Thursday, 4 May 2017

Weekly Discussion Summary ~ Turning Down the Volume on Cancer

How do we not allow our cancer to dominate our thoughts or define us? How are we more than this diagnosis?

Naz introduced our weekly discussion by reminding us that we had found that cancer is not a chapter in our lives that we can put behind us, but we take it forward with us. We are hypervigilant for signs that our cancer is back or progressing. Our emotional and cognitive brains become out of balance, with our emotional brain dominating as it remains on high alert following our trauma. Naz’s research work looks at cognitive interventions which strengthen the seesaw relationship between the emotional and cognitive brains, exercising and challenging the cognitive brain in order to regulate the emotional brain. 

Many of our members have adopted the popular proven cognitive practices which help to restore the balance, namely mindfulness, CBT and support groups. Our discussion highlighted the value of sharing fears and anxieties with those who understand, and the compassion showed by members for each other's stories was particularly apparent this week.

As you might expect, time is a healer, and the longer a woman shows no evidence of disease following diagnosis, the lower the cancer volume may become. However, for many, fear is constant and upsetting. Many find keeping busy helps, and distract themselves with continuous activity. Poor sleep may find us being visited by cancer demons in the small hours, when anxiety finds a high decibel level. Humour is a great way to dispel fear, and many find spending time with friends and family, doing ordinary normal stuff, is the best way to forget about cancer once in a while.

For those undergoing treatment, the noise of cancer is deafening. Some women turn it down by numbing or intellectualising their feelings. Others are bravely immersing themselves in the high volume and may be feeling desolate, unwell and miserable. However we cope, we are not alone, and our group helps us all through these dark times.

Turning to face our fear through acceptance, and then taking control by concentrating on our own well-being, is helpful. We were reminded that the noise of cancer can be a positive in that it never lets us forget to listen to our bodies, and it makes sure we remember how precious life is. 

Our discussion, which included women with primary and secondary breast cancer, reminded us all that whatever happens, with support and the practice of resilience we can live our best lives, with the cancer noise sometimes gentle in the background and sometimes harsh and intrusive. The seesaw may be out of balance, but we are never alone on it. 

If you are a woman living in the UK with a diagnosis of breast cancer and you would like to join our private group, please leave your name in the comments.


Thank you Debbie for letting us use this beautiful image!

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