Triggers and Treasures

People with metastatic breast cancer often write about things that trigger strong emotions.

Common triggers are:

  • Oncology visits – Stressful
  • Scans – Stressful
  • Results – Stressful
  • Insensitive and/or negative comments from others – Did they get it all? At least you don’t have to work. My grandma had cancer . . . she died. Maybe you should give “x” a try. You don’t look sick. The list goes on and on.
  • Dates that serve as reminders – Memories can haunt.
  • Deaths of others with metastatic cancer – Painful emotionally and physically.
  • Aches, pains, feeling under the weather and worrying about any new symptom – What is normal when abnormal is the norm?
  • Invitations and attending social events – I have a hard time feeling comfortable, looking decent, and I worry about food agreeing with me, dodging questions, and talking about what I’m up to when so much of my time focuses on my health.
  • Making long term plans – I don’t want to cancel something fun I’ve planned to do even if it’s next week. It’s challenging to commit to taking a vacation longer than a week because it’s pretty rare where I don’t have something medical on the calendar. Committing to a vacation a few months away involves tacking on the extra travel insurance because I feel better knowing a refund is possible if my health causes a problem.
  • General toxicity from others – I’ve had enough.

Here are two new ones for me:

  • Politics – I can spiral when health care gets used as a pawn or when inalienable rights are taken away. It sickens me when elected officials are self-serving and ignore the U.S. Constitution rather than serve the people.
  • Susan G. Komen – I’m afraid I have developed trolling behaviors on Facebook when I see posts about how this “nonprofit” gives the gift of time even though they refuse to help people with stage IV cancer and turn them away when they ask for help. Stage IV is the only stage that kills and NOT helping us is giving us the gift of LESS TIME. I can accept that they may help others (provide mammograms and some financial assistance for those who need it) but then a slogan needs to match this intention where false claims aren’t made. How would you even go about proving a donation gives the gift of time? You can’t connect them together. See what I mean about being triggered? I can’t hold back once I see one of their stupid posts. I’m working on it because the troll version of me is mean.

Yet there are treasures in my life that I focus on when I find myself needing to steer away from triggers. Life doesn’t always afford the possibility of such control. A partial list of my treasures includes:

  • Good books – My favorite from last year was Where the Crawdads Sing (Delia Owens). Reading helps me escape from reality while still focusing on universal needs for love, truth, justice, and what is right. I thoroughly love words.
  • Writing – I find the process cathartic. It helps me organize my ideas and feelings in a concrete way. There are times I am not even sure what my point is until I’ve finished writing and the words stare back at me. I learn from it. I loved teaching children to write. I don’t mind revising. Revising is part of the crafting. Again, I love words.
  • Friends who are friends no matter what – My life is better because of my friends.
  • Exercise – Stress relief. Builds strength. Feels good.
  • Being in nature – Relaxes me.
  • Birds – A sweet little chickadee just came to the feeder outside my window and made me smile. Birds are entertaining creatures and unique from one another.
  • Calming music – Soothes me.
  • Caramel, cookies, brownies, and ice cream – Not at the same time but that sounds delicious.
  • Reiki – Universal life force energy helps me feel better connected and supported in the world.
  • Favorite photos – Happy memories warm my soul.

A lot of advice centers around not reacting to triggers immediately and trying to find a healthy outlet to replace the trigger. Spending time on treasures brings me more joy. Joy comes from a place of love and that replaces triggers that originate in fear. There is a reason treasures are buried and protected – they are valuable and we want to keep them safe. They are priceless. Treasured people, places, and things are kept close to our hearts. We don’t want to lose them.

We all have treasures in our lives. May the year ahead hold more treasures than triggers in your life.