Breast Cancer treatment is so traumatizing that it can be difficult to get your mind off what your going through and what you've been through long after treatment ends.
But there comes a point where you have to make peace with your choices and get back to focusing on infusing your life with happiness and laughter.
In today's episode we'll talk about the importance of changing your mindset from fear based to fun based and being ok with that.
Read Full Transcript Below:
So a couple months ago i was giving a talk to a group of fitness professionals.
I was talking with them about the real experience of breast cancer survivors after treatment and trying to help them get their mind around concerns and emotional struggles in addition to physical fear that BC survivors will have and why.
There were a lot of great questions and I was happy to see how open minded these professionals were and of course, they were surprised to hear how complicated breast cancer is and how difficult the recovery is,
Toward the end of the talk one of the men said to me...this all sounds so serious and heavy, is there any way to make it fun?
What a great question…
How do you feel hearing that question...can you have some fun?
Let’s fast forward to now. I have an incredible group of women in REVIVIFY, my coaching program I have an even larger group of incredible women in the breast cancer recovery Facebook group, and I had over two hundred women participate in my recent webinar.
Through those and other interactions...I have a lot of conversations with survivors and many of them are filled with fear, anger,anxiety and even hopelessness.
I know you’ve heard me talk about getting so focused on the problem that you’re no longer finding a solution...and that’s a very real thing.
I get the wanting to find out everything, especially for those survivors who are still in treatment. But at some point, when you’ve done your research, and you’ve made your decision...you have to make peace with that and let it go.
I mean you can look at 1,000 pictures of mastectomies and reconstructions that make you cry because that’s not what you want to look like but looking at 1500 isn’t going to make it better.
If you did the research, if you’re comfortable with the choice you decided on let it go. And then you find some way to incorporate fun and joy into your life.
I met a woman just yesterday, she wanted to ask me some questions so she could support her friend who recently completed breast cancer treatment and she was not only terribly depressed, but she was feeling hopeless because her Doctor told her that if she had a recurrence in the future it would most likely be metastatic and terminal... and now her friend, a younger woman, doesn’t even want to make future plans for her life.
Ladies, you have to remember that today, this moment is the only promise of life that you have. And if you’re worried about how short your life might be so you're missing out on right now, then you just missed out on the life that you’re afraid of losing….
I’ll share a story with you.
The first time I was married, I was 17 years old...long story but basically I thought I new it all and I got knocked up, it lasted 13 miserable years and then my brother dies, and a light came on in me and I said forget my family's expectations, screw people who will judge me for being divorced...i could die at any moment and if that moment comes now….I do not want that man at my funeral...and I left
Years later I remarried...it was great for a couple years and then something happened a switch flipped and it was a long hard, road for another decade...I was so unhappy but I didn’t want to be that woman who was divorced twice...then one morning, I was in my office and my mom called to tell me that my cousin’s 23 year old daughter was pulling out of her driveway to go to work and a car t boned and killed her.
I remember standing there in shock...my cousin lived in Ohio and I didn’t know her daughter other than through pictures but it hit me like a punch in the gut...life is so fricking short...and I'm so unhappy. And if my time is tonight...i don’t want that man at my funeral…Ii got on my computer as soon as i hung up the phone and I found a real estate agent who I met that night and I changed my life.
After making these difficult choices...and I’m not encouraging you to get divorced… you can apply this idea to anything in your life...but after making these choices such a huge burden was lifted from me. I was light hearted again, i was happy...and when I left my second marriage, I was diagnosed with breast cancer 6 months later and people said to me….will you go back now so you can have help while you’re sick...hell no ...why would I go back to what probably gave me cancer in the first place???
The point of sharing this with you is that it took me a long time and a lot of pain before I learned to let the heaviness in my heart be a barometer for change. A heart should not be heavy.. A life should not be without hope.
You have to deal with cancer and you have to manage the aftermath but while you’re doing it, you have to find happiness and you have to laugh.
Now I’m not a religious person but I was raised in a a catholic family and I fulfilled all the holy obligations and went to Sunday school... So I was a little surprised to find something called laughter sunday.
Laughter online university says that Recently there has been a liturgical reclamation of what is known as “Laughter Sunday,” “Holy Humor Sunday” or “Lighten Up Sunday”. It is sometimes observed on the fourth Sunday of Lent, which is called “Laetare Sunday,” which comes from the first word of the traditional collect for the day – Rejoice.
It is also sometimes observed during Easter-tide. Early Orthodox churches gathered on the Monday after Easter to tell stories, jokes and anecdotes.
The Mayo Clinic lists these short term benefits of laughter in an article on stress management on their website:
Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
It activates and relieves your stress response and soothes tension by stimulating circulation and aids muscle relaxation.
and it gets better...the long term effects of laughter include Improving your immune system.
A study Modulation of neuroimmune parameters during the eustress of humor-associated mirthful laughter, published in the journal of alternative therapies in health and medicine, found that laughter increases the activity of natural killer cells, which are white blood cells that protect our bodies from viral infections,
They also found that this increased activity lasts for up to 12 hours after a bout of laughter and the more frequently participants engaged in laughter, the stronger their natural killer cell activity became.
So let’s circle back to the question I was asked after my presentation, can you do something to make it fun?
Well, I don’t think you’re going to make breast cancer fun, but you definitely can still choose to have fun in your life.
You can choose to spend a certain amount of time every day doing things you enjoy, subscribing to an Instagram thread of funny things that cause you to laugh, limit yourself to the amount of time you let yourself spend on researching shit that scares the crap out of you when you’ve already made the decisions and taken the actions you needed to, to live.
Breast cancer will always be a part of your story, but I want it to be a part of your hero’s journey…with you as the conqueror.
Cancer is devastating because we know it can end our life and we do not want that to be the outcome. But if you go through all the crap to live and you come out on the other side, hopeless, and heavy, and serious and sad.
Then it took your life anyway. If you let cancer steal your joy, your fun, your laughter, then it doesn’t matter if they got it all or not. Because you’re not living.
And just like laughter improves the immune system, fear weakens it.
Mary D. Moller, PhD, DNP, ARNP, PMHCNS-BC, CPRP, FAAN, associate professor, Pacific Lutheran University School of Nursing, and director of Psychiatric Services, Northwest Center for Integrated Health. Listed the following effects of chronic fear in her presentation at the 2017 Neuroscience Education Institute:
The potential effects of chronic fear on physical health include headaches turning into migraines, muscle aches turning into fibromyalgia, body aches turning into chronic pain, and difficulty breathing turning into asthma, said Moller.
The potential effects of chronic fear on emotional health include:
So obsessing over a cancer recurrence or living in fear of cancer is actually making your immune system more susceptible to health disparities.
But if you focus your energy on things that make you happy, make you laugh, make you see the value and experience the joy in the small everyday blessings in your life...that's how you support yourself in healing and preventing cancer and it’s just as important as nutrition and exercise.
Is it a guarantee...of course not, life doesn’t come with any guarantees for anyone, and we breast cancer survivors are no exception.
So I’m making a commitment to myself and my tribe to be more diligent about posting things in the group that make us laugh.
And if you need some laughter, you need some support, some connections and community with other women who have been through breast cancer and are working to create happy thriving lives...come over to Facebook and join us in the breast cancer recovery group. We’d love to see you there..
Until then I’ll leave you with this thought... Never criticize someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes.
That way, when you criticize them, you’ll be a mile away, and you’ll have their shoes.
I’ll talk with you again next week...