What Has Helped Me Get Through My Cancer and Feel Great? Mattering!

Being diagnosed with cancer is certainly a life-altering event. That being said, so is a chronic illness diagnosis, the death of someone close, the loss of a job, etc.

What helps us get through the bad stuff or learn how to cope with it?

My diagnosis story, like all of them, was unique. I was in the hospital for some other stuff, got scanned, and wouldn’t you know it? Surprise — I have cancer.

In the early phases of post-diagnosis, I realized that my life had changed. I was no longer the person who would care about job titles, salaries, perks, etc., but I was growing up and beginning to care more about others and how I could change the world.

About two months after my diagnosis, I decided to go take a walk in the woods. No headphones, podcasts, music or phone calls. Just me and my thoughts. It was Yom Kippur (I don’t believe and am not practicing) but I decided that this was how I wanted to be spiritual.

My walk and my thinking helped me to crystallize what is important to me (and what I call my strategic plan):

  • Healing myself
  • Supporting my friends and family (added in 2023, I review these formally once a year. By formally, I mean when I remember!)
  • Helping others heal
  • Helping others who help others heal

In short, Mattering is what matters to me. I recently met a new friend who is writing a book on the concept of Mattering and became hooked. Now I am slightly obsessed!

Mattering is about feeling valued and adding value. It’s not about the size of the value, but about the impact. You can matter to yourself, someone you care about, a community, the world, the universe and so on. What is important is that you feel like you matter and that if you weren’t there, your absence would be felt.

Mattering gives you a sense of self-worth and a desire to make a difference. For me, it gives me energy and a reason to be active and engaged.

So, how has mattering helped my health? Well, I know myself. First, setting up the time and having the mindset to go on my walk and come up with my four principles helped me. I use those principles to guide a lot of my decisions. I am always focused on helping others which in turn makes me feel great and helps my mental health. I don’t sit around thinking “Woe is me,” I sit around thinking “How can I help?”

Since my focus is on healing myself and others, I have been spending a lot of time learning, meeting people, blogging and helping others. I am even starting a nonprofit for people with neuroendocrine tumors in Oregon. But everything I do helps me feel like I matter and am helping others.

The boost my mental health gets from helping is huge. It gives me a ton of energy, a big desire to make an even bigger difference and a drive to help more people. Have I volunteered and gotten involved in too many things? 100%! But I know that the more I keep my brain engaged and the more I matter, the better I feel.

So, my advice to you? First, you are likely already mattering but might not have ever had a word to describe it. Recognize where you matter and be proud of yourself. If you feel like you aren’t, join an organization, volunteer or even just listen to someone else.

The more you feel like you matter to others and are helping, the better you will feel mentally. For me, I am convinced it’s why I feel as well as I do, despite two cancers, one of which is stage 4.

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