I often ponder this question with respect to my own life just about every day if not several times a day! Sure, there are some things I am planning for – like recording my next CD and doing research and interviews for my next book – and for those, I know what I’m planning to happen next, but other things are completely out of my control and may occur out of the blue as complete surprises.
One of the “what next” surprises in my life occurred almost five years ago when I was diagnosed with rectal cancer. I was having some symptoms and suspected something was wrong so in a way the diagnosis wasn’t a complete surprise, but anytime you hear from your doctor that “Yes, it is malignant. Yes, it is bad. And, yes it is in a bad place,” the news stops you in your tracks and gets your undivided attention.
There’s a lot I know now that I didn’t know then. I didn’t know then about the full resources available from the American Cancer Society – resources that could have helped me decipher, understand and make sense out of the mound of invoices and insurance documentation that made my eyes glaze over for months after my diagnosis and initial treatment; resources that would have been just a phone call away to say “I went through what you are going through. I really do understand. Here’s how I can help you.”
I recently discovered a relatively new resource online called WhatNext.com. This website is free to anyone diagnosed with or caring for someone with cancer and matches the person up with other cancer survivors with a similar diagnosis. You can post information about your own experience and what you went through (types of treatments, side effects, celebrations, “oh no’s,” etc.), questions to ask others, and answers to questions you may have to offer others. It is an exchange of experiences and helpful information from those in the trenches like yourself who are living with or recovering from the same type of cancer you have.
I wish I would have found this three years ago when it was first created, but I’m grateful nonetheless that I’ve found it now. I have already posted some of the major milestones for my cancer journey, responded to some questions/problems others have posted and asked a few questions of my own about what I’m currently experiencing. I was initially overwhelmed by the positive and uplifting messages others posted to my page to welcome me to this online community of cancer survivors the same day I registered. It was a huge heart-warming welcome hug of love, connection and support.
For anyone reading my blog who has a family member of friend in the midst of the cancer fight, please share this website with them: http://www.WhatNext.com. There is also a wealth of information and resources from the American Cancer Society website, which is http://www.cancer.org. I also recommend visiting the National Cancer Institute (NCI) website within the National Institute of Health website provided by our federal government – http://www.nih.gov. I found the NCI website provided helpful list of questions to ask your doctor when you’re so shell-shocked by the initial diagnosis that you don’t know what to ask because you don’t know what you’re dealing with and just don’t know what you don’t know. The NCI website has a wealth of information to get you started.
None of us truly know what’s next, but there is help available to us for whatever surprises come along our life’s path. We just need to ask and/or look for the help. It’s there!
I hope you find these resources helpful. Take care & God bless!