To make it through your cancer journey, you need grit and grace, says Angela Buttimer, MS, NCC, RYT, LPC, a licensed psychotherapist at Cancer Wellness.
"Grit and grace go hand in hand," says Buttimer. "You can't just pray, meditate and be patient, but then skip your cancer treatments. You have to actually go to treatments, face them down and make tough decisions. Likewise, you need the contemplative practice of grace to make good decisions and reduce your stress levels.
Grit during cancer treatment
"When we think about grit, we think about focus, resilience, determination and endurance to get through treatment and beyond," she says. "Grit helps you get up after falling down."
It takes grit to go in public without hair, take care of your children when you don't feel well, continue working throughout cancer treatment, return for your third chemotherapy session, face a second round of treatment if your cancer has recurred, or keep fighting if a doctor tells you there is nothing else he or she can do.
"I know patients who have been told there is nothing the medical establishment can do for them anymore and they have the grit to call every hospital in the country," says Buttimer. "I've seen some real heroic efforts."
Grit is also beneficial for caregivers.
"Caregivers often suffer at the same level as the patient, just in a different way," says Buttimer. "There is a lot to do when you are a caregiver. You are taking your loved one to treatments, making sure they have the right medications and covering all of the bases at home. Grit helps you keep going."
Grace during cancer treatment
By practicing grace, you will make better decisions and be more skillful in the actions you take.
"We live in a task-oriented society," says Buttimer. "Grace helps us practice reflection, patience and surrender. Grace is where wisdom arrives. If we take action without grace, we are not going to be guided by the deep, organic wisdom in each of us. Grit is benefited by the steadiness of grace."
Grace means slowing down, breathing, having a contemplative practice and/or practicing spirituality.
"People who have some kind of spiritual practice are happier and healthier than people who don't," says Buttimer. "They tend to have a healthier immune system. This doesn't mean you have to attend church or temple. It can include walking in nature, meditating, deep breathing, taking time to reflect or reading things that are inspirational. Grace means surrendering and letting go."
Grit and grace are key for thriving during and after cancer treatment.
"Combining grit and grace means we do the very best we can," she says. "We show up fully and then surrender to the results."
Learn more about emotional health during the cancer journey.