Positive thinking. Put on a brave face. Stiff upper lip. It can’t be that bad.
Positive outlook. There are times when I feel pain, distress, sad. That’s ok because I know these feelings will pass and I can then do things that make me feel better. After the rain comes sun.
Before my cancer diagnosis I had ample time to learn about this, after years of failed and fruitless fertility treatment. This was the first time I had felt completely out of control of any aspect of my life. Usually you can work a little harder or a little smarter and achieve what you set out to. When it comes to health there are a whole lot of other dynamics at play.
So with the early rounds of fertility treatment I adopted positive thinking, and would go about my daily tasks with little reflection about what had passed. The annoying thing was though, those true feelings would pop out when I least expected them. I might burst into tears in the middle of a work meeting or snap at a friend or colleague. Very embarrassing. So I began to experiment. If we went through treatment and it didn’t work, or the time when it did and we then lost it several weeks later, I’d take to my bed for a day. Cry. Watch movies. And generally allow myself to feel thoroughly miserable. The next day though I could start to put in place the positive things that made me feel better: going for a walk, meeting with friends, spending time in the kitchen. After the rain comes sun.
This was tremendously helpful when I started cancer therapy. I knew I could feel pain but that it would pass. Many an evening my husband and I would hug each other and sob, usually whilst listening to a David Gray album (I still can’t listen to Sail Away without welling up). But the rest of the time I was able to focus truthfully on activities that not only made me feel good. I believe they also helped me to heal.
Food was very important, and I learnt how to nourish myself at every meal. I took supplements, starting to address nutrient insufficiencies that I hadn’t even been aware of before on a diet consisting of a high level of refined carbohydrates (in line with healthy eating guidelines…)
We were fortunate enough to stay at the Penny Brohn Centre, a world renowned cancer care facility which provides complementary therapies alongside medical treatment. I learnt to meditate and worked with a spiritual healer. I hugged trees and had reflexology; this was particularly helpful a few days after chemo.
Exercise is tremendously important in cancer recovery and prevention (1). We live in a beautiful village with woods that go for miles so walking was a really easy thing to do. I also bought a yoga DVD and did some gentle yoga at home most days. Generally I learnt to treat myself kindly.
If you’re going through cancer treatment and are struggling to manage your emotions, either by suppressing them or if you are depressed, you may like to reflect on these suggestions:
- Allowing bursts of sadness is like releasing the steam on a pressure cooker. Allow yourself to feel emotional pain. Acknowledge it, sink low. But know it will pass. After the rain comes sun.
- Make a list of things and experiences which you enjoy and make you feel good. Put these in place once you are ready to embrace more positivity.
- Read ‘Radical Remission’ surviving cancer against all odds by Kelly A. Turner Ph.D. This amazing book brings together 9 strategies used to facilitate a positive cancer outcome. These include ‘releasing suppressed emotions’ and increasing positive emotions’.
- Download and listen to free visualisation MP3s here inmindinbody.com
- If you have feelings of despair or can’t lift your mood then seek professional help. Your GP should be able to refer you, or you may be able to self-refer into an NHS service. In Bucks you can contact healthymindsbucks.nhs.uk
- Macmillan Cancer Support ‘Move More – physical activity the underrated wonder drug’ macmillan.org accessed 3/9/14