COPING WITH ILLNESS
According to WHO there were 2.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancerin 2020. Millions of womenare impacted bythis devastating disease annually. Myname is Karla Matar, psychologist, and life coach; todayI dedicate this article tobreast cancer patients and their families to guide you on how to cope or find a form a solace during your fight against cancer and live better this challenging period. Being stricken with achronic disease or a challenging illness like breast cancer might send the whole family, and particularly the subject, into a spiral of emotional shocks and changes.
Each individual will have a different reaction towards illness and pain. Some might choose to live in a denial, some might fall under its pressure and others might face it by taking the appropriate action. What if one day, you will look back to this period of your life with gratitude?
Feel your feelings
Often, the breast cancer patients’ emotions fluctuate between sadness, anger, fear, anxiety, leading sometimes to a state of a continuous stress and depression. Adding to the physical pain, the mental pain starts manifesting through the lack of self-confidence especially during the period of the body image changing, when hair begins to fall. A nightmare for women fighting breast cancer! Mind and body are so correlated! That thinking positively of yourself is another way to overcome issues.
Negative emotions and feelings should not be buried or disregarded. Living and understanding your emotions can reduce their negative effect in the first stages. Talk, share, and even show your tears when you feel like crying. Accepting and discovering your feelings is a first step to heal emotionally before starting your battle with cancer. If you are closely related to a cancer patient, encourage him to practice acceptance.
Then take a break from those negative feelings
Embrace your feelings and emotions, become friends with them but do not sink into dark thoughts and negativity. It’s a kind of cognitive process, a decision to shift to something more positive despite ambiguity and fear. This becomes easier when you have more clarity on your situation. Ask, read, research and understand. Focus on the solutions not the issues, focus on the treatments not the illness. Looking at the end of the tunnel with an add-on of positive thoughts will ease the transition over the cap of fear.
Shift your mindset from Fear to Challenge
The winning formula that I often use with my clients! Fear is a mix of uncertainty with anxiety, while challenge is a mixture of uncertainty with passion. Can you notice the difference? Passion is the key! Passion for life, for your beloved ones, for your previous success and for the next one to come.
In your day-to-day life, add passion when preparing a cake for your kids or when chatting with a supportive friend. Studies done at York University show that nature-based activities help improve mood and reduce anxiety, so encourage yourself to create new experiences like cultivating your little garden or having regular walks in nature. Put passion in starting a new hobby like painting or writing. The list can go on and on, listen to your heart with gratitude and take actions.
Do not hide your disease and ask for help
Being clear and open to share puts you in an accepting mode, opposite to hopeless denial. It allows you to look at yourself as a responsible person and a courageous fighter. It allows you to perceive yourself as responsible and courageous . We are our thoughts correct? Thinking well of yourself is a powerful tool to keep going.
In another perspective, keeping friends and family looped in about feelings and emotions would also deploy a sense of responsibility and care by them towards you. Showing the need for aid is a great way to concretely show friendship and closeness. You will love seeing them accompanying you to medical appointments, helping with grocery shopping and other examples. This can strengthen relationships and bridge the distance in certain ways.
Connect with people that share similar stories like yours
We need new horizons, new hopes. And this can be achieved from experiences of those who have passed successfully through such issues. You can meet these warriors in health care centers, through friends, through testimonials on TV or social medial. Have the curiosity to connect with them. Sometimes the road could seem full of obstacles, listen to others experiences to learn how to overcome it. This helps shed light on scary questions and maintain a positive outlook seeing how other people did make it.
When you listen, read, and discover the mental tools to beat cancer, you will be placing yourself on a path of growth for something beyond the current worries and pains. Fighting a chronic illness or a disease as breast cancer, leaves behind a form of wisdom and experience that few can fathom, so become one of those few people and use your learnings to become a better form of yourself.
It is also about trusting your medical team
Choosing the right health care team: Your main physician, the hospital and the correct protocol of treatment is one of the most challenging part of this journey. Often the family will interfere and support in that matter.
If you are the family member, be energetic but patient, be supportive and open to other ideas and solutions. Avoid arguing in front of the patient; he certainly has enough load at this stage! If you are the patient, trust the system once you start a treatment. Help your medical staff by trusting their guidance and requests. Be on time for your sessions and take the medication correctly. Listen to your body, share with the team what you are feeling and how your body is responding. This back-and-forth sharing is very beneficial.
Dealing with The Unpredictable
The patient andof coursethefamily’s way of life, in terms of day-to-dayroutines, chores, and living arrangements may change forever.
When dealing with medical issues you will notice lots of changes in your body and in your daily life. Coping with new conditions is crucial for your well-being during this period. The change you might face could be some sort of weakness in your body or limitations drawn to your activities. It might also impact areas like your relationships, your sexual life, your responsibilities at home or at work etc.
The more you are prepared to cope, the easier your transitions will become. The magic ingredient for this is malleability and acceptance. Accepting that sometimes we cannot change some situations, but we can adapt ourselves to different behaviors and new ways of living.
Some practical examples would look like this: - Start by lesseninghousehold chores and general physical work. Don’t mistake this, from going from a fully packed schedule to absolute boredom, doing nothing, except in extreme physical conditions.
- Delegate more; let your family members participate and take part of your job. Let your son take your car to the mechanic, ask your husband to do the dishes and your daughter to help her little brother in his studies
- Reduce the office working hours per week, talk to your manager about your health conditions and request empathy and flexibility.
- If your relationship with the partner seems shaken, start sharing and be aware that the relationship dynamic might be affected especially the physical part. Handle with finesse and be sure that the new "Normal” during this period can change for better in the future when all this is behind you.
During and after the treatment, things may not be like what it was before. Maintaining a positive mindset throughout this transition along with the support of loved ones may be the best choice to do.
Do not forget your wellbeing
Support groups and maintaining a healthy and active social life surrounded by an understanding family and friends will make this period of your life less frightening. When needed, remember that experts in psychology and life coaching can support you during this journey. Be sure to always choose a professional you can trust, follow your gut feeling.
Furthermore, in this period it is wise to look out for risk-factors such as obesity, smoking, certain foods, ultraviolet rays etc. Open yourself to new practices like yoga, meditation, breathing and other relaxing methods.
No alt text provided for this imageWritten byKarla Matar —October 2021
This article comes with a video for Arabic speakers. You can find it in this linkhttp://y2u.be/BUn6U-8OJ2EOr
About the Author
Karla is a Lebanese Psychologist, Life Coach, Master NLP Practitioner and permanent TV Guest Speaker. She is also a Business Expert with profound corporate experience and was nominated for Woman Entrepreneur of the year Award in 2013 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pr49mRBUwas
Karla is an active ICF member and has served ICF Lebanon Chapter as Board member and Head of Events Committee and chairperson with the Lebanese authorities (2019-2021)
She’s a happy mum of two successful grown-up sons.
Connect with Karla https://linktr.ee/KarlaMatar