For many people, “normal” is not something they can return to following a cancer diagnosis. Many people say that they never quite feel the same after a breast cancer diagnosis and they find that transitioning from a “healthy person” to “someone living with breast cancer” comes with significant challenges.
Studies confirm this. In a recent post, I talked about a study that showed how hard it is to predict your future well-being while you’re dealing with complex, unfamiliar surgical procedures at the same time that you’re dealing with stress, fear, and time pressure. The study said that people need more help choosing a treatment plan that works for them medically and personally. Another recent study said that many people have unmet needs when they are recovering from treatment but that they don’t necessarily use the supports that may be available to them.
I’ve heard similar things anecdotally, too. When I’ve spoken to people living with breast cancer on my Facebook Live show, Breast Practices, they tell me that their diagnosis often consumes their thoughts, changes the way they look at their lives and even changes their relationship with themselves. We know that those psychological challenges are important to address as part of the recovery and healing process. We also know that it’s not just people living with cancer — but also their caregivers and loved ones — who need support.
With all of that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to share some things that experts, advocates, caregivers and people living with cancer have told me in the course of discussions on our Facebook Live show, Breast Practices:
Meditation is the practice of observing your thoughts and feelings in a non-judgmental way. It’s time that you set aside to slow down and listen closely to your thoughts. Studies show that meditation can help alleviate physical and emotional symptoms, such as stress, depression, anxiety, fatigue, rumination, and fear of recurrence. Meditation takes only a few minutes and “has shown positive effects in reducing physical and emotional symptoms.”
The poet William Cowper once said, “grief is itself a medicine.” Allowing someone to tell their cancer story, grieve the life they left behind at diagnosis, and giving them space to be seen and heard is a key ingredient in helping people cope with their experience. An active listener can help people overcome the existential crisis of a diagnosis. In fact, a recent study noted that “sensing active listening…is accompanied by an improvement in the recollected impressions of relevant experiences and is thought to arouse positive feelings.”
Finally, reading or listening to stories of other people living with cancer can make a powerful difference. Sharing stories helps people benefit from each other’s experiences and learn from one another when it comes to the impact on their family and loved ones, managing emotions and daily activities, pain management, fertility issues, sexuality, body image and ongoing therapies. You’ll find that support groups, mentor programs, and advocacy groups are accessible in person in many communities (COVID permitting) and online.
Pres. & CEO at MOLLI Surgical, dedicated to bringing people together for impact in healthcare through medical devices.
I hope you’ll take a minute to read my latest MOLLI Surgical blog on the topic: Three Ways to Improve Wellbeing Following a Cancer Diagnosis. #breastcancer #patientcenteredcare #bcsm #cancer #healthcare #cancersupport