Sunday, 21 July 2019

BRiC's Collective Voice: Moving forward

'Most of all we want to spend time with the people we love.'

A breast cancer diagnosis can be traumatic and leave us at one extreme numb, or at the other, overwhelmed by our emotion. A diagnosis of secondary breast cancer even more so. This week our discussion focused on what we have found helpful in moving forward: things we have done, things we have changed.

Moving forward, for those of us with secondary breast cancer, means living with cancer on a day to day basis, knowing that treatment will be ongoing.  For those recovering from a primary diagnosis, it's about gaining physical and mental strength with which to live our best lives alongside the ever present fear that our cancer will spread or recur.  

Our women have found many things helpful, both practical and attitudinal.  After the shattered self-confidence which accompanies harsh treatment, learning self-respect, to value ourselves, damaged as we may be, is key. We find that practising self-compassion is vital, as we try to look after ourselves well, allowing ourselves little breaks, treats, gifts to ourselves. We give ourselves a symbolic hug regularly by spoiling ourselves, just a little bit. 

Exercise is very important for all of us. For some, this is a few stretches following surgery, a totter round the house, a gentle stroll up the road. For others, it's a run, a climb, a hike, a physical challenge that says to the world, here I am, look, I can still cut it! Despite cancer, despite extreme fatigue, medication side effects, I'm here, moving to the very best of my ability, even if it isn't as much as I could do before. 

We pay attention to our diet, drinking more water, eating well. This helps us physically and mentally with mood stability.

We are more accepting, less questioning. We see the bigger picture, we no longer sweat the small stuff, although it's the small stuff for which we are hugely grateful and our awareness of that increases. We notice more. We are open and determined and we do things our way, less affected by what others think. 

For some, setting personal goals and challenges is key to moving forward, this allows us to push forward, to help design our own futures. It's the challenge that is the triumph, not the outcome. If we make up our minds not to be limited, we can stretch ourselves a little further each day.  

For others, slowing down and being less busy is what helps us move towards an inner peace, using perhaps meditation or writing, making choices which allow us to experience life in a more reflective way.

We learn that stress may be self-imposed and we learn to say no, we learn not to worry about things we can't influence. We are more relaxed about what we can and can't do and can let go of getting it all done straight away, allowing things to wait and knowing that we've done our best, that it's good enough.

Some of us have tidied up our lives, de cluttering our homes alongside our lives. We want our surroundings to support us not hinder us. We tidy up our friends list too, seeing more of the people who support us and make us feel good. 

For those of us with secondary breast cancer, there may be an intense desire to re-prioritise and doing what we want to do with our lives becomes more urgent. These may be big things like travelling, getting married.  Most of all we want to spend time with the people we love. 

Others may say to us 'Live every day like it's your last' and some of us want to to tick off bucket list items and off we go, cramming it in and making as many memories as we can. For others, it's a gentler approach, perhaps involving living a life much the same as prior to diagnosis, thinking about careers, studying, always having a self improvement goal to reach for. We might change our jobs, reinvent ourselves in new careers which may be more challenging or perhaps less demanding. We might retire, go part-time. We might find a creative outlet or take up voluntary work. We might get a pet or take up a new hobby.   It's about finding a balance, really understanding what we want from life, and making it happen. It's about changing the things we can change rather than wasting energy on the things we can't change. 

Many women talked about how hard it it to make the adjustments needed to move on, whether that's after primary treatment or following a secondary diagnosis.  One thing is clear, with support our members are all making progress, and we are dedicated to helping one another build the resilience needed not only to cope, but to thrive.

If you are a woman living in the UK with a breast cancer diagnosis and you would like to join our private group, please send us a private message via the public Facebook page. 

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