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Overcoming the Mental Side of Breast Cancer: Elma's Story of How She Turned Scars Into Stars

March 13, 2014 Lana Jelenjev

This topic is highly personal for me. Having lost my mother to her 8 years battle to breast cancer at a young age of 49, I still shiver at the word, the BIG C, "CANCER". Looking back  to those years, there are a couple of things I wish I knew and understood to have better helped my mother with her battles. I would have, for one, taken more pictures with her and spent time knowing her more so I could tell my daughter things about her and share stories of her life. But I missed out on that chance and I may never know her fully well but I can always talk about her strength and her resounding will. That is why when I decided to ask women who are inspiring change I couldn't miss on the chance to introduce a lovely lady. Her story is the story I wish my mother could tell but I am glad to be hearing them and even more honored to share how she turned her scars into stars. So for today's guest blog meet Elma Alorro Dionela, author of the book "How To Turn Scars Into Stars Overcoming the Mental Side of Breast Cancer."


I was diagnosed with breast cancer 16 years ago. I still remember the recovery period. The side effect of chemotherapy and radiation had given me fatigue and sleep disorders. I woke up with pain on my chest. The same pain kept me awake many nights. I had to deal with hair loss, nausea and diarrhea. Healing takes courage of course but I tried to stay positive.

What kept me alive was my family. My sons were teenagers back then and I know they needed me. My husband, who is very hard working, needed me too. So I focused on my recovery by using my family as my inspiration. I looked at life positively and focused on doing even the littlest of things that made me happy. During my stay in the hospital I exercised daily with my peers. I also got into painting.

My biggest challenges during that period was depression and my own mind. I was homesick and longing for my parents especially my mother. But I knew I had to help myself so I tried to work at elders’ houses to prevent me from isolation.

My husband and I also started a salsa dance course. Dancing provided us much joy and released some burden. After some years, I overcame the mental side of breast cancer. I was driven to find a job and luckily I found work at the Amsterdam International community School , as an assistant librarian and worked there until I retired. Through this job I was able to regain control over my life and sense of security. My health also progressed over time.

Looking back at all my experiences and the things that I have done, I realized that it was important for me to be mindful of who I am and what I can offer. I learned to be strong and get up again. I learned not to isolate myself and instead reached out to friends and family for support. I also realized that it is good to also be surrounded by sympathizers that can help ease the pain. I did what I have to do to keep myself from being influenced by negativity. I committed not to submit to defeat.

Breast cancer is a disease that a lot of women worldwide have to deal with. The fear of hearing that dreaded word lingers long after the first time it was mentioned in a hospital visit. Battling cancer is a mental sport: it involves long and restless nights after surgery, not to mention the monthly check ups at the hospital. After a long but successful recovery, I am able to live harmoniously. I kept my mind positive and lived up to my golden rule: “Be absolutely determined to enjoy what you do, regardless of having breast cancer.” Now, at the age of 69, I have made it a mission to inspire other breast cancer patients. Writing the book How to Turn Scars Into Stars is my way of sharing how I overcame the mental side of breast cancer which is  more difficult to face even after the body has healed. It is my hope that by sharing my story I can help other breast cancer patients and survivors stay positive after the healing process, how to stay productive and how to avoid self-pity. There is more in life to appreciate and it is my wish to help cancer patients find that courage to aspire for more in their lives.


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