Category Archives: Coping

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. 

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!

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.

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.

Time Managing Tips When You’re Going Through Breast Cancer

time managing tipsTime Managing Tips When You’re Going Through Breast Cancer

One of the things that people who are going through breast cancer really have problems with is time management.

Take a normally busy life and turn it upside down with trips to the doctor, trips to the treatment center for chemotherapy or radiotherapy, preparing healthy food and/or juicing, trips to the health food store, working and those down days when you feel like you can’t manage ANY of it, and you have a potential recipe for disaster and melt-down.

Here are some time managing tips to help you through these incredibly busy days.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help – If you need help, you must ask for it.  No one is necessarily going to understand what you’re going through and automatically be there for you.

Whether it’s a friend or a neighbor, a spouse or your children, a sibling or a parent, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  If ever there was a time in your life when you should feel okay about asking for help, mounting a battle against cancer should be IT.

Yet, amazingly, plenty of people have problems with this.  It’s not about being a control freak, it’s more about having a hard time admitting help is needed.  Some are simply just accustomed to doing things all on their own.  Right now, though, please just admit there are times when you will need help and don’t be afraid to ask for it.  No one is going to think bad things about you – in fact, they’ll probably be relieved to know that there’s a way they can help you.

Organize For The Coming Day – It really helps to make a plan for the next day the evening before. Write down the 3 most important things you need to accomplish the next day. Put a big star next to the most important one.  Once your day begins, start on that important task and see it through to the end.

Chop & Prepare Vegetables Ahead of Time –  If you’re juicing, it can be very time consuming (but oh, so worth doing!).  See my article on the Benefits of Juicing.  Get someone else (your kids, your spouse, but someone reliable) to either do the vegetable washing, peeling and preparation or to help you do it) and prepare enough for the coming week.  Put them all in those gallon sized zipper bags and store them in the refrigerator.  You can also use them for salads, steaming, however you like to eat vegetables.

Limit Your Time With Energy Suckers –  I know it’s tempting to check and see who said what on Facebook, but at least 30 minutes of precious time can be wasted that way every single day.  Sure, check and see what your peeps are doing, but LIMIT YOUR TIME THERE.  The computer can steal a lot of energy from you and it’s time you could be spending taking a revitalizing walk or doing some meditation or yoga.

If you notice that certain people are sucking your energy (like that neighbor who just wants to gossip about everyone on the block), make your excuses and politely get away from them.

Television is also another energy sucker – be very aware of how much time is spent here (especially with the evening news).  Give yourself a TV-free day once a week and see how the silence resonates with you.

Be very aware of what steals your energy while going through breast cancer treatment because you need as much energy as you can muster to fight this battle.

Consolidate Your Errands – Make a vow to not leave the house for just one little thing.  Wait until you have several things you need to do – like put fuel in the car, or buy the week’s fruit and vegetables, go to the office supply store, going to the post office.  Or better yet, ask someone to do that for you and give yourself time to meditate or do your juicing or yoga… you get the picture.

Learn To Say No – If you say “yes” to every request that’s made on your time, you will be exhausted.  Get super protective about your time, and say “no” to everything but the essential requests or the things that are important to YOU to do.

Outsource If You Can – This is a great time to hire a house cleaner if you can afford it.  If you can’t, please don’t try to handle all of the house cleaning on your own.  Delegate certain tasks that require a lot of your energy – like vacuuming or gardening – to whoever else you can.

Answer Email While Waiting For Doctor/Therapy Visits – If you have a laptop or smart phone, learn how to answer your email while you’re waiting for your turn with the doctor, or while getting your chemotherapy infusions, etc.  This would normally be wasted time, and it also helps keep anxiety levels down if you’re focused on sending somebody else some love!

Start a Blog For Friends, Relatives – I know quite a few who have done this to keep far-away loved ones in the loop about how they’re feeling, how their treatments are progressing, etc.  You won’t need to spend hours at it, just update it whenever you feel you need to, make sure your loved ones have the web address, and that way no one has to spend inordinate amounts of time on the phone updating everyone.  Writing a blog can be quite cathartic too!

Got any more great tips that helped you through this?  Feel free to add it to the comments section below.

 If you’d like to stay connected, 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.

Making Decisions – Overcoming the “Paralysis of Analysis”

http://MarnieClark.com/Making-Decisions-Overcoming-the-Paralysis-of-AnalysisThe Paralysis of Analysis

When you are first diagnosed with any life-threatening disease, it is easy to be overwhelmed by all of the decisions you have to make.

Sometimes you might make the conscious decision NOT to make any more decisions until you have more information, or until you’ve talked to that friend who has been through it.  Sometimes you feel absolutely frozen in fear and can’t make any decisions at all, what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King termed “the paralysis of analysis”.  Good turn of phrase!

Getting past that immobilization can sometimes be difficult.  I would encourage you to do just that, however, because there is nothing worse than paralysis in the face of a threat.  You must have a plan for dealing with the threat.  You will notice, in the coming weeks and months, that as you face the fact of your diagnosis you begin to observe that life goes on, even with this threat hanging over you.

I have some recommendations on getting through the decision making time.

4 Ways to Help You Move Beyond the Paralysis

  1. If a lack of information or understanding about the path you need to take is holding you back, talk to your doctor.  Talk to me.  Discuss it with that friend who has been through breast cancer.  Do some searches on the Internet, or have a friend do the searches for you.  Don’t let lack of information hold you back – we live in the age of technology when information is in abundance.
  2. If fear is holding you back, talk to a therapist.  Discussing your plight with a neutral party can often be extraordinarily helpful.
  3. If anxiety is keeping you from making the necessary decisions, and if you don’t know how to meditate, learn.  There is nothing more calming, more grounding, and more helpful than meditation to calm anxiety.  It will also help you with your treatments for the disease.  Meditation will help you focus on the problem at hand and help you make your decision for the right reasons and when you are calm and thoughtful.
  4. Seek solitude.  A long walk along the beach or a river often helps because the atmosphere surrounding places with water is full of negative ions, which help you feel better.  It can help to clear your mind and put things in perspective.

Psychology Today offers us this tasty little bit of advice: “You can practice confident decision-making by remembering a simple dictum over and over: You cannot have certainty and you don’t need it. By accepting that no certainty exists and that you don’t need it, you’ll instead harness intuition and, by extension, confidence.”

Decisions are an inevitable part of being human. It requires the right attitude.  Every problem, properly perceived, becomes an opportunity.

 If you’d like to stay connected, 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.

How to Journal: Your Cancer Experience

writing journalHow to Journal: Your Cancer Experience

One thing I found to be exceptionally helpful to me was to begin writing a journal when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer.  I didn’t know how to journal, I just knew that I needed to get some things down on paper and FAST.

I’ve always kept a diary ever since our son was born, so I didn’t find it difficult to begin.

I believe perhaps that others have some problems in that regard, so I found you a lovely resource in a website called “Journaling Saves!” written by Kristin Donovan.

Here’s a link entitled How to Journal in 10 Simple Steps.  Wonderful information, and that will get you started.

How Journaling Helped Me

Here’s how journaling helped me.  When I was going through breast cancer, I was reading a pile of information on breast cancer (sometimes several books at a time), a stack of natural healing books and heaps of inspirational info.  When I would find a passage that made sense to me or that I particularly wanted to remember, I wrote it in my healing journal.  Here’s one of my favorites:

“Think of cancer as a message from God to repair the delicate pattern of your soul and internal bodily health through love, nurturing, understanding and acceptance, and as a way to bring those aspects of your life that are out of balance back into balance.”  (Katrina Ellis, from Shattering the Cancer Myth).

Journaling was amazingly helpful to me, I found it essential to be able to refer to those passages I wrote and recall the information quickly.  To see it in my own handwriting also seemed to lend it credence.  I still thumb through the pages of my healing journal once in awhile.

Why Journaling Might Help You

The reason you might want to journal?  Think of it as a container for self reflection, self-expression and self exploration.  It can be a very healing thing to do.

It gets things out of your head and into the light of day – makes them more real.

You might discover some things that need healing – issues, negative beliefs, relationships – things will bubble up from your subconscious mind.

Researchers have found that people who write their deepest thoughts and feelings about upsetting events in their lives have stronger immunity and visit their doctors half as often.  Journaling reduces stress, it even helps your organizational skills.

Journaling can help move you towards wholeness and growth – to who you really are.

If you’d like to stay connected, 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.

14 Loving Ways to Support a Spouse with Cancer

couple hugging 214 Loving Ways to Support a Spouse With Cancer

Whether the diagnosis has come for a man or a woman, if your spouse has been diagnosed with cancer, you can feel like your whole world has turned upside down.

What you never expected or never even wanted to happen has just become a reality and it can be a big shock.  There are, however, many things that you can do to make the process easier for both of you.

  1. Move through that initial shock together.  Hold each other – hugs are so healing and both of you will be needing them. Cry if you need to.  The most important thing you can give your spouse right now is your love, to let them know that no matter what happens, you’ll get through it together.  If that initial stage of shock takes several weeks, try not to fight it.  Honor where you are and how you’re feeling.  It takes however long it takes.  But know that your spouse needs an emotional anchor, and you’re it, whether you like it or not.
  2. Be there and be strong. Your spouse needs you now more than ever.  Just realize that they might not be so much fun to be with all the time.  Please don’t give into the temptation to hide from the situation by getting busier with work, hobbies, or other things that keep you away from them.   You’re going to encounter some tough times – supporting someone who’s going through chemotherapy is not easy.  But they’ll remember what you did for them later.
  3. At work.  Look into your options for taking time off in case you need to care for your spouse. There may be different options depending on your place of employment as well as your state or local laws. Your human resources department should be able to point you in the right direction.  Tell your supervisor in advance that you may need to take a leave of absence.
  4. Be sure to look after yourself too.  Right at first you’ll be fine, but at some point, you’re probably going to feel like hell.  Go get a massage, hang out with a friend for an hour – do whatever you need to do to keep yourself strong.  Carergiver Syndrome is a very real thing and you don’t want it!
  5. Listen to your spouseThis may be the most important thing you can do for them right now. You know your spouse better than anyone else, and you trust each other.  Listen to their fears, worries and concerns with love.  Understand that neither of you may have the right words to talk about these things – you may have some awkward moments, and you may have to agree with each other that any words (even if they are not the “right” ones) are better than no words.
  6. Go with your spouse to appointments as often as you canBe an advocate.  Though your spouse may be a strong person, a person with cancer is often in no shape to battle hospital bureaucracies, thoughtless medical personnel, or anyone else.  Make it your job to take their side and ask questions until you get answers.  Even the best medical care personnel get too busy or distracted, so if/when that happens, you need to make sure your spouse gets the care they need.  Also two sets of listening ears are always better than one.
  7. Help organize medical appointments and paperwork.  Do your best to keep track of doctor’s appointments, prescriptions, hospital bills, test reports, and the hundreds of other pieces of paper that is engendered by cancer treatment.  Someone with “chemo brain” will definitely be relieved not to have to keep track of them.
  8. Communicate with family and friends.  They will want to know what’s happening, even though some of them may react strangely and not at all as you expected.  Don’t judge them, some people just can’t handle sickness.  Since this whole process can take awhile, consider setting up a blog, an email list, a Facebook page, or some other communication network to keep friends and family informed of your spouse’s progress without having to share news repeatedly with each individual.
  9. Know you are not alone – most will want to help. This isn’t always the case but if you let people know that you need some help, they are usually only too willing to jump in and help however they can.  Choose people you know you can trust. Try to give people something they can do even if it is something simple like bringing food to share when they come to visit or mowing the lawn or chopping up vegetables for the juicer.
  10. Be patient during chemotherapy.  Everyone knows that chemotherapy can cause nausea, but it can also cause food to taste strange – it may taste metallic or bitter.  Gently encourage your spouse to eat whatever he/she can.  Ask what tastes good and find a way to cook it or get it. Don’t be troubled if your spouse’s preferences change overnight and know that this won’t last forever!
  11. Keep yourself well. Wash your hands regularly and carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer for use when you’re out and about.  While your spouse is going through chemotherapy their immune system will be low and you’ll need to exercise extra care.  Avoid people who have an illness.
  12. Try to carry on as normal.  There is something comforting about routine, even in the midst of cancer.  Cancer doesn’t mean the world has to grind to a halt. If you and your spouse have normal routines and things you enjoy doing, try to keep them up as much as possible. But always be sensitive to fatigue, emotional stress, or other reasons for not doing things you normally do, and give into the needs of your spouse when you need to.
  13. Don’t leave. Regardless of the state of your relationship, this is the absolutely worst thing you can do to your spouse at this vulnerable time.  A person can get over cancer, but they will never get over the deep and lasting emotional injury you will inflict if you abandon them now.  And neither will you.  Don’t do it.  Stay, even if you’re not that happy with the situation.  Once your spouse is well again, then you can make that heavy decision.
  14. Reconnect with your spiritual beliefs.  Whether you believe in prayer or meditation, your spiritual beliefs are going to help you get through this.  You and your spouse will need a lot of resources to win this battle, more than you can get together on your own.  Don’t neglect your spirituality in this fight. It can connect you with the source of your greatest strength.

If you’d like to stay connected, 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.

Dealing With the “What-If’s”

 

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.com and photostock
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.com and photostock

Dealing With the What-If’s

Every cancer patient will tell you that there comes a point on a sleepless night when the “what-if’s” come to haunt and harass.

No matter how strong the patient, how resolute, how focused in their healing… there’s always a dark night when the following questions come home to roost:

What if I can’t get well?

What if it comes back?

What if I die?  How will my family cope?

I didn’t expect to have these feelings, but I did, and usually when I was ultra-tired.

Some Wise Words

I’m a frequent visitor on the American Cancer Society’s “What Next” forum and a nice man from England named Steve Darke had a great answer to this question recently:

“We go through so many emotions when faced with our own mortality but these emotions are shared by many of us… we must put weight to the positive emotions such as hope. If we choose to live our lives in fear then we are mourning away our future happiness, a happiness which is ours by right.  I may die from this illness but I won’t let this illness take away my dreams for I believe without our hopes and dreams we are painting ourselves a very bleak future where all the colours find their way to darker shades of black from the tears that we cry.

“At least we have knowledge of the fate that may belie us, there have been many who say goodbye whilst parting and are never seen again; at least knowing the things we now know, we are able to speak the words that are unsaid, and right the things that are wrong.  Here is something called ‘Wasted Moments’ taken from my book Reaching For A Rainbow – A Practical Guide to Living Alongside Cancer (written by Steve Darke):

I am neither a spring flower nor a mighty oak, I am just a man with frailty of life, it’s not the time I have but the journey that counts, regrets for the future of what might have been are what the reaper leaves behind as unfinished business, cast aside regrets and trivial things, say the things you have to say, share the things you have to share and live your journey to the end.

Beautiful words, thank you Steve.  Steve has started his own blog and here is a link to it.

Some Help For Those Feelings

In order to help you keep the anxiety at bay, I’ll share a couple of things that really helped me.

  • EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) – I found a practitioner that helped me work through those feelings early on.  Here’s an 11-minute video outlining the technique and you can try it now.  Definitely honor where you are now but don’t let fear and anxiety take you over.
  • A quote from Louise Hay in “You Can Heal Your Life”:  “Invite your fears in, then tell them to sit down and shut up!”
  • I just looked Death square in the eye and said I’M NOT AFRAID OF YOU.  I’M ALSO NOT READY FOR YOU, SO YOU CAN JUST GO AWAY.
  • Get a massage or some form of bodywork – it has such a calming effect and can be so healing.

If you’d like to stay connected, 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.

Everything Unsettled Now? It’s Not Your Imagination.

cosmosIf you are feeling that everything is unsettled right now – from your relationships to your health to your financial affairs – it’s not your imagination and you’re not alone.

Even the calmest of my healer friends is saying things are intense right now.  I’ve gathered information from astrologists, one who works with angels, another who blogs about the metaphysical and all are in agreement – we’re having a shake-up.

I don’t confess to understand it – words like “the Moon in early Cancer completes a cardinal grand cross with Mars, Pluto and Uranus” mean absolutely nothing to me!

And I confess to being somewhat skeptical.  It all sounds like a lot of mumbo jumbo to me.  Still…

What is undeniable is that we ARE going through a major shift of some sort.  My husband and I don’t argue much – after 36 years of marriage, we are pretty much in accord and know each other’s minds inside and out.  But there have been some major arguments lately – loud, rip roaring arguments!  Afterward I ask myself “where on earth did that come from???” – perhaps I should be asking “where in the cosmos did that come from?”.

We’re not the only ones, either.  Friends, family, my blog subscribers – everyone seems to be noticing the “unsettledness” of their lives right now. Also feelings of being tired, even lethargic, of having lost focus, and feeling frustration are not unusual.

Today’s blog at http://planetwaves.net – the top astrology blog according to “Blogrank”, has this to say: “You might feel varying degrees of anticipation/pressure/frustration, something associated with the Cancer Moon picking up so many planets so different from itself; you might experience a sense of relief, vulnerability and a sense of newness — even confidence — as the week progresses.”

That’s good to know – there’s hope in sight… ?

Coping With Unsettled Times

With thoughts of my friends who are going through breast cancer right now AND dealing with these unsettled times, here are some suggestions for coping:

  1. Be aware of your feelings – if you’re feeling overwhelmed, meditation often helps.  Take some time out for yourself.
  2. Try not to dwell on negative feelings – positive affirmations help immensely.
  3. Maintain a normal routine – there is a feeling of security in routine that helps you when you are dealing with unsettled times.
  4. Get out of your head – seeing a movie, listening to music, or reading a favorite book can help make you feel less gloomy.
  5. Take care of yourself – go get a massage, or indulge in some aromatherapy – both are very calming and centering to the nervous system.
  6. Do something positive to help others – contributing to the community helps us feel more in control and gets us focused on something else.
  7. Limit your television time – while it is important to stay informed, watching endless war coverage is likely to heighten your anxiety.

If you’d like to stay connected, 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.

10 Steps to a Positive Attitude

 

10 Steps to a Positive Attitude
Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and sloopjohnb

10 Steps to a Positive Attitude

As a cancer patient, having a positive attitude is almost as important as the various therapies you undergo.  And sometimes, it’s darned hard to achieve.  But it’s the real key to optimal health and beating cancer.

I am drawing heavily from one of my favorite books – given to me by a friend shortly after my diagnosis.  It’s entitled “Shattering the Cancer Myth” by Katrina Ellis, a cancer survivor and natural therapist.

Ms Ellis’s book helped me so much – one eye-opening statement that she makes in the book is “When we are happy and optimistic, our immune system functions much better… Blocking negative emotions isn’t the answer to preventing illness and cancer.  Inhibiting emotions will not make them go away, it simply drives them into more subtle and usually more destructive avenues of expression later.”  Here are her recommendations on achieving a positive attitude:

  1. Become an Optimist – be aware of your every day dialogue and conversations with others.  Try to go a whole day without saying something negative or derogatory.  Also be aware of internal dialogues with yourself.
  2. Be Aware of Your Internal Self-Talk – guard against negativity by using affirmations (see #3)
  3. Use Positive Affirmations and Phrases Daily – creating positive affirmations is not as easy as you think.  You must use no negative language.  More on this tomorrow!
  4. Set Positive Short Term & Long Term Goals – achieving goals enables you to feel better about who you are.  Use positive language, be specific, state your goals in the present tense or as if you have already achieved them.
  5. Practice Creative Imagery – visualize your goals being attained – much like world-class athletes will visualize themselves running the race and winning before they even get to the start line.  See my post Using Visualization To Heal Yourself.
  6. Laugh Heartily & Often  – laughter releases endorphins and they help you feel better!
  7. Surround Yourself With Positive People – negative, pessimistic people will only bring you down.  Seek out people who have a good, caring, attitude!
  8. Keep the Playfulness & Joy In Your Life – keeping a playful attitude helps to maintain a positive attitude.  Watch children and puppies for clues!
  9. Reward Yourself with Treats – nothing wrong with this, especially when you have achieved a goal.  It doesn’t need to be expensive or lavish, just something you love.
  10. Take Time Out For Yourself – do this every day, even when you think you can’t.  It doesn’t have to be a huge amount of time, just something that is solely for you.

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.  

Healing Your Body Can Be a Full-Time Job: 6 Tips to Ease You Into It

Healing Your Body Can Be a Full-Time Job
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net & Ambro

Healing your body when you are trying to overcome any major illness can be a full-time job in itself and one you never asked for.  Juicing, meditation, a doctor’s visit, yoga, a handful of supplements, family duties, cooking, and possibly even squeezing in a few hours of work can lead to a major case of overwhelm.

What To Do With A Case Of “The Overwhelms”

How on earth is one supposed to manage it all without completely losing it or making yourself sicker than you already are?  One option is to ignore the requisite self-care and go on with life as usual.  This may work for some, but usually not for very long.  Another option is to try to do it all at once, but there’s more than a good chance of getting overwhelmed from all of your healing tasks along with your family and career obligations.

When I was healing up from surgery for breast cancer, I was extremely fortunate that I had a good network of friends who helped me a little with cooking and cleaning so that my husband could go out and work and keep the household afloat.  Once I was healed, however, and everyone went back to their normal lives I did go through a case of overwhelming “HOW DO I DO ALL OF THIS?”.   I did eventually find a way between overwhelm and completely ignoring my illness.  I found a way that honors the healing process without having it consume or define your life. Here are some of those lessons.

1. Begin slowly. While you might be tempted to try all of the healing methods you are interested in at once, I don’t advise that.  For one thing, you won’t know which one is working the best!  Instead, start with the thing that you know in your heart will help you the most.  Build up to a few more things.  Start with juicing or meditation and see how you do with them.  Then you can add yoga or Reiki or some form of bodywork later on.  Baby steps for now.

2.  Know that self-care is a project.  It might not be where you want to be in your life at this moment, but put it on your list of things to do.  Not just doctor’s appointments but everything – juicing, essential oils, yoga, reading – everything you consider important for your healing process.  Make sure your healing plan is at the top of your list, because really – what’s more important right now?  Self-care and self-love must be front and center of everything you do.  If, in the past, you have taken care of everyone else first let your illness mark the end of that notion.  You must come first. Now I’m not saying that your work and your children aren’t important.  But if you are sick or too tired, you won’t be much help to them.  There’s a reason they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first!

3.  Plan ahead and don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Now that your healing tasks are on your to-do list, feel great about that!  But don’t be surprised if you still feel overwhelmed.  Now you need to break down the tasks, plan them out and ask for help when you need it.   For instance, if you want to make a green juice every morning but there isn’t time for that, on a Sunday afternoon you and your family could clean and cut and prepare all of the produce for the week.  Put enough for a day in each of 7 separate bags.  Each morning, grab a bag, juice the contents and get yourself out the door.

4.  You can make healing fun.  I was living in a hot climate when I went through breast cancer. The thought of wearing a wig was abhorrent so I bought some beautiful scarves and learned to make beautiful dangly earrings and that was my fun look.  You could try a Thai massage.  Maybe even practice yoga in the buff.  Instead of going to the gym, stay at home and do some Bollywood dancing in your underwear.  Be creative!

5.  Make healing sacred.  When you’re doing something you aren’t crazy about doing (like sitting through a session of chemotherapy or radiation or yet another scan…) make those moments sacred.  Take a deep breath.  Burn a candle or put on a relaxing sacred CD.  As you’re going through those treatments, imagine it to be a golden light moving through your body and going directly to the source of your illness and completely eradicating it.  Not only does this take the dread out of these tasks, you also incorporate the power of guided imagery, which can boost the effects of the treatment.

6.  Be nice to yourself.  Be aware that on any given week or day, you might not have time to do something you’d intended to do.  You might be too tired to take that walk.  You might completely forget that afternoon’s vitamins.  No worries!  Don’t beat yourself up about it.  In fact, expect it to happen, because it will.  Don’t worry about it.  Just do it the next day.  I will, however, offer a word of caution.  It is really important to create boundaries around the things you consider to be the most important.  Those are the ones that will set your healing back big time if you can’t do them.  Do your best to make sure the important things happen and then don’t worry over the other ones.

I found these 6 things helped me so much and in fact I still do many of the things I considered to be the most healing.   I have to thank the website of crazysexylife.com for the inspiration of writing this article and for reminding me of the things I did that helped me so much.  I hope they help you too.  May your healing journey be amazing.

 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 3 Major Myths About Cancer

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and Stuart Miles

If you’ve been newly diagnosed with cancer, just the word “cancer” can strike fear into your heart.

I’ve discovered that people think a lot of things about cancer, and many of them are blatantly untrue.

The 3 Major Myths About Cancer

1. Cancer means death;

2. Treatment is ineffective and has bad side effects;

3. Once you contract cancer, there is nothing you can do to help yourself.

Not very happy thoughts are they?

In the book “The Cancer Conqueror” by Greg Anderson (one of the books that really helped me), the author offers this help.

“1. Cancer may or may NOT mean death;

2. Treatment is getting more effective and side effects less severe every day;

3. Once you contract cancer, there are many things you can do – especially spiritually, psychologically and emotionally – to help yourself.

With hope there is significant power.”

I agree.  Nothing on this earth is stronger than the power of hope and it’s a place you can choose to go.

That’s what I’m trying to teach on this site – you can choose your beliefs and your treatment strategies.

Please search through my categories on the right-hand side of the page to help find some answers for you.  Feel free to make comments.

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.