Saturday, 2 December 2017

Weekly Discussion Summary ~ Coping with Fear

"It is quite a balancing act between transforming fear into motivation and also accepting fear".

Coping with fear - of recurrence, secondary breast cancer and for those of us with secondary breast cancer, of progression of disease - was the topic for this week's discussion.

Fear is an intense and primal emotion, an almost involuntary response to danger which manifests itself in a heart pounding rapidly in our chest, heightening our senses. Maybe a rush of adrenelin wipes all rational thought from our minds. We feel a strong impulse to hide or flee.

But when we are told we have breast cancer there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. Our fears are fuelled by both 'the known' - that we have a life-threatening disease and 'the unknown' - by uncertainty and apprehension, by an outcome which feels completely outside our control.

Our discussion, which included women with primary and secondary breast cancer, highlighted that fear is an ever present emotion experienced by most, but not all of us. For some, the fear of spread or progression of disease is the colour that dominates our emotional landscape, for others its hue is made up of the loss of control, the certainties which were once took for granted. Some are fearful of death, of pain, whilst others fear being the cause of pain to those most precious and beloved to them, or having to say goodbye.

For some of us, fear hits only after we've finished our active treatment, perhaps because we've hit the pause button on our emotions. Our path ahead narrows while we place one step in front of another, we focus on the present, the here-and-now, on what is most important and gives us most peace and joy.

Some of us described feeling almost overwhelmed by our fears, whereas for others, gaining a mastery over their feelings was a means to becoming a protector to their fearful selves. Denial and suppression of this strong primal emotion can, we heard, also be vital to emotional and psychological survival.

For many, the nights are when we feel most alone, when we can no longer distract ourselves as we can in the day. For others, fear is triggered by a scan, or a new pain, reminding us of our vulnerabilities. Perhaps hardest of all are those times when we are unwell, when we cannot practice those things that support our resilience, like yoga, or exercise, or doing the things that matter to us most.

Naz explained that fear is a normal reaction to an uncontrollable trigger with a highly uncertain outcome. However, overwhelming fear uses up a lot of energy and cognitive resources that are needed to start thinking pro-actively, to adapt and to be fruitful.

If we can, instead of being overwhelmed by our fear we can use it to take smaller steps in the darkness, to trust our intuition. It can help if we can strive for an acceptance of our lack of (or having little) control over the situation; if we can see fear as an opportunity, not to influence the outcome, but to help us stride ahead in spite of the uncertain road ahead; if we can use it to help us to focus on those things that we HAVE influence on, how we can make ourselves stronger and happier in spite of the 'what ifs'.

Naz explained that this is NOT an easy task but we can learn, re-thinking, re-prioritising and rewarding ourselves for the little things we can and do achieve. And amongst all, showing ourselves self-compassion when we are at our most fearful.

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 contact is by facebook message


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