Chutes and ladders: A cancer survivor offers advice for the ups and downs

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Holly_Chutes and Ladders.JPGBy Holly Easley

Holly Easley began her cancer journey five years ago when she was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). After two types of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, she says she loves life, is improving daily and enjoys blogging about the cancer experience at

While playing Chutes and Ladders with my beautiful grandchildren, I thought to myself, "I've been playing the adult version of this game for a few years now."

Those of us who have been told we have a life-threatening cancer or disease experience disbelief and shock. After the realization sinks in, it's easy to let go and slide down into a deep, dark pit.

Sliding down hill is easy; the path is steep, requires no work and can be quite thrilling. At the bottom of the pit, one becomes aware of the actual frightening and lonely surroundings, and that you might lose this game.

Then, fear creeps in. Fear of the unknown, of treatment, being sick, needles and surgery. Fear of being away from loved ones, and ultimately the fear of dying and leaving our loved ones behind.

Before long, denial and self-pity let us ignore the facts.

Anger is right there, too, ready to strike at any moment or person. Despair sets in and makes you feel hopeless and helpless. This pit is a terrible place to stay.

My friend, Rosanna, repeatedly reminds me that the body follows the brain. Therefore, we must always have healing, hopeful and positive thoughts.

That's when it's time to land on a ladder and start climbing up.

Climbing up
Knowledge and awareness are essential.

We must learn as much as possible about our cancer or disease so that we can better understand our doctors, treatments, meds and outcomes.

We are our own best advocates.

Keep the faith; faith that our doctors, health care workers, family and friends will give us the very best treatment.

For me, I have faith that God will see me through no matter what the outcome is, good or bad.

Creating ladders

Physical strength. It's a catch-22 that you need to exercise, but feel too weak to do it. Take baby steps and exercise as much as you can.

Nourish and hydrate your body. Eat correctly if your appetite will allow it. When you do feel like eating, try to be as healthy as possible.

Mental strength. Don't allow yourself to land on a chute and slide back down into the pit again. Embrace hope, practice optimism and have a positive attitude. We must treat our doctors and health care team with the utmost kindness and respect. Our faith in them and in our treatment will lead us through and give us strength.

Always remember to keep your head up, eyes on the goal and don't look down.

If we remain positive, hopeful, have faith, practice kindness and thoughtfulness, whatever direction our journey takes us will be easier to bear, for us and our loved ones.

It's a much happier place up on the mountaintop than down in the black pit.

Read more posts by Holly Easley

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