Feeling Stressed at the Holidays?

angry and stressedHow many times in the last few weeks has someone said to you “I’m totally stressed out.” They then proceed, in a jumble of words, with a recitation of all the things they have to do, all the things they think they have to do, and everything else that’s on their mind.

When you then throw breast cancer into the mix, you may find that you feel depressed, overwhelmed or at a loss for what to do in order to calm yourself and your emotions.

Everyone feels stress

Everyone feels stress at this time of year (and some feel it all year long.)

Some types of stress are “good”. Welcoming a new infant into your family. Getting a new job.

Other types of stress are “bad”. Losing a parent. Being diagnosed with a chronic and serious disease. Feeling like you are alone and don’t have a family or friends to support you.

What to do?

First, sit down with your morning cup of tea or coffee and think about your life and your feelings.

Second, make a list of everything you have to do. Prioritize the list. Eliminate things that are not essential. Make a plan for how your day will go.

Third, think about a happy time in your life. Close your eyes and bring up a picture in your mind of how you felt, where you were, who was with you, what is the memory you cherish the most

Fourth, take a brief walk outside and take a series of deep breaths. I know you have a lot to do, but you need to give yourself a break periodically throughout the day.

Fifth, make sure you get enough sleep. After a busy day, your body and your brain need time to recover.

Stress can impact your health

Stress is a risk factor with a documented impact on your neuro-endocrine and immune system. Numerous studies have shown a physical impact on your health.

Remember that you are strong and you can handle anything that comes your way.

To learn more, click here

 

Living in Wonderland

There’s always something new around the corner; Just like Alice, you can only go forward. Circumstances constantly change around you and you still have to figure out where to go next, what to eat, and how to live boldly despite your diagnosis.

This has been a difficult couple of weeks.  I started on a new chemo regimen. My bowels are unstable. Sometimes they are fine, other times, not so much.  I have unpredictable nosebleeds in the middle of the night. I’ve had to put a temporary hold on some of my regular medications to avoid interactions while my doctor figures out the timing of when each medication hits my system.

Need I continue?

One tip I’ve learned is to slow things down.  Take a warm bath, take a nap, read a book, listen to some gentle music, go outside and take a short walk in the sunshine. Try sipping a soothing cup of ginger tea.  Or have a warm bowl of carrot ginger soup.

I want to tell you something I tell myself in moments like these…

I am strong and can get through this. This is a temporary problem that can be managed.

What are some things you do to overcome discomfort?  Please add a comment with your ideas. You are not alone in your journey and you can help someone else by adding to this discussion.

Managing your Fears

Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis can be very scary.  We all read the headlines and from a young age, most of us have heard that “women have a one in eight chance of developing invasive breast cancer sometime during their lifetime” (http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/detailedguide/breast-cancer-key-statistics).  If we don’t get it ourselves, nearly all of us know someone who has it, had it or perhaps even died from it.

At the same time, unless you are a breast cancer patient or survivor yourself (or your mother, sister or close friend is), most of us know relatively little about the disease and how it is managed today.  And, when it’s suddenly you who just received the diagnosis, very often you will feel a surge of fear.

Fear of the unknown. Fear of the disease. Fear of food. Fear of dying. Fear of chemotherapy, losing your hair, feeling sick all the time, and missing out on your daughter’s (or son’s) wedding or some other momentous celebration in the future. All because of the breast cancer.

We even have a ritual name for it – some people call it the “C” word.  Using the “C” word is just like never daring to say the name out loud of  “the one who shall not be named” from the Harry Potter books.

It all comes back to fear and one of your jobs as a woman with breast cancer is to find a way to conquer your fears, and not let the disease ruin your life.

Having breast cancer today, is very different from what it was like even as recently as five or ten years ago.  I can speak from experience, since I was initially diagnosed over 10 years ago.  The number of new treatments coming into the market on practically a monthly basis, the quality of diagnostic testing, and the whole approach to patient care is so very different now, and is still constantly changing even as I write this post.

One of the ways I conquer my fears of breast cancer is to remind myself how far we’ve come in the early detection, diagnosis and treatment of the disease.  Some of the drugs being given today, didn’t even exist five years ago, and more are being released into the marketplace all the time.

Fear can paralyze you and keep you from taking proper care of yourself and your disease.  Don’t let this happen to you.  If you’ve found a lump or abnormality in one of your breasts, run (do not walk) to your physician and get it checked out. If you’ve already been diagnosed, take charge and quell your fears by locating the very best medical team you can find to take care of your specific condition.  Then, go back to your life, as best you can, and know that it will be alright.

 

Living life three months at a time

Calendar for the Chronic Breast Cancer Patient
Chemo Days; Lab Tests; Diagnostic Tests; Dentist and Cardiologist Visits of the Hypothetical Chronic Breast Cancer Patient

When you have a chronic disease, like chronic breast cancer, you can often fall into a pattern of living your life in short segments of time.  The segments are defined by endpoints of another treatment, a diagnostic test or the anniversary of your diagnosis, your surgery, or some other significant medical event.

It’s hard not to live this way because unfortunately, in order to take proper care of yourself and your disease, there is always something else to do. Something else to anticipate.  Something else on the calendar. I won’t say something else to look forward to, because while you crave information about your condition, part of you just wants it to go away and leave you to your “regular” life that you enjoyed before the illness started.

Every event can feel like a watershed moment

Every event can feel like a watershed moment and results may take on momentous meaning, if you let them. If you have a diagnostic test, and the results are good, you breathe a sigh of relief and go back to your life until the next test scheduled for 3, 6 or 12 months.   If the results are bad, you may fret about them, or allow yourself to slip into a poor state of mind which may linger with you for some time.  This is why it is important to develop a mindset that allows you to stay resilient despite what the results of your tests may indicate.

A test is just a test…

You may want to re-frame your approach to life.  A test is just a test. Words are just words.  Test results are one data point in a large data set that represents your disease.  If we assume you have not been called “terminal” by your primary oncologist, then it is important to realize the chronic nature of the condition and try to adjust your life to keep going, despite what may happen from data point to data point.  Sometimes you might be doing poorly; other times you are doing well.  We can’t predict the future. We can only live in today’s moment.

So we keep going.  Week by week, month by month, year by year.  One day, you’ll look back and suddenly realize how far you have come.  As treatment options progress, and your breast cancer disappears, you can begin to relax a bit. Enjoy your health. Enjoy your life.  Try to live in the moment and let the worry about living life in 3 month intervals go by the wayside.

If your breast cancer is getting worse, I urge you to try to persevere.  New treatments are coming into the marketplace all the time.  For example, one of the drugs I have received in the past few years didn’t even exist the first time I had breast cancer back in 2004. Who knows? Maybe there is a clinical trial somewhere out there that is designed to treat patients just like you.

Try to get away from the model of living your life 3 months at a time

Try to get away from the model of living your life 3 months at a time.  It is a long journey when you have chronic breast cancer or another chronic disease. With any luck, good medical care, a healthy diet and lifestyle and the ongoing scientific research that is advancing treatment options all the time, you’ll be here for a lot longer than 3 months.

Don’t allow breast cancer to kill your passion and steal your life.

After all, life goes on despite your breast cancer.

Life Goes On: Inspire Others Facing Breast Cancer

Winners of Life RibbonHave you joined the  “Life Goes On” Honor Roll yet?

Life goes on despite your diagnosis of and treatment for breast cancer. When we are first diagnosed, we are often full of fear of the future and fear of the unknown.  The idea behind the honor roll is to remind us (yes, I sometimes need reminding too), that life isn’t over just because of breast cancer.

Life is an incredible journey

You never know what’s around the corner next.  It might be good news, it might be bad. Regardless, you are strong and capable and will get through whatever life throws your way.

What happens if I join the honor roll?

When you add your story to the honor roll you will begin to receive my periodic newsletter so you’ll be sure to not miss any of the latest posts from breastcancerkitchen.com.  Your entry is only marked with your initials; so no one will know that it’s you, and your email address will not be published.

The Life Goes on Honor Roll is a way to recognize your joy and your wonderful life, despite the breast cancer. You’ll also get the pleasure of knowing you will be helping someone else who has breast cancer. Someone who might need some inspiration to get over their fears and begin to live their life again after their diagnosis.

Life doesn’t end when you are told you have this disease.  Your new life is just beginning.

So sign up, be proud, share your joy with our community. Help inspire others who join you on this journey.