Tag Archives: about cancer and emotions

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.

The Best Chance to Heal Yourself – Own It

elation

The Best Chance to Heal Yourself

I’m seeing a trend with breast cancer patients that worries me a bit.  To put it bluntly, I think that it’s misguided to put your entire healing process totally in the hands of your medical team.  That gives them all the power and none for yourself and that does NOT give you the best chance to heal yourself.

Your medical team, no matter how highly esteemed or how accomplished, function largely in the role of body mechanics.  They are trained in terms of body.  They can operate on you, they can prescribe a treatment strategy, but they are not responsible for your life or your health!

You are.

Nobody can get well for you.  You have to do it for yourself.

I think it’s wonderful to select a medical team in whom you have a great degree of confidence.  That’s important to do.

But once they are in place, your attention must also focus on the role of mind and spirit in this journey with cancer.

You are a totality of body, mind and soul – to ignore the other aspects and focus only on the body I believe is a mistake.

What Helped Me

I sought out a psychotherapist to help me with stress levels, I went to a person who taught me something called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to deal with my negative thoughts about cancer, my husband and I did some relationship counseling, we learned to meditate from a group of Buddhist monks — I did all this to give my body and my mind and my spirit a chance to heal.  These things might not work for you, but I would encourage you to find the things that DO work for you.

Honestly, I felt so good after taking care of all the emotional baggage – so much lighter and like I wanted to take on the world.  For me, that’s when true healing began to take place.

So empower yourself.  Do what you need to do to get beyond this – and be the beautiful spirit I know you can be.  You deserve it and the world needs your healing.  Now, more than ever.

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.

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.

Favorite Inspirational Quote #7

Photo courtesy of stock.xchng and duchessa
Photo courtesy of stock.xchng and duchessa

Today’s favorite inspirational quote comes from Dr Bernie Siegel in “Love, Medicine & Miracles” and the subject is the importance of peace of mind.

“Getting well isn’t the main objective.  That can set you up for failure.  If you set a physical goal, then you may fail, but if you make peace of mind your goal, you can achieve it.  My message is peace of mind, not curing cancer, blindness, or paraplegia.  In achieving peace of mind, cancer may be healed, sight may be restored, and paralysis may disappear.  All of these things may occur through peace of mind, which creates a healing environment in the body.”

When you consider the research being done about the body-mind connection, how stress often plays a huge role in the development of disease, and how often we are stressed these days, Dr Siegel’s comment makes a lot of sense.

Check out my free downloadable Guided Meditation if you need help with stress.

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.

Effectively Dealing with Triple Negative Breast Cancer

 

Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and Billy Frank Alexander
Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and Billy Frank Alexander

Triple Negative Breast Cancer – What It Means

When a cancerous tumor is removed from a breast, a sample (biopsy) of the tumor is taken and a pathologist examines its characteristics to determine the status of three breast cancer specific markers – the estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), and a form of the epidermal growth factor receptor (HER2).

ER and PR are proteins that bind the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone, respectively. These hormones are produced by the ovaries and play a major role in stimulating cell division in breast cells.

Estrogen and progesterone bind to their respective receptors on the surface of cells and stimulate cell division.  Breast tumor cells with a positive (+) hormone receptor status have high levels of ER and PR. These types of breast cancer are typically treated with hormone therapy.

HER2 is a receptor protein located on the surface of breast cells. This protein binds growth factors and stimulates cell growth and division.  Breast tumor cells with a positive (+) HER2 status have high levels of HER2 on their surface.  These types of breast cancer can be treated with a special type of targeted therapy.

The Perceived Threat

Triple negative breast tumors do not have high levels of any of ER, PR or HER2 receptors.  In theory triple negative tumors should have a better prognosis than tumors expressing ER, PR, or HER2, because they are not receiving the growth signals provided by these proteins.

This doesn’t seem to be the case, however.  Oncologists know precisely how to treat breast cancers expressing ER+, PR+, or HER2+ — they do it with drugs such as Herceptin, Tamoxifen and Arimidex that inhibit the function of the receptors.

But triple negative breast cancer is unresponsive to these targeted treatments.  Studies have shown that triple negative tumor cells may be more aggressive than other breast cancer subtypes, but the reasons for this are unknown.  About 10-20% of breast cancers are found to be triple-negative. For doctors and researchers, there is intense interest in finding new medications that can treat this kind of breast cancer.

Depending on the confidence and “bedside manner” of her doctor, patients who are categorized as triple negative can tend to worry quite a bit more than those who aren’t – there is a lot of negative information on the Internet about the lack of treatment options and the “aggressive nature of the tumor cells making triple negative breast cancer more difficult to treat”.  Please keep reading!

The website breastcancer.org (an excellent source of breast cancer information) has an article that is worth reading: “Treatment for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer“.

New research has come to light from Cancer Research UK that breast cancer actually falls into TEN different categories, rather than the subgroups discussed above (estrogen and progesterone receptor positive or negative, and either HER2 positive or negative).  One day soon we will be able to offer each woman an individualized therapy, depending on the type of breast cancer she has.

Forget the “Poor Prognosis” Terminology

My main purpose in writing this article is to calm the fears and concerns of women who are found to be triple negative.  This is not a death sentence!  You might have to fight a little harder, be a little more proactive.  You might have to arm yourself with a little more knowledge (something I always recommend anyway!) but this is definitely survivable.

The first thing I would suggest you do (besides attending all of the medical appointments suggested for you) is to expand your mind and read “The Biology of Belief” by Dr Bruce Lipton.  Dr Lipton is a cell biologist who has closely examined how our beliefs control our DNA.  This is a powerful, life-changing book.

Here’s an article by Dr Joseph Mercola on the subject of how your emotions and beliefs regulate your genes.

Then you could read “You Can Conquer Cancer” by Dr Ian Gawler, an Australian veterinarian who healed himself from a potentially lethal form of cancer using nutrition, meditation and various other natural forms of therapy.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet had it right when he said, “…there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Then realize that there are some positives with your diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer:

1.  You do not have to take hormone therapy drugs that have a whole host of unpleasant side effects.

2.  Research shows that triple-negative tumors respond better to chemotherapy than tumors that are estrogen and progesterone positive. Chemo works better on you!

3.  If you remain disease-free for four or more years the chances are your cancer will NEVER return.

4.  Research for this type of breast cancer has been given a very high priority – there are study results being published practically weekly.

LASTLY, KNOW WITH EVERY FIBER OF YOUR BEING THAT YOU CAN BEAT THIS!

References:

1. http://www.cancerquest.org/triple-negative-breast-cancer.html?gclid=CIer7dzSj7ECFYe6KgodXz812g

2. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/04/19/breast-cancer-cancer-research-uk-disease-10-categories-dr-harpal-kumar_n_1436498.html?ref=uk

3. http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/diagnosis/trip_neg/treatment.jsp

4. http://blogs.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/04/11/epigenetic-vs-determinism.aspx

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.

Favorite Inspirational Quote #6

Today’s favorite inspirational quote comes from Dr Bernie Siegel, whose knowledge and understanding of the capacity for humans to heal is truly remarkable.

In “Healers on Healing” Dr Siegel prefaces the comment below about telling his patients of the importance of living as if they were going to die at any moment.

I learned to live this way after my breast cancer diagnosis, and it seemed as important to me then as it does now, 8 years later.  Once you’ve had cancer and faced your own mortality, the things that used to weigh you down don’t seem to matter so much anymore.

I learned that every single day is a treasured gift and I began looking for that special moment within each day (I call it my “TSM” – today’s special moment) and I keep a journal of them.  I digress.

Favorite Inspirational Quote #6

Dr Siegel states: “Of course, there is always grief when we lose a loved one.  But we must learn to take that pain and to love others with it.  Consider those who have lived ninety, ninety-five, or one hundred years.  They may have lost their spouses, their children, and many other loved ones.  Yet after such terrible losses, people find the strength to go on, because they learn to love others.  We cannot outlive everyone we love if we choose to keep loving new people.  This is what survivors do: They roll the love on continuously.  Thus healing, like love, becomes a never-ending process.”

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.

Love Yourself – It’s the Most Important Thing to Do

I don’t know if it’s just me or what, but it seems like a lot of the breast cancer patients I’ve spoken to lately are really struggling with a very simple concept, that of loving themselves.

Anthony Powell once said “Self-love seems so often unrequited.”  For many, a lack of self-love has left a hole inside their spirit and how can one heal with that going on?

I think that love is the most significant thing in human life.  Why is it so hard for us to love ourselves?

Often, I believe it goes back to those messages received from parents during very young, formative years.  We might have heard “I wasn’t planning to have another child when you came along”, or “Why can’t you be more like your sister?”  Such statements can be so damaging and can set our unconscious minds to thinking we are not worthy of love.

God’s Reset Button

For me, having cancer was simply a matter of  my inner healer saying “Pay attention!  You’ve been stressing about everything lately.  I’m going to make you hurt a little right now so you will wake up and get back on your path.”

Dr Bernie Siegel calls pain and suffering “God’s re-set button”.  I like that.  Going through a life-threatening disease like cancer is sometimes the only way we will make the necessary changes.

Getting Some Help

There are some self-love exercises that various mind-body medicine teachers suggest, for instance, stand in front of a mirror every morning and look yourself in the eyes and say “I love you” and mean it.  Sounds like a good place to start.

You can also join a support group focused on self-love and healing.

From what I’ve learned about the mind and body, though, we need to delve deeper to change those long-standing beliefs because our subconscious mind is controlling the show.  You can consciously decide to start loving yourself but if your subconscious mind believes you are not worthy of love or that you are useless, no amount of positive affirmations is going to change that deep seated belief.

One good therapeutic method is hypnosis,which is when a hypnotherapist induces a trance state in a patient whereby relaxation and heightened imagination or visualization can help bring about some real changes in beliefs.  There are some very helpful YouTube videos (I like Steve G Jones and a site called hypnosistoday.com).

Another method is neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) which is a method of retraining the brain – it’s difficult to describe it more fully than that.  If I had to choose between hypnosis and NLP, I believe I’d choose hypnosis, it has more research behind it and is generally employed by board certified psychiatrists.

Why Loving Yourself is Important

Vast quantities of research has been done on healing and why people don’t heal like they should and what researchers have found is that if people can be brought to love themselves, they heal not only psychologically but also physically.  Love comes from our deepest essence, when we feel love it becomes a whole body experience and true healing can take place.

According to www.hypnosistoday.com, “Self-love is the great healer. It purifies and fortifies your body, mind, and spirit. It makes you stronger and softer. Self-love is magnetic: when you love yourself, you draw other self-loving people into your life.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

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.

Favorite Inspirational Quote #3

Living the Questions

Part of the hardest thing to deal with when you’re a cancer patient is all of the questions.  Why me?  Do I do the chemotherapy?  What about radiation?  How will I feel about losing my hair?  How will others feel about me when they know I have cancer? Will I live?

The questions are seemingly endless sometimes – it’s a very confronting time of your life.  For myself, I had a hard time with this initially.  I’ve always been a decisive person, knew what I wanted, knew where I was going… or so I thought.

This poem from German poet Rainer Maria Rilke really helped me and I hope it helps you too:

Be patient toward

all that is unsolved

in your heart

and try to love the questions themselves.

Do not now seek the answers

which cannot be given you

because you would not be able to live them

and the point is to live everything.

Live the questions now.

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.