This may be a little bit off topic, I’m not sure, but I was thinking tonight of coping mechanisms.

All of us with a cancer diagnosis have the same feelings at first..shock and numbness at the reality of what has happened, then fear at the potential for all we have to lose…the people we love, our futures, our dreams, our hopes, our homes, our routines, our aspirations….so much potential loss faces us all at once. Then we do the frantic search for information, for hope, for survivor stories, for surgeons and facilities and doctors who know what to do with us.

Cancer envelopes, surrounds and overwhelms our lives and who we are. Cancer owns us, at least at first. I remember after a few months in the cancer battle wanting to run away, to take a vacation from cancer. But everywhere I went, my body went…my body with cancer growing in it. There was no escaping cancer, cancer went with me everywhere. I couldn’t hide. I couldn’t leave the cancer behind, it was a part of me.

My best coping mechanism and greatest form of expression before cancer had been music. I started taking piano lessons for the first time when I was about 30 years old, it was something I had wanted to do since I was 5 years old. Once I learned to improvise popular music, I loved to play. If I played for a few hours at a time without interruption, I was transported to another place, my “zone” that wasn’t part of this world.

My other great spiritual escape is nature. The beauty, perfection, symbiosis and simplicity I find when I am alone in the woods also takes me to a healing “zone” away from my normal world.

At some point after our spirit recovers from the shock, and we need to indulge ourselves in our best coping mechanisms, the ones that sooth us to our core. Music and nature were and are my best coping mechanisms. I’m sure others have different ones.

Before cancer I didn’t view those things as essential to my well being, now I do. I need the peace they give me as much as I need air and food. These things heal my spirit, and I think that helps keep my body whole. I play piano publicly usually several times a week now, and since cancer I’ve taken up backpacking and have hiked short trips in the wilderness in four states in the past year.

Make the time!