When a person receives a cancer diagnosis, their medical universe is changed forever. In my own case, I had a primary care physician who was there to help me at every step. She is the one who set up referrals for the testing facilities, surgeon, oncologist, radiation oncologist and plastic surgeon. However, while my team was set to take care of my breast cancer and physical needs, no one ever considered the mental issues that I might experience, not only then but even many years later.
“Finding something that helps to provide you with more and more time for rest, relaxation to settle your mind and bring you peace, it will be the very best to help you regardless of where you are in your treatment and moving forward in that space forever.“Barbara Jacoby
Every single cancer patient’s experience in dealing with their diagnosis is as unique as their fingerprints. Although cancer-related distress is usually defined in terms of feelings of sadness, hopelessness, powerlessness uncertainty, guilt, etc., each person’s feelings are totally individual. A patient’s feelings may affect them on the mental, physical, social and/or spiritual levels that will make dealing with their diagnosis and treatment even harder for them.
How these feelings of distress manifest in a patient may vary in so many different ways. They may range from sadness, fear and helplessness to anger and feeling out of control. They may result in poor sleep, appetite or concentration or even depression, anxiety and panic.
Because of the trauma that I experienced from my domestic abuse, I thought that I had everything under control thanks to my previously learned coping skills. But, when I was diagnosed a second time, it was my husband who came to the rescue as he realized that it was not a good thing for me to be keeping everything inside. And thank heavens that he did because my situation was about to become worse. Just a few weeks before my double mastectomy and start of my reconstructive surgery, my brother died on the operating table of a heart attack during his 12th cancer-related surgery. My doctor’s way of helping me to deal with the resulting anxiety that I experienced was to put me on blood pressure and anti-anxiety medications.
Now no one can tell a cancer patient what is best for them to do in dealing with a major medical diagnosis like cancer. What works for one person may be completely objectionable to another. Therefore, I have been a strong proponent for years of adding a professional to each patient’s medical team who will be there to help find ways to deal with the distress that will result on some level for every single patietn. But, no one ever even asked me about how I was doing in this arena. So over the years, I continued to take high blood pressure medication and the anti-anxiety medications that I was prescribed.
But, as always, I continued to read and research and I would find people talking about how getting back to nature by taking a walk in the park or planting a garden had helped so much. I couldn’t be bothered getting dressed and going to the park and as we lived in an apartment, I had no place to plant a garden. However, there is a huge tree right outside my window. But, each Fall when the leaves died, the tree trimmer would come and prune it – until two years ago. Not only did it become great to have the extra shade from the hot summer afternoons but also, I started a whole new relationship with that tree. In the Spring, it seemed that the leaves grew faster and bigger than ever and because our living area is on the second floor, I almost felt like I was living in that tree and the calmest that it brought was unbelievable. And every day I would talk to it and even when things were perfectly still outside, I would wave to it and send it my love and it would wave right back.
My interaction with that tree changed everything and has helped me to feel so much less stress and I have now been able over that time to stop those medications and maintain normal numbers. And while you might not have a tree outside of your window, maybe the addition of some special plants to a relaxing spot in your living space might make a difference for you. Or it may be taking a relaxing bubble bath with candle light around you and some soft music. Regardless of what you might think, finding something that helps to provide you with more and more time for rest, relaxation to settle your mind and bring you peace, it will be the very best to help you regardless of where you are in your treatment and moving forward in that space forever.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.