Health Magazine

Bonus Time…A Time for Beginnings

Posted on the 22 May 2012 by Jean Campbell

timeJust before I finished treatment for my first breast cancer, my son and I were speaking about what I wanted to do with my time when treatment was over; what beginnings was I planning.

After I rattled off a series of conservative changes, my son cautioned me, saying, “Ma, you’re not on borrowed time. You’re on bonus time and you don’t spend bonus time the way you would ordinary time.”

Survivorship time, the time following treatment for any life-threatening illness, is bonus time.

Why? Because for most of us, a life threatening illness teaches us that time is the most important commodity we have. We take stock of how we are living and what we are doing with our time. We begin to think of our time as a survivor as a time to do what we’ve been planning to do, but putting off. We have a renewed interest and drive to make things happen. We’ve learned what we gave lip service to before our life-threatening illness but now know in our gut is true…no one is guaranteed the time to do everything they want accomplish or experience.

Breast cancer is a life threatening illness that packs an added wallop. Beyond the concerns that every cancer survivor feels, a breast cancer survivor may have to cope with long-term or permanent changes in her body image. Not every woman is a candidate for reconstruction. Some women’s hair will thin out during the five years of hormone therapy taken to prevent a recurrence of breast cancer. Still others will gain weight on hormone therapy. Others will experience long-term side effects of active treatment.

These physical changes can cause depression, doubts about femininity, interfere with existing relationships and the forming new relationships as well as impact on the self-confidence critical to career and personal development.

Beginnings are the needed boost that helps preserve the emotional well-being of breast cancer survivors. It gives women the opportunity to feel in control of their lives at a time when there are things about the way they look and other issues that are beyond their control.

During my years as a patient navigator for the American Cancer Society in New York City, I had the opportunity to speak with thousands of breast cancer survivors. I learned that most of us make that beginning happen after breast cancer and we are happier and more fulfilled for doing so.

Some of us give ourselves permission to live our dreams. We use bonus time to reinvent ourselves by going back to school, developing a business, starting a new career, volunteering, getting involved in our communities, or just doing the things that are important to us, whatever they are.

Many of us need to make a difference for others as well as ourselves. We use bonus time to “pass it forward.” We create products and services and even businesses that make getting through treatment and getting on with life a bit easier for women just starting their breast cancer experience.

As for me, well, after my first cancer I began using some if my time writing for publication. After my second breast cancer, I gave myself permission to use a large chunk of time to start a business.

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