If you or a loved one is facing cancer, whether it’s an initial diagnosis or a recurrent illness, you might be looking for a respite from the thoughts whirling in your head. “Staying Mindful while facing cancer“ is a free worksheet from Mindful Hub that offers thoughtful guidance for riding out the storm.
“A diagnosis of cancer can be one of the biggest challenges for the mind: how to stay centered and positive, while fighting a serious diagnosis,” writes author Karen Fabian, a Certified Baptiste Yoga teacher and founder of www.barebonesyoga.com. Fabian suggests that learning about your type of cancer and sharing that information with others “allows you to be an advocate for yourself, without abdicating all the decisions to your treatment team. This can bring you a sense of control, in a situation where much seems out of your control.”
Learning about cancer uses the mind’s intellectual tools for coping and healing. To reach the deeper levels where mind, body, and spirit meet, many of us turn to meditation and yoga. In consultation with qualified practitioners, these healing traditions can be adapted to meet our needs of the moment. Indeed, Fabian tells us that because “deep breathing is an essential aspect of yoga’s ability to stimulate the relaxation response, which calms the nervous system, any movement coupled with deep breathing will decrease stress and anxiety.”
For me, one of the most interesting points in Fabian’s mindfulness worksheet for people with cancer is her advice to “Have faith in the unknown:
“Depending on your background and personal belief system, you may or may not rely on traditional religion as a source of strength and faith during times of challenge. Regardless, look to develop a sense of faith in the unknown. This may require regular meditation, visualization, the use of mantras (repeated phrases that emphasize a particular feeling you wish to embrace), carrying a reminder token (beads, shells or anything meaningful from a healing perspective) or journaling about your fears.”
In difficult moments, wherever you are, perhaps breathing deeply will provide some relief. Breathe, talk, sing, yell, stomp, pound on the pillow. “Get out the frustration and anger,” Fabian says, “by doing anything you can physically handle that is a physical release.”
I am reminded of a day 24 years ago when I went walking with my eight-year-old son around Long Pond in Concord, NH. His father, my former husband John, had just died in a car accident. Edward was very angry.
“Stomp on the ant-hills, honey,” I told him. “Stomp on them!”
“I poop on you, you ants!” he yelled, stomping hard under the June sun. “I poop on you!” So we stomped on up the road. After awhile, for a little while, we felt a little bit better.
Thanks for listening,
Mindful Hub is an online community for individuals and health professionals created by Donna Torney, a licensed psychotherapist and registered yoga teacher based in Boston, MA.