Recover Living Life After Treatment
M.S., Mental Health Counseling
Receiving the diagnosis of cancer is some of the most feared and devastating news that one can receive. One may think: This is so unfair! Why me? This is too soon! Why not him or her? I am a good person and I still have living to do! How will my family feel? What will treatment be like? Will it work? What if it does not work? Will it change my appearance? And who will I be without my hair, breasts or ovaries? The list can go on and on.
These among other thoughts and questions are bound to come up. They can be accompanied by feelings of intense sadness, anger, resentment, fear, feeling numb, guilt and regret. These feelings are natural and part of being human. Feelings carry with them emotional effects and neurophysiological effects as well. These neruophysiological effects can lead us to feel quite overwhelmed and out of control of our thoughts, feelings and body. However, we do have a few gifts as humans that can help us to combat these feelings of control loss.
Humans have, most importantly, our thinking and deciphering mind. We have the ability to introspect and reason. We have the ability to cultivate the awareness of what we can and cannot control. One of our amazing assets is control over our breathing. When we consciously can take long deep breaths we can help the nervous system to slow down and which creates an immediate calming effect on the body as well as the mind. More so, we have the ability to choose to make an attitude change to become a warrior and not a victim. In fact, research has shown that it is this warrior spirit that is correlated to cancer survival.
Feelings need to be felt and are a way of initiating the process of healing within your body and mind. When we allow ourselves to feel our emotions, we are giving ourselves the space and respect to be present in the moment and to give honor to our experience. It takes courage to be in your sadness and pain! It takes courage to cry and scream! When we give ourselves permission to do so, we actually take steps towards freeing our self from that pain as well. Essentially this is emotional purging.
Denial, rejection and suppression of feelings create energetic blockages in the body that inhibit healing and the ability to find inner peace, which can be achieved even in the midst of fighting cancer. Have you ever wanted to cry, but held back? Did you feel like you could explode? That is the emotion trying to be released. Denying emotion creates stress in the body and more distress in the mind. On the other hand, have you ever felt peaceful, relaxed and “better” after a good cry? When we allow emotions to be released, there is a chemical reaction in the brain that gives us a sense of calm. So essentially, in an attempt to avoid pain by suppressing feelings, we can actually cause more suffering to ourselves in the long run. Giving space to experience emotion initiates healing.
The truth of the matter is that cancer is nasty and unfortunate. It is unfair and crippling mentally, emotionally and physically. Give yourself the time to feel your emotions and then take control of what you can control, and that is your attitude. The only way that an enslaved victim can find freedom is to courageously face their situation, decide what they can do to change it and make the decision to break free! With people suffering from cancer, this means to face their illness with courage, feel the associated feelings and then embrace the day and the gifts that are open and available RIGHT NOW!
Tell those you love how much you appreciate them. Open yourself to their love, support and compassion. Experience the most simple of pleasures such as a hug, a smile, a good laugh, a flower blooming, and a ripple in the water, to name a few. Embrace the power of genuine human connection. Essentially, take in the moment for each moment is a gift and an opportunity for growth. Feel your feelings, but do not wallow in them. Experience and honor your pain without being consumed and crippled by it. More so, allow your experience to be a catalyst to develop greater wisdom, strength, courage, and compassion for yourself. After all, it is self-love that ignites genuine love for others, which then ignites change in the world. “Be the change you want to see in the world” (Mahatma Gandhi). That change starts inside you!
To help you live through cancer and beyond, there are many great resources available from Susan G. Komen for the Cure for dealing with Life After Treatment and Common Concerns of People Living with Breast Cancer. You can also take advantage of Breast Cancer Partner’s network of resources in managing your recovery and life after treatment.
In addition, Living Beyond Cancer provides programs and services for women at all stages of breast cancer.