Wednesday, 23 December 2020

What does Quality of Life mean to you? BRiC's Collective Voice


What does quality of life mean to you?

The topic for this Sunday night’s discussion suggested by one of our lovely admin’s, Bal Nanray, focused on the question, ‘What does quality of life mean to you?’ Naz led us into the topic by contexualising this discussion from a research perspective as we explored our thoughts and opinions on the topic:

“In research, quality of life is one of the key outcome measures that is used to assess the psychological well-being of individuals.”

There is a shared understanding that for many of us, quality of life diminishes following a breast cancer diagnosis as we try to navigate our way through surgery and subsequent treatment regimes where long term exposure to cancer treatment affects us physically, emotionally and mentally. Although we have all experienced a breast cancer diagnosis, we know that this affects each of us differently and, in the same way, quality of life means different things to each of us. However, there were many shared views on quality of life that were woven into our discussion.

Many of us felt that quality of life centred on our ability to be physically and mentally well enough to be able to do the things in which we find pleasure. It was noted that often, these are the things that we took for granted prior to our diagnosis of breast cancer, leading to feelings of gratitude for the things that we can do and take joy from. This included a range of things that we enjoy as individuals, including having a level of cognitive functioning and concentration to allow us to read literature. Being able to get outdoors and close to nature rated highly on our list of things that contribute to our quality of life.

For some us of us, hard decisions have had to be made about continuing with breast cancer drug treatment as we have been forced to weigh up the limitations and physical burdens that this poses for our quality of life.

Being able to improve the quality of life for others was another discussion point linked to individuals’ feelings of self-worth and self-esteem. As one of our members expressed, the extent to which she can feel ‘useful, helpful and make a contribution to our local community’ was a really important part of their overall view of quality of life.

Having a dog in the family brings great happiness to several of our members and is another way in which quality of life is enhanced for them. A sense of purpose has a huge impact on our lives, as does being involved in activities that help to contribute to finding inner peace and calm.

For all of us, the COVID pandemic has highlighted the detrimental impact of loss of freedom and choice, both fundamental things that are required to achieve quality of life. Having aspects of our lives severely affected by this virus serves to illustrate that without freedom and choice the quality of our lives is so much less. As women living with and beyond a breast cancer diagnosis, we recognise that it has forced us to look at our lives in microscopic detail. Part of this is cultivating our ability to say ‘no’, to free our time to do things that contribute towards our wellbeing.

The view that quality of life in many ways overrides quantity of life is a strong feeling amongst our group, vocalised in this very safe place that we share. Evermore so following a breast cancer diagnosis, we value our independence and ability to participate in things that we hold dear.

We each have our thoughts and ideas about what quality of life means to us. As is usual in our Sunday night discussions, we have been able to share with one another and explore a hugely important topic. Quality of life is everything. Each of us understands its relevance to our lives.

Thank you to everybody who was able to contribute to our quality of life conversation.

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