Friday, April 5, 2013


I read an interesting article on the Huffington Post website yesterday that became the fire behind DAY 5 of my WEGO Health Activist Writers Month Challenge.

THE CHALLENGE: If time, money and physical restrictions were not an issue, what would my "plan" for breast cancer activism be? How would I direct my activist energies? My aspirations are rather simple. I want to write my way out of worry. And I want to show you how to work your worry away, too...

This blog has been a dumpster of sorts for my post-cancer concerns, frustrations, insights and anger. Writing my worries away may not be the most impact-laden aspiration as a Breast Cancer Activist, but there you have it. I want to work through my fears and worries, view them through the fantastical, magical, reflective lens of my 20/20 goggles and trace my way out of the cancer rabbit hole — and take you along with me!

Back to that Huffington Post article and how it ties into today's challenge. Entitled "The Most Surprising Regret Of The Very Old — And How You Can Avoid It," it was penned by , Professor of Human Development at Cornell University. Pillemer interviewed 1,200 older adults as part of the Legacy Project and asked what they regretted when they looked back upon their lives. 

Their responses surprised him. He expected to hear confessions like affairs or addictions; instead, the elders revealed that they regretted the time they spent ... are you ready? ... WORRYING! If they could have a "do-over" in life, they'd like to have back all the time they spent fretting about their future.

Hmmm... that's not so very different from my own goals. Can you relate?

Pillemer's article included many great tips from the elders themselves — some of whom were over 100 years old. Here are a few I found particularly insightful:
  • Train yourself to reduce or eliminate worrying — it's the single most positive step you can make toward greater happiness.
  • Don't believe that worrying will solve or help anything. It won't. So stop it.
  • Focus on the short term rather than the long term.
  • Instead of worrying, prepare.
  • Worry is an unnecessary barrier to joy and contentment. 
  • Acceptance is an antidote to worry.
There is so much worry that comes with cancer territory — waiting for test results to come back is a biggie, as is worrying about recurrence, worrying about pain, worrying about side effects, working about death (just to name a handfull). Let's take a page from the elder's book — they are in the winter of their lives; they know well of what they speak; we would do well to listen. Thanks, Dr. Pillemer.
For Pillemer's complete article in the Huffington Post, please click here.


  1. Fascinating results and really excellent advice to drop the worrying. I know just what you mean about it not helping anything. Sometimes I spend so much energy on worrying that nothing else gets done! ~Catherine

  2. I always find that writing is SO cathartic... Once I write it out, I relax and I feel much calmer.

    I am always amazed at your insight Renn :)

  3. I have finally figured out a way to write every day. There's something about setting words of worry or own on paper or on a screen that helps free me of the weight of it.

  4. dear renn,

    though, as you know i am not a blogger, i find such fulfillment in writing comments - to lend support, validate, comfort, encourage, commiserate, express gratitude for all the incredible insight bloggers like you impart, and share parts of hugh's and my dual cancer journey - every single day. writing injects a sense of balance and perspective, catharsis, and helps me get outside of myself - it's just such a tonic to be able to banish worry, which i consider another affliction cancer would just love to consume us with - writing is my way of saying, NO WAY! love this post...

    love you, too XOXO

    karen, TC

  5. Renn, I just love this post. I needed that very message today as I worried about worsening side effects and scans every three months and who will take care of me or live with me if my cancer progresses. I need to focus on today and I thank you for the reminder to do just that. xo


Your comments are encouraging — and encouraged!