Category Archives: Decision Making

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.

Making Healing Choices

 

making healing choices
Photo courtesy of adamr, stock.xchng

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Healing Choices

Because every person is different – we come from different families, we have different ways of coping with life, different belief systems, different spiritual beliefs, different experiences, emotions and fears — all of this makes us who we are and directly affects how we make healing choices when dealing with a disease such as breast cancer.

One Size Does Not Fit All

I also feel that that very difference between each of us means that not one size fits all with regard to medical treatments, both conventional and alternative/complementary.  It is because each person is so unique that I feel medicine in the future will stop throwing the exact same therapies at each of us to help us heal from breast cancer.

We have already seen a leaning toward that future of medicine with chemosensitivity testing, although it is currently more prevalent in EU countries than here in the US.

Being a natural therapist, I needed to be able to make my healing choices from a combination of both conventional medicine and complementary and alternative medicine.  I was able to choose each modality and combine them to help me get to that healing place quickly and because I had the breast cancer background already (having gone through it with both grandmother and mother) and had studied it so intensively, I felt very blessed and fortunate to have those healing choices.

Honoring Choices

I believe it’s important to honor the wellness choices every person makes and to respect their religious and spiritual beliefs, even if they are quite different from our own.  Many doctors don’t take these important differences into consideration though – some act absolutely outrageously if one of us doesn’t follow their recommendations to the finest detail.

What Are They Thinking?

My own very good oncologist, although baffled at me sometimes, respected my decisions and did his level best not to say things like “You’ll come to regret that decision” or “Well, if you get it back again, don’t expect me to treat you.”  Amazingly, other cancer patients hear those statements all too frequently.

One of my subscribers was told by her oncologist that she was a “dead woman walking”.  That kind of negative, defeating statement fills me with rage!

It’s a pity that so many treatment providers tend to believe that the therapies they offer are the ONLY ones that should be considered.  I know they do their best, but what I’ve discovered is that the answers to healing come from many different directions.

It is so very important to have doctors and natural therapists that really hear you, respect you as a separate human being, and treat you accordingly.

Trusting Our Inner Wisdom

We need to trust our inner wisdom with any healing choices. Pay attention to your differences and make the best choice for you.  This is your journey and your body and you have every right to choose what happens.  Choice may be the only true power that we have during this difficult journey with breast cancer.

Can I Help You?

If I can help you on your path, I’m honored to do so.  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 (MarnieClarkcom) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

Lastly I’d like to share this quote from Buddha (this also appears on my “About Me” page):

“Don’t blindly believe what I say. Don’t believe me because others convince you of my words. Don’t believe anything you see, read, or hear from others, whether of authority, religious teachers or texts. Don’t rely on logic alone, nor speculation. Don’t infer or be deceived by appearances.  Do not give up your authority and follow blindly the will of others. This way will only lead to delusion.  Find out for yourself what is truth, what is real. Discover that there are virtuous things and there are non-virtuous things. Once you have discovered for yourself, give up the bad and embrace the good.”

Please Don’t Needlessly Lose Your Breasts to Mastectomy

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and marin
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and marin

While I was doing my research for yesterday’s article, I came across an article concerning needless mastectomy, a matter of which I was blissfully unaware.  Today I’m sharing that with you because you need to know.

Women are often enduring mastectomies for no good reason.

I’m not saying it’s always the case, but by the time you’ve finished this article, hopefully you’ll know the best reasons for having a mastectomy and when you should go after a second opinion.

Back on October 27th, Nicholas Regush of ABC News wrote “While we hear news almost daily of the need for women to have mammograms and to inspect their breasts for changes that could suggest breast cancer, the actual treatment for breast cancer that many women receive, especially poor ones, is often outrageously out-of-date, if not bordering on the criminal.”  Here’s a link to the full article.

The article goes on to state, “In Texas, for example, a study of breast cancer treatment at one large urban hospital revealed that 84 percent of the women with early stage breast cancer had mastectomies and only 16 percent had lumpectomies. The women who lost their breasts were mostly poor.”

Mr Regush referenced an article written by Diana Zuckerman, President of the Washington, DC-based National Research Center for Women and Families.  The article was published in the Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association.  Despite much digging, I wasn’t able to get hold of a copy of that article, but I did discover that Ms Zuckerman has been extremely proactive with the Breast Cancer Public Education Campaign.

Because many women diagnosed with breast cancer do not have all the facts they need to get the treatment that is best for them, the National Research Center has been working to raise awareness of this issue.

Unnecessary Mastectomies

What I discovered from some of the online articles I read was that if a doctor was trained before 1981, his patient is much more likely to have a mastectomy. Apparently, old medical habits are hard to break.

Research is clear that lumpectomies are as safe as a mastectomy for most women with early stage disease.

Back in my grandmother’s day, nearly every woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer underwent mastectomy, often while under anesthesia for the biopsy itself with no participation in a discussion about treatment options.  How fortunate we are that this is no longer the case.

However, tens of thousands of women with breast cancer are losing a breast (sometimes both) unnecessarily each year.  Many women are getting their breasts removed for no good reason — meaning that such decisions are often not based on sound medical judgment but more on the basis of other factors such as her income (it’s cheaper to perform a mastectomy than lumpectomy followed by expensive radiation treatments), the training of her doctor, the age of her doctor, and where she lives.  Sometimes it’s based purely on fear of the return of the disease.

There is absolutely no data that mastectomy (either single or bilateral) in a breast cancer patient improved survival rates or helped them live longer.  It appears that many women are doing this in panic mode.

Mastectomy vs Lumpectomy

Presuming you have already found a breast lump and your doctor has told you it’s malignant, you will need to make the decision between a mastectomy and lumpectomy.

There’s a helpful article in www.breastcancer.org titled Mastectomy vs Lumpectomy.  Please read the article, it references the deciding factors, advantages and disadvantages, and there’s no need for me to reiterate it here.

When Mastectomy Makes Sense

  • If the tumor is big and, after the lumpectomy, very little breast tissue would remain
  • If there are multiple tumors in more than one quadrant of the breast
  • If you do not want to undergo radiation therapy after the surgery (and you don’t have to – I chose against radiation after my lumpectomy but I was very proactive in my health care and chose something else)
  • If you believe you will have less anxiety about a recurrence of breast cancer with a mastectomy

There is an alarming trend of more and more women removing healthy breasts because they are panicked or in fear of breast cancer returning or migrating to the other breast.  In some cases, doctors recommend prophylactic mastectomy, which is surgery that is performed to reduce your breast cancer risk.  That is a whole, huge topic unto itself and the subject of my next article.

While I can’t tell you what to do, I do want you to be aware that YOU HAVE CHOICES.  Please don’t choose mastectomy purely out of fear.  Sign up for my newsletters (the bright colored box on the right) and let me help you through this process.  I will share with you what I did, help you with your anxiety and walk with you through this journey.

Remember, the greatest enemy cancer has is a great functioning immune system.

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.