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“Drag your thoughts away from your troubles… by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.”  – Mark Twain

(Kind of neat I found a quote on this from Mark Twain after my escapades in Tahoe with him!)

As caregivers, and I’m sure as patients as well, when we hear cancer and for us, Multiple Myeloma, the worry shoots off the richter scale and stays there for a long time as we try to digest what it all means. Quite frankly, it can make us even sicker. Anxiety, Panic, “what will I do without them?”, our children, our home, our livelihood, our insurance, our savings, OUR LIFE! All of these things and I’m sure much more, come crashing in on us like the perverbal runaway freight train!

“Heavy thoughts bring on physical maladies; when the soul is oppressed so is the body.”  – Martin Luther

How do we jump out of the way? How do we pull ourselves back from the brink and truly deal with the situation at hand? I will give you some tips and what I did, but I warn you, while I make it sound easy, and it is for me, it comes from years of practice and changing the way I think and process things in life on planet earth. The “middle class think”. The things we think are important. And they are, but not as important as some very basic things. The people we love. Jobs, houses, cars, vacations, success in the workplace, money, all of that is secondary to the people we love and who love us. If you agree, than take this post and work with it in your own life.

Now I admit fully, it is much harder to begin this journey in the middle of a crisis. But, it’s possible. Commitment and dedication is very important, like changing any habit in your life, changing the way you think is a process, in this case, of awareness.

“Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen.  Keep in the sunlight.” – Benjamin Franklin


So, anytime I have a negative thought, in the case of Dave’s diagnosis for instance, “How will I survive if he dies after we have depleted all our savings and his livelihood is gone with two kids in college, my ability to generate his income seriously lacking, and a mortgage?” After slapping myself around for being seemingly selfish and not staying focused on his potentially imminent demise, I realized that I’m a survivor. I have survived much in my life. I have what every human being has, the desire to survive and all the abilities therein. With that thought I quickly ran through what I would do, without bias and clinging to “things”. Things often in our middle class thinking, define who we are. Well screw that! It doesn’t define me at all. Whether I live in a big home in a fancy neighborhood, drive a new car, my kids in a top college and my husband an executive at a large company. I am who I am with or without all of those things. (I didn’t have all those things BTW, but you get the idea.) So, next… I will lose all of that supposed “identity” willingly if I have too, and be just fine. I can build a new life and so can my children. I don’t want to, but I can, and I will.

That was a pivotal moment for me. I don’t want to, but I can. Strangely, it freed me. The burdens went POOF, like a little wizard granting me peace and serenity. With that I was free to move heaven and earth to save Dave’s life. I was in a place where I would do everything possible without fear of ramifications in our life. I would give it my best shot and if he made it, we would rebuild. If he didn’t, I would know I did my best and find a way to rebuild without him. But I was going to put my game face on, square my shoulders, wipe away my tears and leave the Pity Party with my head held high and not look back!

So what did I do with all of those nasty little critters that find cracks in your mental armor late at night when you are most vulnerable? Well, I turned them around and restated them into an outcome that was what I wanted and positive in nature. I wrote them down and I tucked them away. My photo shows a basket – that will work. I used a glass bowl with a lid in a cupboard and magnets on my fridge. Sometimes even in a note program on my smart phone while sitting in an airport or infusion center. Point is, I wrote them, stated them, saved them. Whenever it happened, that’s what I did. I made a note and tucked it away.

An interesting thing began to happen. Each time I felt a sliver of freedom. A moment of victory. A burden lifted. The bad thought was obliterated by the positive thought and I was able to forget about it and move on to the more important things of the day. Once in a while I go through them and am amazed at how many of them have come to pass. Whether they did or not, wasn’t my focus. I was just trying to get those monkeys off my back! I seriously didn’t have enough brain cells to worry about all of that AND get Dave back to the living as unscathed as possible.

They say when you are in a chaotic situation, just grab one thing out of the tornado. It doesn’t matter what it is. It doesn’t have to have priority. Just grab it and handle it and reach up for another, repeat. For me, I let my heart and mind lead me. The negative worries were my chaos. When they presented, I faced them, HEAD ON! Little Bastards!

So give this a try in anything that fits. A job interview, a child struggling, your friend going through rough times, a doctor’s visit. Wish good things for them, yourself, your loved ones, write them down, trust in them, and tuck them in whatever container you would like to designate.

Turn that Basket of Worries into a Basket of Wishes. 

And by the way, don’t forget you can wish BIG! Don’t be afraid. It’s just a wish. And I will tell you that I know for a fact, YOU DESERVE IT!

Dave was clued in, newly, to this process. He agreed to be my partner in it. He also agreed that anytime we heard a negative twist in a comment or expressed thought by the other we were to point it out and allow ourselves to change it. No judgement, no anger, no argument. Just a “Hey, that’s negative, you need to change that.” When I would sense Dave’s worry about upcoming tests I would ask, “So, what’s your postulate (wish) for your tests?” He would spit it out after working around his anxiety and I would write it down and tuck it away. “Good! I agree!”

The only downside is you will begin to hear negative postulates/wishes all around you. You’ll feel moments that you are compelled to enlighten. Sometimes it’s good to do it and sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and stay out of their fray. It takes will power, but until you are out of your own chaos, I recommend that you selfishly stay focused on your task at hand. Let someone else pick up those guys and give them the bread crumbs. Make a good wish for them in their troubles and let it go. 


12 Responses to “Basket of Worries (or Wishes)”

  1. Great article Lori and yes however hard the changes – we do survive. My life now is completely different without my best love but I am still here and although some days are very hard, I am proof that life goes on and that we can adapt to anything really as long as we have good memories. So never worry about things you cannot change – push troubles away in the best way you can
    Just give love and support every step of the way, you will be SO thankful you did. Blessings dear Lori. x

  2. Lori says:

    Susie, You are ALWAYS such an inspiration!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    This is a great post Lori! When my husband was first diagnosed, things were crazy at the hospital and there was a lot of emotional energy running high …. mostly mine I think. My sweet son-in-law cane to visit and as I tried to tell him what was going on, it was obvious I was a basket case. He took a quick appraisal of the situation, then quietly got a crossword puzzle book out of his backpack and engaged me in helping him do a crossword puzzle. It didn’t really occur to me until later that he had effectively diffused the situation. In just a few minutes, I felt calm and level headed and oh so much better. Nothing had changed, but suddenly MM wasn’t center stage, and that felt great. Thanks so much for sharing these ideas today. I will definitely try some of the things you suggested.

  4. Lori Puente Lori Puente says:

    What a sweet son-in-law! I think you should definitely keep him close at hand.

  5. Lori, so much of what you’ve said describes me to a “T”. I can get so caught up in the “what ifs” that I work myself into an emotional mess. But through it all, I’ve discovered something about myself. And Elizabeth hit the nail on the head when she talked about doing the crossword puzzle. When I start down that slippery slide of an emotional meltdown, I need to start focusing on something else for a while. Even if it’s cleaning the house or working on a crossword puzzle. It really doesn’t matter what, just that it is something to break the thought process of worrying about what’s to come.

    With my husband being so sick with MM so quickly, I really haven’t had time to adjust to the ups and downs. At his doctor appointment on Tuesday, I finally heard the doctor say that he has a very aggressive form of MM. I was beginning to think that we were doing something wrong because my husband was just getting worse instead of better. But the facts are that he is not responding to chemo, yet. And I’m adding the word “yet” because I believe that we need to hold onto whatever hope we have. Miracles can happen.

    So thank you again, Lori, for such encouraging words. 🙂

  6. lori, i’ve learned so much from you, and this very subject is what i’ve worked hardest at. it changed my life! the mind/body connection is truly powerful; when our heads are awash in fear, the ugly “what ifs”, and turmoil it leaves our bodies depleted and vulnerable to illness and can be paralyzing at times when we need to be at the top of our game to problem solve, be staunch advocates for our loved ones, to take on all the new roles of being a CG or a cancer patient, and to weather the layer-upon-layer of trauma and feeling caught up in a vortex of having life as we knew it change so dramatically – sometimes in a split second.
    it is so worth it to practice, practice, practice! i have done exactly what you have suggested, and stayed focused on the PROCESS, and you are so right. writing down a desired outcome is a tangible act – you are in control of the thought behind it; the symbolism of the written words, of folding the piece of paper up and putting it in a designated place is very theraputic – turning a worry into a wish, and unburdening one’s self of the static that worry causes in one’s head feels so liberating!
    it is unfortunate that we had to learn these very essential coping skills so late in life, first with hugh having MM, then my diagnosis 6 months ago with stage IV metastatic breast cancer. but so much good has come of it and it shows old dogs truly can learn new tricks! not only that, but our young adult children have been right on board and learned along with us, and we are determined that our young grandchildren will also become better equiped to handle many of the stressors that kids these days are exposed to, by our example. we never know what curves life will throw at us, or at them – but it could be a much more valuable legacy to leave them with these lessons learned rather than money, status, or wordly possessions.
    another huge benefit comes along with conquering fear and worry – the benefit of finding our way to live in the present. putting aside prognostications that may never come to pass frees us to be in the moment, and use each moment as a chance to think and maybe re-group, refresh, and renew ourselves. to just relax our minds and bodies and take in all the positive parts of the time we are experiencing right now, this very minute, feels really good. little moments to count our blessings can lead to bigger moments of celebrating truimphs, enjoying the simple pleasures life presents us with every day. this may sound trite, but in times when circumstances conspire to overwhelm and take us under, being able to glance out the window and see a beautiful moon shining, hear the song of a bird, look at the pattern of trees formed against a clear blue sky, or listen to some music that moves us can be so uplifting and a lovely balm to our mind, body, and spirit. they are like little “ahhhh” moments that can take us away from our troubles and teach us that how ever our lives are to go on, be it in the happiest of times, or in our darkest hours, it is how we choose to respond that is the most important thing.
    thank you, lori, for once again reinforcing such essential skills and attitudes to help us cope by sharing yours and dave’s story and experiences.
    love and hugs, dear friend,

  7. Lori Puente Lori Puente says:

    Shelley, I understand! One thing I try to do is not worry about “how”, but simply state “what”. Certainly I move the chess pieces around to make the what happen, but if I focus on the how first, I always get in trouble. Sounds like you have things decently sorted out and are working on them to be better. I will surely put your husband in my wishbowl. 🙂

  8. Lori Puente Lori Puente says:

    Karen, what can I say? As always you have such clarity in how you articulate your and Hugh’s journey. I’m so happy that your children are on board with the idea. It actually makes it more fun. People to share in life’s little miracles as wishes come to fruition. And your grand babies will grow up in a wonderful, upbeat, anything is possible, can do, environment!

    It is indeed a life changing habit in thinking. One I had as a child, abandoned through tragedy and hopelessness, and then found my way back to something that is tremendously fulfilling.

    Hugs Karen!

  9. Pam Wipfli says:

    Lori, you wrote a beautiful article while sharing wonderful advice for dealing with the issues and concerns of the MM journey. Just yesterday my husband (caregiver & best friend) actually laughed when I pointed out I longed for the days when we discussed how to deal with the next home remodel project, where to go on vacation, or who would go to the grocery store. We agreed to try to get some of that back and not spend all day, every day, talking about today’s health, tomorrow’s doctors’ appointments, or test results. Thank you for reminding us that we are not alone in looking for coping devices to focus on life and not MM.

  10. Lori Puente Lori says:

    Good for you two Pam! It can define your life and it’s nice to make the effort to move it to an “event” in your life. Admittedly somewhat epic!

  11. Pat Killingsworth says:

    Wonderful writing, Lori! Lots of great suggestions. I like the way you delve deeply into a topic and don’t skim-by using only superficial suggestions. Keep-up the great work! Pat

  12. Lori Puente Lori Puente says:

    Thank you Master Patrick! Good to hear from you friend.

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