Friday 28 April 2017

Weekly Discussion Summary ~ How Does Breast Cancer Impact on Priorities and Goals?

Summary of our weekly group discussion ~ 28th April 2017


'I am a human being not a human doing....'

In this week's discussion, we shared the different ways that living with breast cancer and its effects impacts on our priorities and goals.

Our discussion, which included women with primary and secondary breast cancer, highlighted that the shock of a cancer diagnosis forces us to face our mortality, bringing our lives and identities into sharp focus. Many of us described experiencing a 'wake-up call', perhaps we had always put others' needs first and felt we must assert our own needs; perhaps we felt less tolerant of what now seem minor complaints and irritations; perhaps we had reconnected with our values, rediscovering what's important to us. Most of us shared that we had become more aware of the passing of time; we had realised we must worry less, if we can, and live according to our values.

But primary and secondary breast cancer also brings significant changes - pain, fatigue, menopausal and fertility issues, brain fog and emotional vulnerability - which affects all aspects of our lives, our womanhood, self-esteem, jobs, children and day to day functioning.

Our discussion highlighted the varied and unique ways we face these challenges and the remarkable ways we adapt to changes imposed on us by cancer and it's treatments; for some of us this meant focusing on 'being'; on slowing down, stepping back; perhaps we had discovered we must live the life we have rather than constantly striving for something out of reach. For some of us this meant 'doing'; sometimes as a way of proving that cancer could not rob us of the lives that we so valued; some of us were seeking out new experiences or challenges, for instance travelling, outdoor pursuits or campaigning. Some of us, particularly, but not solely women with secondary breast cancer, shared the different ways they were adapting and adjusting to significant losses alongside dealing with their health needs, giving up careers and valued activities.

Naz reminded us that in essence, resilience is the ability to adapt to life changing events to accommodate our 'new selves'. There is research to show that the ability to accommodate these changes (which is inevitably hard) predicts psychological well-being and lower levels of anxiety and depression, whereas cognitive avoidance has been shown to increase levels of anxiety and depressive related vulnerability.
For some of us, adjustments have been hard to make even though we recognise our changed priorities, perhaps we face barriers which we cannot overcome, perhaps our losses have felt unbearable. Here, being kind to ourselves and practising self-compassion can help us to reach a position of acceptance.


Thank you Karen for allowing us to use this stunning photo!

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