I have a question for you: Do our deepest values affect how we cope with cancer? Let me clarify. When I say “values,” I don’t mean “morals.” I mean principles or qualities that are intrinsically valuable to us…the things that are most important to us, most meaningful, or matter most in our lives.
For example, one of my deepest values is authenticity—showing up and being honest and real about who I am. (To borrow a definition from Brene Brown.) This doesn’t mean I am perfect at living this way, but it is something I aspire to and I try to move in that direction consistently. If I think about it, when I was going through treatment I guess it did affect how I coped with cancer. I was able to give myself permission to “do” cancer my way, although it took my counselor some time and effort to convey to me that there was no “right or wrong” way to cope.
Another of my deepest values is compassion—compassion for both self and others. This value affected how I coped with cancer in that I was able to develop some degree of compassion for myself. At first there were times that I judged myself for being depressed or anxious as I was going through treatment. But as time went by, I was able to have more compassion for myself, to realize that my feelings and experiences were normal, given the circumstances.
My compassion for others was a little harder to come by at times. When people would say ignorant things or just make coping with cancer more difficult in general, I often found it hard to have compassion for them, to realize at the time that they were just doing the best they could with a situation that was crappy for them too. Compassion is something I continually work on (and will continue the rest of my life), but I can recognize the ways this value affected how I coped.
I would love to hear your thoughts about what your deepest values are (they are unique to you!) and how you think they affect how we cope with treatment. What do you think?