (meaning of life, existential questions, death/life etc.) and environment (where you live and work). Discuss these with your significant other people for you and them to gain from the benefits of such a focus.
Whatever the eye of your storm means for you, explore it, develop it, cherish it and enjoy the strange surreal serenity of it.
- Hosen S, Jubayer A. Chronological History and Destruction Pattern of Tornados in Bangladesh. American Journal of Environmental Protection. 2016;5(4): 71-81.
- Tornado My Shot (image on the Internet). 2012. Available from http://brightrayz.blogspot.co.za/2015/04/most-powerful-tornados-of-world.html
- Miller K, Siegel R, Lin C et al. Cancer treatment and survivor statistics:2016. CA: A Cancer Journal For Clincicians. 2016; 66(4): 271-289
- Cyclone Eye (image on internet). 2015. Available from http://samwagik.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/cyclone.gif
- Straub, R.H. & Cutolo, M. Psychoneuroimmunology-developments in stress research. Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift. (2017). P1-9. doi:10.1007/s10354-017-0574-2