Category Archives: About Cancer and Emotions

The Fear of Dying – Changing the Mindset

http://MarnieClark.com/The-Fear-of-Dying-Changing-the-MindsetThe Fear of Dying – Changing the Mindset

One of the things I hear most frequently, as I work with women dealing with breast cancer and all that it entails, is the fear of dying. We talk about it in hushed tones, as if we are afraid to even utter the words “I might die from this.” I went through exactly the same thing when I was working on healing from breast cancer. It is a common thread among nearly every single person fighting cancer. In this post I will share with you some things that helped me with that fear of dying and what you can do to change your mindset.

“Many people facing life-threatening illness begin by being scared of dying. This is not surprising and often this fear leads to a high motivation to get well. However, if the focus is ‘I don’t want to die’, from the mind’s point of view, what is the target, what is the goal? Obviously, the dying! An important step in getting well is to shift the focus onto living and finding what there is to live for – the passion. In comparison with trying not to die, there is far more healing in focusing on living and living well. We are healed by what we turn towards, far more than what we turn away from. When we affirm life, healing is a much greater possibility.” – Ian Gawler, excerpted from “The Creative Power of Imagery“.

I found these words by Ian Gawler to be immensely comforting. They were kind of like a re-set button for my overworked brain when I was going through breast cancer. Reading those words, I realized that he was absolutely right. Changing your mindset from “I don’t want to die” to “I am living each day with passion, love and healing” may not be easy but it’s SO worth the developing this skill. Here are some tips to help you.

1. LEARN TO LISTEN TO YOUR INNER VOICE – Recognize that your inner voice is your touchstone, your guide as to how you are feeling. It’s also good to help you discover whether or not you are making progress. By listening to what your inner voice has to say, you can learn much about yourself. If you find that your everyday thoughts are filled with negative criticism, stress, self-blame, regrets and fear, get some help. Find a practitioner of EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique. This is a healing technique that (in simple terms) relies on tapping on acupuncture meridians, employing the use of neurolinguistic programming and positive thinking to change negative thoughts and beliefs into more positive ones, and it seems to do this on not only the mental level, but also energetically and spiritually. It may seem like a simplistic solution, but it can be quite powerful.

2. MAKE A CHOICE TO TURN NEGATIVE THOUGHTS INTO POSITIVE – We all have down days, but by paying close attention to negative thoughts when they occur, you can make the choice to turn away from negativity and embrace more positive, harmonious thoughts. Why is this important? Because we ARE what we think. Engaging in positive thinking changes you, both energetically and physically, from someone who is full of self-blame, stress, recrimination, and negativity to someone who is open, loving toward themselves and others, motivated, and more healthy. Yes, I said that – more healthy. Research shows that positive thoughts actually change your brain! It’s a whole new area of science called neuroplasticity. By engaging in positive thought and positive activity, you can rewire your brain and strengthen areas of the brain that stimulate positive feelings and emotions. Here’s something you can try. When you find yourself in that cycle of negative thinking, worrying or obsessing, there are three things that can help:
a. When the worry and fear hit, mentally yell “Stop!” (I even envision a big red STOP sign).
b. Remind yourself that the worry is not real – it’s something your brain has conjured up. Tell that worry to sit down and shut up!
c. Reframe your negative thinking by focusing on more positive or distracting thoughts. Mentally switch gears and choose to think about something you love. Redirect your actions – go do something uplifting or fun. This might take the shape of helping a neighbor, calling someone you love, taking a walk, making a healthy smoothie. Make a list of things you love to do – and I suggest this because sometimes when you are down and depressed, you have difficulty even thinking of something uplifting to do that will make you feel better. Get the list out! Start doing more of those things!
After awhile, you will notice things changing and improvements in your way of thinking. The key is to do these 3 things EVERY SINGLE TIME you begin to worry or obsess. This breaks the pattern and helps you to rewire your brain.

3. TRY MEDITATION – Another amazing thing to rewire your brain is meditation. One American study on loving-kindness meditation, reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2015 [1], found that one hour of loving-kindness meditation PER WEEK (and certainly we can find one hour per week) “enhanced a wide range of positive emotions in a wide range of situations” for those taking the time to do the meditation. Interestingly, even after three months post-experiment, the people who practiced meditation daily continued to enjoy increased mindfulness, better social support, purpose in life, and (most importantly) decreased illness symptoms. The reasons for taking up meditation are many. You only have to Google the words “benefits of meditation” to be rewarded with hundreds of studies and articles touting meditation. If you need help with meditation, see my page where I talk about it.

The Bottom Line

What I came to realize is that by living with the fear of dying ever present in my mind, I was closing myself off to living NOW. I was projecting myself to some far-off day in the future when things might not be too good. By learning to live in the here and now, I lost that fear of dying. I came to understand that living in the present moment was one of the most powerful gifts a person can give to themselves. Because what do we really have other than the present moment? If we are truly alive in the here and now, we are quiet observers. We can really taste what we are eating and enjoy every mouthful. We notice the color of the sky. We hear that bird singing its heart out. We see the spark of love in our husband’s eyes. We see our children changing and growing. And really – what is more important than these things? Focus on the things you love and that fear will melt away. And you just may find that the energy you have freed up helps you to heal as well.

Please be aware that someone with a serious mood disorder or depression may require the help of a trained counselor. If you are suffering from severe anxiety or depression, please see a trained professional to help you get to the root of the problem.

References:
[1] Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3156028/

The Creative Power of Imagery by Dr Ian Gawler, ISBN 0855722819

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

How To Kickstart The Healing Process

Image source: rgbstock.com / Jana Koll
Image source: rgbstock.com / Jana Koll

HOW TO KICKSTART THE HEALING PROCESS

Normally quite proficient at healing itself, the human body is extremely adept at knowing exactly what to do.  It has plenty of self-healing mechanisms in place, most of which occur without our conscious awareness.  Healing generally take place quite naturally.

There are times, however, when our minds and ideas can interfere with the process of healing, and if you find yourself in this situation, or suspect you might be, I hope you will find some tips within this article to be helpful.

We have long known of the brain’s capacity to heal the body, we have all heard the stories about people who healed themselves without the use of modern medicine and, conversely, we all know or have heard of people whose brains seem to be their own worst enemies.  Somewhere in between these two extremes is where most of us dwell.

There comes a time in just about everyone’s life when an illness, a frailty, a condition of some sort hits us and just doesn’t seem to want to go away.  People who would normally heal up quickly and go on about their business instead end up struggling with it, being sicker far longer than expected, or suffer recurrences of the illness.  It is the subject of much research, many books, and much consternation.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, far from it.  I can but offer some gentle guidance, some ideas about why healing doesn’t happen, and some things to help get the healing process underway.  Over the years I have observed quite a lot about healing – and not healing.  I’ve made it my life’s work, read countless books and research about healing, experienced healing – and not healing – within my own body and those of friends, family members and my coaching clients.  There is much to know about healing and this article will scarcely scratch the surface but it might get you pointed in the right direction.

A Bad Attitude Can Stop Healing

Of course, this isn’t always the case, there are many aspects of not healing that do not involve a bad attitude.  But when all of those things have been accounted for and worked with and healing still has not occurred, please consider this.

There are certain attitudes and thoughts that can stop the healing process.  I would invite you to begin to notice your thoughts and feelings.  Are you worrying incessantly over something?  Holding a grudge?  Mad at someone you can’t forgive?  Do you find yourself complaining a lot?  Do you actually believe that you can heal, or are you expecting the doctors, some new wonder drug, or someone else to heal you?  Perhaps you have an idea that you are not worthy of healing.  All of this can create an inner resistance which can be interfering with your healing process.

Recognizing that resistance can be difficult, it requires you to sit still and ponder.  It can be a painful process.  You must pay close attention to your thoughts and feelings, and some of those thoughts can be so automatic you might not even realize you are thinking them until you start to pay attention and poke around amongst them.

In the book “Power vs Force” by Dr David R Hawkins we are told “In every studied case of recovery from hopeless and untreatable disease, there has been a major shift in consciousness, so that the attractor patterns that resulted in the pathologic process no longer dominated.”  What he means by attractor patterns is well-described in the law of attraction – that which you put out you also attract back to yourself.   Dr Hawkins makes the point that every studied case of recovery from hopeless and untreatable disease seemed to require a major shift in consciousness.

Wayne Dyer also discusses attractor patterns in his book “The Power of Intention”.  Dr Dyer says that we are told that our Source (whether you consider that to be God, Krishna, the Universe – whatever your beliefs are) “is never focused on what’s wrong, what’s missing, or what’s sickly.  True healing takes you back to the Source.  Anything short of this connection is a temporary fix.  When you clean up the connecting link to your Source, attractor patterns of energy are drawn to you.  If you don’t believe this is possible, then you’ve created resistance to your intention to heal and be healed.  If you believe that it is possible, but not for you, then you have more resistance. If you believe you’re being punished by the absence of health, that’s also resistance.”

The Quality Of Your Thoughts Play A Role In Your Ability To Heal

Your inner thoughts about your ability to heal – and many other aspects of your life – play a huge role in your physical health, and therefore your mental health. We are a body/mind integration.  Obviously I am not minimizing the role that a healthy balanced diet, exercise, supplementation, etc plays in your ability to heal yourself.  But your mind probably has the biggest role to play and  is the aspect most often neglected.

People will go scurrying off in search of some new miracle supplement, superfood, or exercise craze ten times faster than they will sit down and analyze their thoughts and emotional health.  It’s not easy and we tend to shy away from the thing that makes us uncomfortable.  But I encourage you to do just that because it will probably make the biggest difference with your health and ability to heal.

Here are my best tips gathered over 25 years of personal research in healing.

1.  Eradicate Fear.  You must let go of any fear that permeates your mind.  When you are ill, fear is often promulgated by the health care industry (think of those oncologists telling us what percentage of chance we can expect of having a recurrence if their advice is not followed to the letter).  Our Source has no fear within it, only love, peace and perfection.  A mind held by too much fear tells us that something is amiss within that mind, and it is creating resistance to healing.  Examine any fear, look it straight in the eyes and acknowledge it, thank it for the lesson, and then let it go.  There are many therapies like Emotional Freedom Technique and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that will help you do this.  Go and see a qualified health professional like a psychiatrist if you need to.  Talk to your close friends about the fear.  See your pastor, do whatever you need to do, but tackle that fear.

2.  Deal With Negative Emotions.  In the above paragraph, I used the word “fear”.  But other negative states of mind can stop healing as well, such as grief, anger, being in a state of unforgiveness toward someone who has hurt you, any feeling or emotion that feels negative to you.  Tackle them, one at a time.  Get rid of them, banish them from your life.  They are holding you back, sucking your life’s energy, keeping you from being whole, healthy and happy.  Do whatever you need to do, get the assistance you need, so that you can let these feelings go and begin to heal.

3.  Heal Negative Thoughts and Words.  Pay close attention to your thoughts and words.  If you catch yourself feeling negative, thinking negative things and saying negative things, stop yourself and counter them with something more positive.  If you are asked by a friend to share or discuss something about which you can only feel negative, simply thank them for their concern, and tell them you are no longer talking about that, you are having a break from it and change the subject.  Highly recommended because what you pay attention to and talk about is given energy and grows, so let that be something good.  I love this quote by Will.I.Am “I’m ignoring my problems and paying attention to my dreams.”  Smart man.  Healing your inner thoughts and words is well worth the effort because in so doing, you are removing resistance and doubt, and you are letting the cells of your body hear another story.  Have faith that healing can take place.  Expect it, intend it.  Know it like you have known nothing else in your life that you CAN AND ARE HEALING.  The cells of your body hear your thoughts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and do their bidding.  Send only healing messages, put together a healing affirmation or two, memorize the words and repeat them to yourself a thousand times per day if you need to.  Know that miracles are always possible.  Become a magnet for miracles!

4.  Ask For Help.  Ask for assistance from your Source with your healing process.  Hand your burden over to your Source, ask for guidance, ask for the right people to show up in your life to assist you on your healing path.  One of my favorite quotations from Wayne Dyer is this: “Put your mind and body in a peaceful place and allow the Universe to work in the best way it knows how.”  Then get out of the way and allow it to happen, without fear, without resistance.

5.  Raise Your Vibration, or your positive energy.  I know that sounds weird to some but we are energy bodies, made up of energy vibrating at different frequencies.  In illness our vibration is quite low, so it is imperative to learn what things you can do to increase it.  I share some really good tips on the best ways to raise your vibration in my article Offering Hope To Those With Metastatic Cancers – Raise Your Vibration.

I have a feeling that this article will be one to which I am continually adding new information, so pay it a visit once in awhile.  In the meantime, if I can assist you, please contact me.

References:

Power vs Force by Dr David R Hawkins

Healers on Healing, edited by Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield

The Power of Intention by Dr Wayne W Dyer

Why People Don’t Heal And How They Can by Carolyn Myss

One last quote:
“Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found it was ourselves.” – Robert Frost

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right.  You can also “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates.  I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  

How To Stop A Panic Attack

How To Stop A Panic Attack

I have been working with a number of people newly diagnosed with breast cancer, several of whom are suffering from panic attacks, so I thought it might be useful to post some information on how to stop a panic attack.

Because they can be so frightening, so debilitating and disruptive to your life, a panic attack is definitely not to be ignored.

Teal Swan To The Rescue

I had in mind to create a video with specific breathing exercises and other information, but I happened upon Teal Swan’s YouTube video “How To Stop A Panic Attack” and she has done such a good job at describing not only what causes an anxiety attack, tips on how to deal with them when they arise, as well as other holistic changes you can incorporate to help yourself heal from them, that I decided “why reinvent the wheel” and decided simply to share her video here.

Teal Swan, if you are not familiar with her, is an amazing young woman.  She calls herself The Spiritual Catalyst and offers advice on many different subjects.  She is incredibly wise for someone so young.  You can read more about her life’s journey here.

So without further ado, if you are experiencing a lot of anxiety or panic over your breast cancer diagnosis, please take nineteen minutes to view this video, I believe it really will help you (or at the very least, steer you in the right direction).

If you do continue to suffer with panic and anxiety, let’s connect. Sometimes all you need is a really good healing plan to subdue those fears and anxieties.  I would be honored to help you with that.  Please go to my page describing my breast cancer coaching services.

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

Facing Mastectomy? The Merits Of Having A “Breast Wake”

Image Source: rgbstock / sundesigns
Image Source: rgbstock / sundesigns

Facing a life-altering surgery such as mastectomy is never going to be easy, let’s face it.

Regardless of your age, your breasts have been a big part of your sexual identity, nurtured your children, and/or given your partner much delight (and hopefully you as well).  If  you are facing mastectomy because of breast cancer, the thought of losing one or both breasts is no doubt a huge shock.

There are many resources out there for you to help you make your decision – and more than a few on this website – but the purpose of today’s article is to share with you the merits of having a “breast wake” should you decide to go forward with mastectomy.

What is a Breast Wake?

The traditional wake, held when someone died, involved family members or friends who stayed awake with the body of the deceased to watch or guard it and/or have a prayer vigil until it was time for the church funeral and/or burial.

According to Wikipedia, a wake is often a social rite which highlights the idea that the loss is one of a social group and affects that group as a whole.

Why should the loss of a breast be any different?  I have a friend who held a wake for a much-beloved dog.  I really think that this kind of loss should be noted, either before or after the event, but preferable before and here’s why.

Why Have A Breast Wake?

When you have gathered your family and friends together to mourn the loss of your breast(s), this is an exceptional time to ask each of them to help you with that process, in some small way while you are recovering and even possibly after treatments begin (if any).

Whether it be cooking you a healthy meal and bringing it over, or just taking out your garbage, or occasionally scrubbing the sink, you will be surprised to discover how many people actually want to help you and are willing to do just that.  And you will need their help at some point, I promise you.

Helpful Hints

Mourning the loss of a breast doesn’t have to be a solemn occasion.  Put someone else in charge of all of this – your best friend, for example – if you don’t http://MarnieClark.com/facing-mastectomy-the-merits-of-holding-a-breast-wakefeel up to it.  Pull the carpets back and dance if you want to.  Have some great, healthy food with your friends and family.  Cry and laugh with them.  Propose a toast to your breast(s) and have others do the same.  Serve cupcakes that look like breasts.

Instead of having a guest book where people list their names, have a blank book for people to write in – a few of their favorite inspirational quotes (ask them to bring them along when you invite them) because at some point during this journey you will feel overwhelmed, scared and depressed.  Having a book like this to delve into can help you through these difficult times.

With regard to the people who offer to help you, either you or a friend with good handwriting can write down the name and phone number of each person who offers help, along with what it was they offered to do.  Don’t be afraid to call them either!

Please do mark the occasion because it will help you in so many ways.  It will help your friends too.

If you would like to receive my best tips on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences, just  sign up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right, and/or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com). I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond. 

The Power Of The Mind Heals – Give It 100

Photo courtesy of Lusi / rgbstock.com
Photo courtesy of Lusi / rgbstock.com

The Power Of The Mind Heals – Give It 100

As a breast cancer coach I speak nearly daily with women who worry about whether or not they will survive this disease.  Understandable worries.  We speak of many things, such as nutrition, exercise, super foods, etc., and all of these things are important.  But of equal importance is the power of the mind to heal.

Faith, Belief, Hope

I had those same worries ten years ago when I was going through breast cancer.  Back then the Internet wasn’t such a valuable resource, nothing like it is now.  I had heard that we can harness the power of the mind to heal ourselves, and I had read about it in Ian Gawler’s books “You Can Conquer Cancer” and “The Creative Power of Imagery”.  But reading about something and putting it into practice are two very different things.  It requires a lot of faith and belief in what you are doing.  Not to mention hope…

It can be very scary, especially when you decide to go your own way, and against your doctor’s recommendations (I said yes to chemotherapy – eventually – but no to radiation and Tamoxifen, and I am daily in contact with many others doing the same).  But I decided I had nothing to lose and so I went in search of meditation teachers who could show me how to use the power of the mind to heal myself.

What I learned was that our powerful brain allows us to transcend our present reality, providing the power to open us up so that we may create new possibilities for ourselves.
 
Upworthy Video Inspires

I was thinking about this just this morning when I came across the most inspiring video on www.upworthy.com.  The headline read “They Said She Was Paralyzed, And She Couldn’t Afford Her Recovery, Then A Dancer Changed It All“.  Click the link to watch the video.

The dancer in the headline, Karen, didn’t know how to dance but challenged herself to learn it in a year and filmed 10 seconds per day of her progression.  Cynthia, the paralyzed woman, found Karen’s videos and decided that since she couldn’t afford the treatment to get better, she would simply challenge herself each day to keep going, to do a little more and then a little more, and soon she was walking!

I noticed at one point in the film she was also using meditation – it appears at about the 1:07 mark in the video.

I just wanted to share this with you today because it illustrates how powerful we are once we set our minds to doing something.  It can be something small like learning how to draw, or something huge like healing cancer.

But we can do it.  The power of the mind is truly awesome and we only use a small percentage of our big, powerful brains.

Would you like to challenge yourself?  There is a Give It 100 movement you can join – find out more about that here.

If that doesn’t appeal, I have a downloadable course called Change Your Life Meditation Course which explains how the power of the mind works and how you can create some healing for yourself.  I created it for people who live in small towns and don’t have access to meditation groups but anyone can benefit from it.

Thanks to Upworthy.com for the inspiring video, and to Give It 100 for encouraging people to try new things!

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters and e-book on the right, and/or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor and my goal to help you through this so that you emerge from breast cancer feeling better than before, thriving!

The information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional.  You should not use the information on this site for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem and please be sure to consult your health care professional when making decisions about your health.

Study Reports Oncologists Grieve Too

http://MarnieClark.com/Oncologists-Grieve-Too-Study-ReportsStudy Reports Oncologists Grieve Too

I know this post is not strictly about breast cancer, but since most of us will have at least one encounter with an oncologist – and sometimes many encounters – I thought it might help to share a little about what they go through, professionally and personally, when they lose a patient.  Indeed, oncologists probably suffer more patient losses than any other field of medicine, such is the nature of cancer.

Also, we are more than likely on this journey to encounter the death of a close personal friend or family member to cancer, so I have listed some books at the end of this article which may assist you with dealing with loss.

Last year the JAMA Internal Medicine website released the results of a study: Nature and Impact of Grief Over Patient Loss on Oncologists’ Personal and Professional Lives

I believe that most of us tend to think that oncologists are somewhat unfeeling, that they go from patient to patient, making recommendations and doing their best to help them regain health, and that they have somehow found a way not to be affected by it all.  Perhaps understanding the issues of grief and burnout can help us to be more compassionate with the way some oncologists and other health professionals behave.

I found this article to be vastly interesting and quite touching and it helped me to remember that oncologists are feeling people too.  The article mentioned that more than half of oncologists and a third of trainees experience burnout and that the impact of patient loss on their lives was “a unique affective experience that had a smoke-like qualityLike smoke, this grief was intangible and invisible. Nonetheless, it was pervasive, sticking to the physicians’ clothes when they went home after work and slipping under the doors between patient rooms.

Very eloquently stated, I don’t believe I’ve ever read such language in a research study.

One troubling thing I read, however, was that apparently many oncologists frequently failed to deal appropriately with grief after their patients died.  One oncologist noted: “I’m up to the point where I probably lose one or two patients a week minimum … it’s a physical sensation of being ground away … it takes me a long time to recover from that.”

Grief Management Necessary For Residents, Oncologists
It was proposed that education on how to manage grief, beginning during residency, would be one way to ease the negative impact of losing patients.  “Ongoing study and development of optimized coping strategies for oncologists” is needed, they argued.

I know that for myself personally, having worked with people affected by cancer over the years – my mother, a close personal friend, and several of my subscribers – I had little to no experience of death or dying.  It took me a long time to work through my grief surrounding their deaths, so I can only imagine what oncologists go through, losing so many people that they have cared for and cared about.

I would like to recommend several resources which helped me greatly:

1.  “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” by Sogyal Rinpoche

2. “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying” by Bronnie Ware

3.  “On Death and Dying” by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

These 3 books helped me to understand so much about the process of death, about grief, about living well and dying well.

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters and e-book on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor and my goal to help you through this so that you emerge from breast cancer feeling better than before, thriving!

Going Through Treatments? How To Feel Better Fast.

 

Photo courtesy of RGBstock.com / Tou Touke
Photo courtesy of RGBstock.com / Tou Touke

Going Through Treatments?  How To Feel Better Fast.

One of the things I needed badly when going through breast cancer was a list of ways to feel better fast.  Why a list? 

Because when you’re going through the treatments for breast cancer, let’s face it – your brain is pretty fuzzy, you can’t think clearly (it’s commonly known as “chemobrain”).  So I made a list of all of the things that made me feel better because, quite honestly, I couldn’t think of them when I needed them the most!

Making A “Feel Better” List

My “feel better” list included getting a massage, inhaling some of my favorite, healing essential oils, listening to particular CDs for their calming music, talking to my best friend, going for a walk, taking a nap, eating really healthy food (because that always makes you feel better), but most of all, meditation.  Meditation was (and still is) the one thing that makes me feel better fast.

When you are putting together your “feel better” list, use a nice thick marker and print the feel better suggestions as clearly as possible.  Post the list where you can see it – on the bathroom mirror, on the refrigerator door – don’t make yourself have to hunt for it because you won’t be in the mood.

Some Help From Author Paul Wilson: Instant Calm

In his book “Instant Calm”, author Paul Wilson discusses what he calls applied suggestion.  He says that if you can tell you’re feeling lousy, especially if you say it a few times and persuasively enough, nothing can be surer than you’re going to feel lousy.  “If you keep on telling yourself positive things, calming things, then you will achieve them… More powerful still is visual suggestion.  If you can  see these positive things… calming things… and you can see yourself participating in them, then you are certainly well down the track towards achieving them. “

Mr Wilson goes on to say that applied suggestion must be accepted by the subconscious to transform it into reality.  That’s where meditation helps.  To be accepted by the subconscious, your suggestion should be in harmony with your subconscious beliefs.  To make it powerful, wording must be in the present tense, simple and positive (“More and more, I am discovering that I am feeling better, I am radiantly healthy.”). 

Doing meditation regularly with affirmations (the applied suggestion mentioned by author Paul Wilson) is quite powerful.  Repetition encourages a suggestion or affirmation into being. 

For long-term affirmations and goals to be optimally effective, Mr Wilson advises to repeat your affirmation at least ten times per day to yourself.  See my article Creating Positive Affirmations That Work for more information on how to create the most powerful positive affirmations.

Meditation Help

When I was going through breast cancer, the one thing I couldn’t seem to find was a nice guided meditation for cancer patients that would lead me through some calming visualizations and help me to focus on getting healthier.  Oh, there were all kinds of meditation CDs available and I tried most of them, but most of them seemed to have some fatal flaw, something that drove me crazy – either the background music was awful, or the person’s voice was annoying… so I recently decided to create my own how-to-meditate course, called Change Your Life Meditation Course.  I created it just for you, click the link to find out more.  I’d love to help you feel better fast.

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters and e-book on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor and my goal to help you through this so that you emerge from breast cancer feeling better than before, thriving!

You Create Your Life

Artwork courtesy of rgbstock.com and 89 Studio
Artwork courtesy of rgbstock.com and 89 Studio

YOU CREATE YOUR LIFE

I am reading a fabulous book at the moment – “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R Covey.  It’s ultra inspiring and teaches you how YOU create your life.

Stephen R Covey is one of my mentors and I very much appreciate his ability to motivate and inspire us with his well-chosen words of wisdom.

I was particularly inspired today by Covey’s suggestion that we develop a personal mission statement, philosophy or creed and the reason I appreciated it so much is that we often don’t do this.  To clarify your goals for your life – to set them down in writing and then to focus on them and live by them is one of the most empowering things you can do.

I would challenge you – on this Easter weekend – to create your own personal mission statement.  The following mission statement is an excerpt from Stephen Covey’s book, written from a female standpoint:

  • “I will seek to balance career and family as best I can since both are important to me.
  • My home will be a place where I and my family, friends, and guests find joy, comfort, peace, and happiness.  Still I will seek to create a clean and orderly environment, yet livable and comfortable.  I will exercise wisdom in what we choose to eat, read, see, and do at home.  I especially want to teach my children to love, to learn, and to laugh – and to work and develop their unique talents.
  • I value the rights, freedoms, and responsibilities of our democratic society.  I will be a concerned and informed citizen, involved in the political process to ensure my voice is heard and my vote is counted.
  • I will be a self-starting individual who exercises initiative in accomplishing my life’s goals.  I will act on situations and opportunities, rather than to be acted upon.
  • I will always try to keep myself free from addictive and destructive habits.  I will develop habits that free me from old labels and limits and expand my capabilities and choices.
  • My money will be my servant, not my master.  I will seek financial independence over time.  My wants will be subject to my needs and my means.  Except for long-term home and car loans, I will seek to keep myself free from consumer debt.  I will spend less than I earn and regularly save or invest part of my income.
  • Moreover, I will use what money and talents I have to make life more enjoyable for others through service and charitable giving.”

Isn’t that great?  I know I usually write an article about something related to breast cancer, but this blog is all about empowering yourself and I found this mission statement to be wonderfully empowering.  I wish to add one more paragraph to the above:

  • I will seek and and be worthy of divine assistance, maintain a positive attitude, keep a sense of humor, and if I find that I have regrets and emotional baggage, I will do everything within my power to free myself from their chains so that I can be the very best person I am capable of being.

Have a fabulous Easter weekend. 

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor and my goal to help you through this.

How To Live In The Moment – 9 Tips

Photo courtesy of stock.xchng and Lumix2004
Photo courtesy of stock.xchng and Lumix2004

I was taught by a dear friend of mine, Judy, the importance of living in the moment when I was going through breast cancer.  I guess it had never occurred to me before then…

I was sitting with her in the sunshine on her porch and I had just been diagnosed and was feeling fairly traumatized by the notion that I had an unwanted “guest” in my body.

Judy was listening to my long litany of things I was worrying about – chief among them being “What if everything I do turns out not to be enough?”  Judy gave me a gift that day, by saying “Well you can certainly go down that road and worry yourself endlessly.  Or you can choose to just live in the moment.  Appreciate the here and now as fully as you can.”  That turned out to be life-changing advice, and I thank my friend Judy from the bottom of my heart for that beautiful lesson.

We Can Get Lost In the Past and Agonize About the Future

Being a human isn’t easy.  Our brains, which are so marvelous at figuring out complex things, can also be the bane of our existence.  We can listen to the tales our brain tells us – worrying endlessly about what happened at a party last week, what people will think, how big our credit card bill is – on and on and on.

Sometimes our brain gets fixated on the future, however, and if we are anxious or fearful about that, it can be paralyzing.  The trick is not to let our mind control us, rather, to take hold of the mind and direct it where you WANT it to go.

The reason I believe that living in the moment is important when you’re going through breast cancer is because there are so many things about which to be anxious and fearful.  Living in the moment truly strips that away and helps you to be more fully alive NOW (which is really all that matters – the here and now!)

My Favorite 9 Tips On Living In The Moment

  1. Release Your Self-Conscious Anxiety – If you can, release your worries about what people are thinking of you.  Most people are so focused on themselves, they really are not thinking about you as much as you think they are.  Who cares what they think anyway?  It simply does not matter.
  2. Truly Savor The Present Moment – Be alive to it, use all of your senses.  Really hear the song that is playing or what your child is telling you, totally immerse yourself in the beautiful colors of a sunset, truly feel your clothes touching your skin, taste that mouthful of food you just took – endeavor to identify exactly what you’re tasting.  If you’re doing something you perceive as boring (like walking to the bus stop), treat it as a meditation and observe with new eyes each thing you see on the journey – a bird, another human (smile at them!), a squirrel rushing past.  Your world is changing constantly – be alive to it.
  3. Be Very Mindful – All The Time! – This works especially well in your relationships with others and initially can be a little hard to do.  But the more you practice it, the better you get at it.  Simply put, it involves NOT reacting with anger in situations where you normally would.  Take a moment and really think about what is being said, how it’s meant.  The Buddhists call this recognizing the spark before the flame.  In short you are inhabiting your own mind more fully, by not reacting and pausing a moment to think about things you are being fully present.  When you do respond, do your best not to respond in anger but with thoughtfulness.
  4. Don’t Avoid Pain – By pushing away painful thoughts (or even physical pain) you are simply postponing dealing with it.  By facing it fully, accepting it for what it is and then releasing it (whether via a talk with your psychotherapist or a massage or whatever you need to do) you bring yourself fully into this moment.
  5. Meditation Assists – Living in the moment gets easier with meditation because you are actively clearing thoughts from your mind (like the wind blows clouds from the sky) when you meditate and concentrating on an affirmation or your breath.  When you notice your mind has wandered, simply bring it back to the present moment and your breath.
  6. Forgive What Has Happened In The Past – That old saying “To err is human, to forgive divine” has never been more true.  When you forgive someone for a wrong you perceived they have committed, you free yourself from the past and this allows you to be more present now.
  7. Do One Thing At A Time – When you are multi-tasking (and I know you are… we’re all guilty!) you are quite unable to focus on any one thing and give it your full attention.  Resist the urge to rush through it.  Do it slowly, thoughtfully, mindfully, like it was the single most important thing you ever had to do.  Try smiling while you’re doing it.
  8. Leave Blank Holes in Your “To Do” List – Resist the urge to schedule things really close together for 14 hours straight. Give yourself a little wiggle room to breathe, meditate, take a walk or simply sit and do nothing!  We have become human DOINGS rather than human BEINGS.  Just sit and “be”.
  9. Do Something Nice For Someone – Whether it’s for someone you love or a total stranger, nothing helps you to be more in the moment than to let someone know you care by doing something nice for them.  Even just smiling at a stranger as you pass by could have an impact on their entire day.  Hold a door open for someone, give up your seat on the bus to an older person, cook your spouse their favorite meal unexpectedly, tell someone how much they mean to you.  It feels really good – to them and to you.

A final note:  When I am stressing about something it’s almost always because I’m reaching too far into the future and feeling concerned about it.  It helps to bring yourself back to “right now” by asking yourself “Am I okay right now?”  If the answer is yes, then feel gratitude and stay with that feeling for as long as you can.  Because right now is all we have.  90% of the things we worry about never happen.

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor to help you through this.

Your Emotional Health Is Important When You’re Going Through Breast Cancer

Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and Zela
Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and Zela

Understanding how our emotional health impacts our physical selves was something that I really wanted to grasp when I was going through the breast cancer journey.  Being a massage therapist, I knew the two were inter-related and important.

Repressed Emotions Can Be Detrimental

One of my favorite authors, Dr Bernie Siegel, was a wonderful source of information to me and helped me understand how our emotional health impacts our physical health.

In his book Love Medicine & Miracles, Dr Siegel shared the importance of expressing your emotions when cancer is diagnosed.  He said that feelings of anger and rage are usually well founded and must not be repressed.  Dr Siegel stated “Unexpressed feelings depress your immune response.”  He went on to say that the people who show and express how they feel “survive adversity better than those who are emotionally constricted.”

Dr Siegel discussed a 1979 study by Leonard Derogatis and Martin Abeloff, John Hopkins Medical School, who studied 35 women with breast cancer and found that those who lived longer were much more expressive in their anger, fear, guilt and depression as compared to those women who suppressed their emotions.

This illustrates how much repressed emotions are injurious not only for your mental health but also your physical health.  Emotional honesty not only improves your health, but also helps you to receive better quality of care from your family and your health care providers.

5 Ways To Release Pent-Up Emotions

  1. Seek help from a qualified counselor – a psychotherapist can assist you to offload all of that toxic rubbish you’ve been carrying around in your brain for so long.
  2. Go stand on a mountain top – or some other secluded place – and have a word with your Maker.  Pour out your heart.  Rest assured that your words will be heard.
  3. Find an Emotional Freedom Technique practitioner – I used this myself when going through breast cancer and it helped alleviate stress and anxiety to a huge degree.  Dr Mercola has an informative video on his site about this technique.
  4. Try meditation.  It is an inward journey that will help you to come to know yourself much better and helps to alleviate so much of the anxiety and fear surrounding a cancer diagnosis.
  5. Bodywork such as deep tissue massage and aromatherapy can help you release emotions that have been residing within you.

This is so worth doing – emotional toxicity causes so much disruption in our lives such as depression, insomnia, physical pain, and yes, cancer.  Seek some help, give yourself the best chance to heal.

I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  

Guest Writer: Strategies for Coping with the Anxiety of Living with a Serious Illness

 

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net / Simon Howden

 

Strategies for Coping with the Anxiety of Living with a Serious Illness

Finding out you have a serious illness is devastating. It forces you to come to terms with your own mortality, and while you should keep fighting every day, it’s most certainly harder to relax and find happiness when you’re faced with that thought each and every day.

For many, this causes significant anxiety. Even if you’ve responded well to treatments, your life is undoubtedly going to change. It has to, because you’ve been faced with a life changing event that has changed the course of your life forever.

But that anxiety becomes a problem when it holds you back from finding happiness in life. There are going to be trials, and times when it’s difficult to think positively, but the more time you spend focused on the adversity and the risks ahead, the less time you spend living for yourself in a way that makes you happy. Everyone will someday have to face their own mortality, but until they do, everyone deserves to try to live a life that is free of regrets and filled with joy.

Stopping Anxiety in its Tracks

Of course, this is often easier said than done. There is certainly no denying that the never-ending doctor’s visits, treatment side effects, and physical aches and pains can make controlling anxiety more difficult. But there are still ways to help you cope with the stresses ahead of you so that you still wake up each day ready to enjoy life. Some of these include:

1.  Goal Creation

The simple act of creating goals is extremely important for those living with a serious illness. You need to make sure that you’re always working for something, and that when you complete a goal you still have more to do. It’s good to be focused on the future and not feeling stuck.

Many of those with anxiety disorders (unrelated to serious illness) struggle with this as well. I certainly did. It caused me to spend each day focused on just getting through the day, and suddenly I woke up and a year had passed and I had accomplished nothing.

Even though serious illness can reduce some of your ability to meet some of these goals, there are always new goals you can try. Make sure you’re constantly working for something so that each day is one spent achieving something in the future.

2.  Permanent Creative Outlets

What Ms. Clark is doing with this blog is also incredibly valuable. When you suffer from anxiety, you no doubt have all of these thoughts in your head that you can’t seem to release. Putting them all on paper and sharing them with others is the type of creative outlet that many people need to simply take those thoughts out of their head and share them with others, and the permanence of a blog or journal ensures that at any point you can go back, see what you were feeling, and see how you are now.

Those that don’t like to write can try art as well. But anything you can do that lets out your emotions in a healthy way is valuable, and will reduce some of the pressure that these thoughts have on you.

3.  Fake It

It can be hard to feel optimistic when you are struggling with a serious diagnosis, even if you’ve managed to overcome it. When optimism fails, you try faking optimism.

We’re not talking about denial.  Denial is never healthy.  We’re just talking about pretending to be a person that isn’t affected by their diagnosis.  Pretend to be someone with a positive outlook, even if it doesn’t come naturally.

One of the most interesting things about the human brain is that when it’s confused, it tries to adapt to being confused.  By pretending to be positive, you’re confusing your brain, and often you’ll find that your mind turns you into a more positive person as a result in order to become less confused. It may sound silly, but it’s very effective, and absolutely worth a try for a few months.

  1.  Your Spirit and Anxiety

Still, in the end it’s not about the diagnosis. It’s about who you want to be and how you want to live your life. Your own willingness to recognize your anxiety and overcome it is going to be the key that moves you forward.  If you show your own inner strength by dedicating your life to happiness and enjoying yourself, you’ll find that no diagnosis can truly hold you back.

About today’s Guest Writer: Ryan Rivera has worked with many people struggling with chronic illness, and provides anxiety recovery tips at www.calmclinic.com.

Thanks, Ryan!  We appreciate your words of wisdom.

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor to help you through this.

Johns Hopkins Advocates Integrated Cancer Care

 

Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and hisks
Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and hisks

Johns Hopkins Advocates Integrated Cancer Care

For those who were not able to attend the webinar put on by Johns Hopkins Medicine on December 17th, following please find my notes and ramblings from that webinar.  I hope you find them useful.

The webinar was titled Integrative Medicine: How Acupuncture, The Mind/Body Connection, Holistic Eating and Chinese Medicine and Other Modalities Can Help Survivors During and After Treatment.  Which is kind of a long-winded title, but they wanted to tell you exactly what they’d be covering and that title does the trick

Webinar Overview

The webinar was presented by Dr Linda Lee and Mr Jeff Gould and it ran for about an hour.  Dr Lee spoke about how the Johns Hopkins Integrative Medicine Center viewed integrative medicine as being the best of scientific medicine with a broader understanding of the nature of illness, that integrative medicine enhanced conventional medicine rather than replacing it.  They preferred the term “integrative” rather than “alternative” or “complementary” because alternative seeks an “alternate” approach to conventional medicine, it connotes a turning away, while the term complementary was too broad.

The Johns Hopkins website further defines integrative medicine: “Integrative medicine encompasses a broad range of therapeutic approaches to achieve optimal health and wellness for those who are ill or those who are concerned about disease prevention. It is a powerful resource for those seeking to participate actively in their healthcare.”

A Holistic Diet for Cancer Patients

Dr Lee spoke first and discussed holistic eating quite simply – she quoted author Michael Pollan, whose advice was to “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.”  I loved that – it says so much so succintly!

Dr Lee warned us against eating highly processed foods and too many food additives.  She said we should try not to eat too much meat, especially beef, and that we should strive for a balanced approach in our food choices.  Volumes could be written (and have been) about the best nutrition for cancer patients – for more definitive information, see my page Diet and Cancer.

Dr Lee addressed the concerns of those going through chemotherapy, she had some good advice for what to eat when you don’t feel like eating, for those taste bud issues and digestive problems.  She advised using a blender or food processor (I would say JUICER) and put your food into that.

She had no real recommendations about WHAT to put in the blender – other than you wouldn’t put a spaghetti dinner in there, for instance.  She just said it’s easier to process liquid foods like smoothies and shakes.  She recommended having multiple small meals, rather than 3 bigger meals per day.  Dr Lee recommended the book One Bite At A Time – Nourishing Recipes for Cancer Survivors and Their Friends by Rebecca Katz, which I’ve added to my Recommended Reading list.

I’ll go a little farther than these recommendations and direct you to my article Do You Know The Benefits of Juicers For Cancer Patients.

Dietary Myths in Cancer

Dr Lee discussed some of the dietary myths she had encountered from her patients – we’ll start with the myth, then Dr Lee’s refutal:

  1. Avoid sugar because it feeds cancer – this one surprised me because I do advocate avoiding sugar if you have active cancer in your body.  Dr Lee disagreed, saying a moderate amount of sugar is okay, it won’t cause your cancer to get bigger.  So, I’ve softened my stance on this a little bit and found a good article for you that discusses moderation.
  2. Eat whatever foods you want and as much of them as you like – eating as much as you like of something isn’t advisable if you’re undergoing chemotherapy and having digestive issues, smaller meals are better.
  3. Eat fried foods because they will give you more calories if you’ve lost weight during cancer treatment – Dr Lee advised fried foods are NOT a good idea because they increase nausea.
  4. Being overweight is better than being underweight – Not true for breast cancer, Dr Lee says.  Fat cells create estrogen and if you had/have estrogen receptor positive tumor(s) being overweight can actually cause more problems for you.

Vitamin Supplements

Dr Lee advised caution when taking vitamins – because adverse affects are not always known and they may have interactions with some of the drugs you are on.  She did not have anything against taking vitamins, she merely advised caution, suggesting a person see an herbalist or dietician for guidance (I’d say see a trained naturopath) and always let your oncologist know what you are doing.  Dr Lee suggested referring to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website.

Mind/Body Approach

My favorite part of the webinar was the discussion of how using mind/body medicine can help cancer patients.  Dr Lee went out on a limb and said that STRESS CAN AFFECT CANCER GROWTH.  I’ve been saying this for years and I was so glad to hear someone from the medical world acknowledge and affirm this.

Dr Lee advised that chronic emotional stress can have a negative impact on cancer, and she discussed how the hormones released during stressful periods affect inflammation, cellular immune response and other key factors and that getting stress treated was really important.  She advocated the use of one or more of the following therapies (all of which I also recommend on this site and in my newsletters):

  • yoga
  • meditation
  • tai chi
  • massage
  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy
  • guided imagery
  • hypnotherapy
  • support groups
  • journaling
  • exercise

I found a good article for you from the Mayo Clinic which discusses exactly how stress hormones wreak havoc on our body.

Mr Jeff Gould On The Chinese Medicine Approach

The second part of the webinar was handed over to Jeff Gould, a Chinese medicine practitioner at the Johns Hopkins Integrative Medicine Center.  Mr Gould discussed many aspects of Chinese medicine, I will highlight the most interesting points he made:

    • Chinese medicine is what he termed individualized medicine. He might see 10 patients with breast cancer, but each patient may get a different treatment protocol based on the symptoms they present with on that day.
    • Chinese medicine is very holistic – practitioners don’t just treat physical symptoms (such as cancer), but also the emotional and spiritual aspects of a person.  He said one of his patients, in an effort to describe what they felt like after an acupuncture treatment, called it “a lightness of being”.  I thought that was a very good description.
    • Mr Gould called Chinese medicine a highly effective adjunct to Western medicine, it has been utilized quite effectively for over 3,000 years.
    • Mr Gould mentioned that the Chinese also use diet as a therapy – that Chinese medicine looks at the energetics of food vs the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.  They use food to promote health AND also to treat illness.  I was quite interested to find out that certain restaurants in China will have doctors who will greet you at the door, take a look at your vital signs (which are quite different to Western medicine – they are more likely to look at your tongue and take your pulses than to check your blood pressure, etc.) and then recommend certain things on the menu to assist with your current signs/symptoms.
    • When using Chinese herbs, your herbalist will tailor make a formula for you based on your unique constellation of symptoms and these are modified each week as symptoms change.
    • Mr Gould specifically mentioned chemotherapy-induced neuropathy, saying that the best time to treat that is BEFORE symptoms begin – he said it’s much easier to keep it from happening than to treat it after it has already happened.
    • We were reminded that herbs are drugs and as such, can have side effects and interactions with other drugs.  He also warned to use a trained herbalist when using herbs for any illness.
    • Mr Gould also did not recommend using Chinese medicine alone to treat cancer, but as an adjunct.

All in all, I thought it a very good webinar, well presented, and with good, concise information.  If you have any specific questions, please contact me.

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor to help you through this.

Want to Sleep Better?

want to sleep better
Image source: Michelle Meiklejohn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Want To Sleep Better?

Following on yesterday’s article about EMF radiation, I am getting quite a few inquiries from my readers saying “HELP ME SLEEP!” or “how can I sleep better?”

Initially it might seem like the two articles are not connected, but they definitely are.  If you are trying to sleep in a room that has high electro-magnetic frequencies, chances are your sleep is going to be disturbed.

Melatonin Plays a Role

Also the whole issue about melatonin comes into play – I mentioned in yesterday’s article that studies have shown women who have breast cancer normally have quite low levels of melatonin, often as little as one-tenth what they should.  Check out yesterday’s article: EMF Dangers and 7 Tips To Help You Avoid Exposure.

If you have breast cancer or are wanting to reduce your risk of it, improving your quality of sleep is, I believe, absolutely crucial.  Studies have shown that shift workers, especially nurses, are more prone to breast cancer and the researchers are discovering that lack of melatonin could be the cause.

Why We Don’t Sleep Well

Since there seems to be a great need out there to improve quality of sleep, let’s first examine some of the reasons why people don’t sleep well:

  • Noise – from the neighborhood, a snoring spouse or pet, crying children, barking dogs, screaming ambulances – noise can be a big problem
  • Light – too much light entering the bedroom
  • Pets – needy pets sleeping on your head don’t help!
  • Alcohol – a big sleep disturber
  • Caffeine – stimulates your nervous system, and lots of caffeine over the period of a day can build up
  • Thinking and Anxiety – an inability to shut the mind off or feeling anxious about things
  • Jet Lag – constant travel can be a problem for your inner time clock
  • Restless Legs – sufferers of this syndrome have an irresistible urge to move their legs to relieve sensations described as itchiness, pins and needles or other discomforts
  • Hot Flashes – whether you are menopausal or undergoing treatment for breast cancer, you know how completely sleep can be interrupted by these darned things

My 11 Best Tips On Sleeping Better

  1. Remove EMFs – See yesterday’s article about removing EMFs from the bedroom.
  2. Noise Reduction – It can be difficult to control the noise factor.  I have tried earplugs but I hate the sensation of them in my ears and find that makes sleep difficult.  Often just turning on a fan can be helpful – the “white noise” from the fan and the movement of air can be soothing.  Also, there are “white noise” machines available from places such as Sharper Image, Amazon.com, etc.  Just ensure you don’t place it close to the bed (again, the EMF problem).  If a snoring partner is the problem, one of you should move to another room to sleep, if possible.
  3. Light Reduction  – Make your bedroom as dark as possible.  This is important because if your bedroom is full of too much light (including light from an alarm clock), it directly inhibits the production of melatonin.  Use room darkening shades if possible and rid your bedroom of as many appliances as you can that create little lights at night.
  4. Pets – People love their pets, but pets have no place in the bedroom, I am sorry to say.  They can disturb your sleep by wanting to play or wanting to be let out or… whatever.  If you are having trouble sleeping (unless of course the pet helps you to sleep), getting pets out of the bedroom helps a lot.  Here’s an article from webmd I found extremely helpful.
  5. Limit Alcohol – Contrary to popular belief, alcohol does not help you sleep.  Studies show that alcohol decreases the duration of sleep and its efficiency.  It also increases your risk of breast cancer.
  6. Limit Caffeine – How caffeine affects us varies widely.  For instance I’m very intolerant of it, I can’t have it past about 1 pm in the day or I’ll be awake half the night.  My husband can drink black tea all day and all night and sleep like a baby.  I believe each person’s tolerance for caffeine is pretty different.  Just be aware of what yours is – it is, after all, a stimulant to the nervous system.  If you’re finding that you don’t sleep well, try limiting your caffeine intake after about 3 pm for about 2 weeks and see what happens.
  7. Meditation and Positive Affirmations – Thinking too much and anxiety are double trouble, much prone to them myself.  Here’s what helps me.  If I meditate for 20 minutes prior to going to bed, I sleep much better.  The use of positive affirmations helps with anxiety.  One of the tenets of Buddhism is living in the moment.  If you find your brain is running amok and going through all those “what if’s” and it’s creating massive anxiety, ask yourself this question.  AM I OKAY RIGHT THIS MINUTE?  99% of the time, the answer will be “yes”.  Tell yourself, “I am okay right now and right now is all that matters”.  Are you aware that 90% of the things we worry about never happen?  Just breathe.  Be here now.  Without wishing to minimize your problems and worries, it might help you to realize that if  you have a roof over your head and food in your belly, you are doing better than 50% of the population of this planet.
  8. Jet Lag Tips – A big sleep disruptor.  Here’s a good article from USA Today on how to reduce jet lag.
  9. Restless Legs – This can be a big problem for a lot of people, including me.  I found a great cure for it when I was living in Australia – maddeningly the cure isn’t available in the USA.  It’s a supplement made by a company out of New Zealand, Blackmores, and it’s called P.P.M.P. which stands for Potassium phosphate Magnesium phosphate.  I haven’t found anything else that works faster.  The Mayo Clinic has an article about RLS with some tips and tricks which may help.
  10. Aromatherapy – Breathing in a good quality lavender essential oil and spreading it onto the bottoms of your feet just prior to bed helps immensely because it has wonderful calming qualities and helps with depth and quality of sleep.  There’s only one brand of lavender essential oil that I use and recommend, if you want to know what it is, contact me.
  11. Cool Those Hot Flashes – I wish I had the cure-all for this.  I’ve found many things that assist, nothing that makes them go away entirely.  I wrote an article recently with some tips and tricks.

I really hope that this helps you get a better night’s sleep.

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right.  You can also “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

Newly Diagnosed? Dealing with Anxiety and Fear

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and artur84
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and artur84

Newly Diagnosed?  Dealing with Anxiety and Fear

It has been my observation that newly diagnosed cancer patients generally have anxiety that is off the charts, and who could blame them?

Fear obviously plays a part in their anxiety – fear of death, pain, loss of function – it can all be life-changing and very scary.

The Difference Between Anxiety and Fear

In an effort to help move you through these sometimes paralyzing feelings, I’ve found some words that I hope will help you.

It comes from the book Living Beyond Limits by David Spiegel, MD:

“There is an important difference between anxiety and fear.  Anxiety is a general sense that something is wrong, which can lead to discomfort, restlessness, and worry, but which is not specific enough to point the way to any resolution of the problem.  Fear is something more specific – you know what you are afraid of, and this tends to make the possibility of effective action to control or reduce the fear more real.  One of the best means of treating anxiety is to convert it to fear, to change a general sense of discomfort to a fear of something in particular.  Thus, a general sense of anxiety in relation to cancer or other illness is best addressed by seeking to define exactly what it is you are anxious about: the discomfort associated with the treatment, the possibility that the disease will spread, the threat of death.  Each of these issues can be explored and addressed, which can reduce the discomfort they cause.  The way to tame anxiety is to confront it directly.  Ask rather than avoid.”

Learning The Language of Cancer

I believe Dr Spiegel gave excellent advice.  A lot of the anxiety of a new diagnosis comes from, I believe, all the new language you have to learn about medical treatments, from those overwhelming discussions of survival chances based on this therapy or that, the side effects of this or that. 

Here are a few tips to help you deal with anxiety and fear:

You must ask questions until you come to understand what is being recommended by your doctors and treatment providers.  No one could absorb all of that information the first time around, so take notes.  It is also good to have a friend or spouse with you – another set of ears listening is really important because I guarantee you, at some point you will be in overload mode and stop listening and possibly miss an important point.

Dr Spiegel also makes the point that as a newly diagnosed patient you must study for the role as though you were learning a new job.  He suggests that doctors, nurses, social workers, and other patients can be your teachers.

I would add to that list of people/teachers: other breast cancer survivors, psychotherapists (to help you manage your stress levels), naturopaths or nutritionists, and massage therapists.

That’s the role of a good healing team – to help you manage your anxiety and fear, to provide you with excellent care, to answer all of your questions in ways that you are able to understand, and to refer you to other members on the team when it’s necessary.

Try not to stay in fear-mode for too long.  Dr Spiegel’s advice to convert your anxiety to a specific fear and then tackle it by addressing each fear is a good one because if you are living in a state of fear you are not focusing on your healing and I believe that’s important to do, especially with a life-threatening disease like cancer.  Don’t beat yourself up because you are experiencing fear and anxiety, but do your best to move through it so that you can start the healing process.

I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

The Healing Power of Music

healing power of music
Photo courtesy of Ambro and stock.xchng

Normally, getting ready for my day is a pretty mundane thing.  But today, my iPod was playing some really great music and I was dancing (trying not to be too critical in front of the bathroom mirror – just enjoying the movement and the tunes) and it got me thinking about the healing power of  music.

A Supercharged Brain and U2

When I was going through chemotherapy, the night following my infusion would generally be mostly wakeful.  Those darned chemicals were racing around my body and seemed to supercharge my brain.  So I’d lie for hours and listen to music.

You are never so attentive and mindful of a song and what goes into it as you are during the black of night when there are no distractions.  Using headphones also brings the music closer, you can hear every drum beat, every nuance of the singer’s voice.  It was pure magic – I would listen for hours.  (My favorite night-time listening music was by U2, I love them).

The Healing Power of Music

I found a wonderful website called caregiver.com – written for caregivers of dementia patients.  They had this to say about the healing power of music:

Positive results include elevated mood, increased socialization and appetite and reduction in agitation. These benefits are attributed to the stimulation the brain receives during a music therapy session, a sort of “cognitive workout” inspiring us to coin the phrase, “What exercise is to the body, music is to the brain.” The power of music often inspires physical movement and can be used in combination to encourage gentle exercise.

I was able to find a number of articles on-line that spoke of the healing power of music.  Benefits include:

  • Soothing jangled nerves
  • Calming mind and body
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Boosting immune system
  • Focusing mind and attention
  • And so much more!

PBS has a video you can view (you’ll have to wade through the commercial first) about the Healing Power of Music.  Pretty powerful stuff for brain injury patients.

Anyway – I believe music can be very powerful for those trying to overcome a disease such as cancer.  It can soothe your soul, help you through the treatments, and boost your immune system.  My suggestion?  Get an iPod or MP3 player and load all your very favorite songs on it and take it with you to your treatments.

I am currently also putting together some healing meditations for cancer patients and will post them when they are available.

By the way, the song I was dancing to in the bathroom?  Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, “Nowhere to Run”.  Yep, it’s an oldie, but hey – I grew up in the era of the Vietnam War and that song meant a lot to us!  Still sounds great today.

I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.