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Cancer changes lives.

We have to deal with medical profession.

We have to deal with medications.

We have to deal with new discomfort and pain.

We have to create dignity, where there is indignity.

We have to deal with family members, friends, coworkers, and strangers, in a changed way.

We resolve to go forward with strength, resilience, purpose, pride, and integrity.

We define ourselves. Cancer does not define us.

Discussion Forum

Living interminably with terminal cancer

Started by Daniel W. Last reply by Joan Denoo Jul 28. 4 Replies

Psychology Today"Extraordinary advances have turned cancer from an apparent death sentence into…Continue

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A Personal Cancer Blog

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Comment by Joan Denoo on August 22, 2013 at 4:44pm

Cancer Care Northwest in Spokane provides counseling for cancer patients and family. It has been several years since I had training in counseling and knew my skills are out of date. With just a few minutes I was able to see my blind spots, which for me was grief work. I plan to return for more sessions and then upgrade my training. 

Comment by Joan Denoo on August 18, 2013 at 1:41pm
Daniel, I am very glad you are not depressed; that black hole can devastate even the best trained people.
That tiny little frog with a mighty voice just joined me on the patio and he croaks a raucous melody that is almost primordial. Can't be down with his noble efforts. The yellow jackets are especially thick this summer. The old timers say that our cool spring and hot summer tends to produce an overabundance of the stingers. Dominic and Spaz, Laura's family pets, nip at them constantly. We observe no sign they have been bitten yet, even as they spit out of their mouths stunned bees.
Comment by Daniel W on August 18, 2013 at 1:12pm


Thanks for talking about your music.

I used to listen to a lot - favorites were classical, old rhythm & blues, and smatterings of other stuff.      

Then, I don't know what happened.  I lost my taste for music.  That seems almost not human, but it's true.

I do listen to a lot of audiobooks.  The tenor of the voice almost as important as the content.  Maybe that replaces music for me.


I will look into your links.

I don't think I'm depressed.  I am glad that you are doing better, and thinking positively.  If you are doing well, that is what matters.

Comment by Joan Denoo on August 18, 2013 at 9:14am

Daniel, there are at least two kinds of depression, 1. clinical (chemical) and 2. situational. Clinical is when the brain chemistry changes and pulls a person into depression that has to be treated with medication. Situational occurs when a person thinks they have no control over what is happening to them, and they can't predict the outcome. 

My depression was clearly caused by both, and when I felt that awful black cloud come over me I made an appointment with my chemo physician, nutritionist and therapist. I started the exercises of positive self-talk, guided visualization, body relaxation techniques, and talking to my family and friends to let them know I was slipping. Most of my friends are professional nurses and mental health therapists so I had help at once.

My depressions are learned, and I can identify how and why I learned to be depressed. When I was a very small child I observed my father beating my mother and hid under blankets and pillows and anywhere I could find to escape the threat over which I had no control. I learned I was helpless and when I grew into a woman I know no better. That is how I became a battered wife and failed to protect my children from abuse.

After I left my husband, I returned to school to try to understand why I had failed so horridly. First a B.S. in psychology, and then a Masters in Applied Behavioral Science at Whitworth College under the presidency of Ed Lindaman who started a program called Leadership Institute of Spokane, LIOS. I learned about helplessness and depression,and that they are learned behaviors. I was trained in techniques to take control of my life, and my depressions ended.

Until cancer. I couldn't give up being active and working hard from morning to dusk. I had to accept I had a new normal. You, my friends at Atheist Nexus, my family and friends and Cancer Care Northwest helped coach me back to equilibrium. 

I highly recommend reading Martin Seligman's works, "Learned Helplessness" and "Learned Optimism". He provides the clinical studies that explain the processes of learning, both harmful and healthy. 

My daughter, Laura, and son, Craig, (twins) are two of my best counselors. They have both had extensive training in Landmark, which is based on the same theories as Ed Lindaman brought to Whitworth College and I learned from 1977-79. Their skills started when they were 14 years old when I started at Whitworth and then grew further when Laura first took Landmark about five years ago. The whole family has followed her example. 

Authentic Happiness


Both of these programs have been called "cults" and they are anything but that. They teach a healthy way of thinking and behaving that brings about positive outcomes for those who learn the skills and those who interact with them. These skills are nothing more or less than tools for personal and interpersonal relationships. 

Comment by Daniel W on August 17, 2013 at 3:47pm

Patricia, your attitude is inspiring.  Go with the flow, learn the new normal.  Those are almost, Zen?  Understanding, attachment to the present or past, can bring grief when those change.

Joan, I may need some of your learned optimism.  I'm introverted, and analytic, and try to keep on the line between optimism and pessimism.  Is the glass half full?  Half empty?  I'll say - it's at the 50% point.  Optimism would be better.

Comment by Joan Denoo on August 17, 2013 at 1:25pm

Mindy, I like your new photo. Your gorgeous face and bright smile, along with your great comments always cheer me. 

I am so sorry to learn of the young man's struggle with colon cancer. I hope he has the skills to take on such a challenge. The good news, these are all learned skills and can be learned at any age. We can also learn to be depressed and not know how to get out of it.

I discovered the long term effect of Learned helplessness, the condition of a human or animal that has learned to behave helplessly, failing to respond even though there are opportunities for it to help itself by avoiding unpleasant circumstances or by gaining positive rewards from Martin E. P. Seligman. He also developed the theory of Learned optimism, the idea in positive psychology that a talent for joy, like any other, can be cultivated.

These are both learned. 

Comment by Daniel W on August 17, 2013 at 10:26am


I'm so glad you are here.  You are so important to me.  You make a difference with every post.  You have such passion, and compassion, and intelligence. 

I read on a website that it's typical to go through a grieving period, after diagnosis with cancer.  It's hard to deal with the change of perspective, plans, abilities, comfort that we take for granted. 

You are right, there is a new normal.  I hope you learn to take pride in your resilience, your adaptability, and unquenchable spirit.  It's OK to be down sometimes. 

The chemo can cause anemia, and once you are off that I think your blood count should rebound.  That should give you more energy.   I am so glad you have family and critters who make you happy.

Thank you for being here.


Mindy, thank you for your presence too!

A 20something with colon cancer - must be a genetic syndrome.  I hope it was just a limited area and he responds to surgery.  My cousin had colon cancer in her 30s.  Her doctor kept telling her she was anemic because of heavy menses, and she kept saying, no, her menses were not heavy.  Fortunately she was diagnosed, had surgery, and as far as I know is doing well 15 or more years later.

Comment by Joan Denoo on August 16, 2013 at 11:42pm

I did have a devil of a time with depression and went into fight mode with positive thoughts and visualizations, whole body relaxation techniques, I checked with my nutritionist for any suggestions, and with my chemo doctor. She found I was becoming anemic and I started on iron pills. I have a therapy appointment to get my feet back under me and after doing all that I decided this is the new normal and I can adjust to that. I feel much better, "that which you resist persists!" 

I am at Laura and Larry's home for a week, and it feels so good to have breakfast in the forest. All kinds of critters come and go. A tiny little frog came on the patio this morning and sounded like a huge bullfrog. It was only about the size of a nickel. My grandkids and great-grandkids come and tell me their adventures and that cheers me so very much. Dominic, the black lab and Spaz, the Chiwawa/Pomeranian dog make me laugh.

I feel so much better! Thanks for all your encouragement, cartoons and music. I feel the care and compassion all around the globe with my virtual friends.

I hope each one of you have a really good weekend.    

Comment by Joan Denoo on August 11, 2013 at 5:50pm

Mindy, you should know by now that I have as much fun as you with my typing errors. I can't seem to type good. It always comes out god and I usually catch it. Yes, to make such a mistake on Atheist Nexus is doubly funny. good good good good good good good good good ... just doing my finger exercises - remember piano lessons? 

Comment by Joan Denoo on August 11, 2013 at 2:25pm
Mindy, Oh Jeez! I did it again. I seem to have trouble with double letters ... and poor proof reading. Thankfully, Daniel knows what I mean and my fallibilities and we can all laugh. I promise to do better!

Patricia, what a dreadful tragedy. Imagine putting a child through all that and to not have a successful victory over cancer. No loving god would allow such a thing? Just read the Old Testament and figure out how many babies were put to violent death with their "god's" instructions. Religious history has been the cause of countless other miserable deaths. What god would sanction such atrocities?

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