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Posts Tagged ‘cancer’

As you may remember from this post, I set an intention to work through the Healing Journey Program (as far as it is available for download) and report back here on my progress. The eagle-eyed among you might have noticed that it is much more than one week since I did that. Knowing myself, I put out a request for a buddy to keep me accountable and through the Healing Journey newsletter I got my wish, so then there were no more excuses.
I’ve now completed the first week of the program and so it’s time to let you know my thoughts. (more…)

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Last year when I attended the NCCSHG conference, I was invited to lead a workshop, and was glad to do so. Not surprisingly I talked about Life in the Cancer Fallout Zone, and on the form there were three workshop slots listed. As I didn’t mind when I gave the workshop I ticked all 3 boxes – and ended up running the workshop 3 times! Now, I didn’t mind this and thoroughly enjoyed interacting with each set of participants, but it was rather tiring!
Fast forward to 2010 and I was again asked if I would like to lead a workshop. This time, though, I knew I was only going to be there for one workshop session, so I said no. Instead I decided to do something for myself – to attend a workshop. I went to learn a little more about crystals and particularly pendulums – and it gave me a real boost before I set off on the long drive home to Dorset. The drive went well and I arrived home in good spirits. Compare that to how I might have felt had I been ‘working’ up until I left the conference.
When someone in the family has cancer, it can seem really radical to do something for yourself. But it can also do a lot of good. Sometimes it’s extra hard because it means saying no to someone or something – as I did. What I found was that although I didn’t need to I explained that I was taking care of myself – and got a really positive response.
There are so many demands in life that sometimes you end up with no time to call your own. You may even want to do all the things you are asked to do, or invited to attend. But maybe next time before you say ‘yes’ automatically you should think about what else is already happening. You may want to do each thing, but do you really want to do all of them? And if saying yes really means saying no to doing something for yourself then maybe a gentle ‘I’d love to, but I’m afraid I can’t’ would enable you to be more supportive in the long run.
PS It won’t make you a selfish person!

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I came across an article which talks about how mindfulness meditation can help people with cancer and their supporters by interrupting the cycle of negative thoughts and worries. You can read the article here.
I personally find it difficult to ‘just meditate’ – which probably means I have not practiced enough. So I prefer guided meditations, and I had some created for Families Facing Cancer. One of them is a Mindfulness Meditation, and you can download it to play on your computer or MP3 player here : mindfulness meditation cancer. It is about 12 minutes long – I hope you enjoy it.

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I’ve been glued to Britain’s Got Talent over the last week – two hours of top entertainment every day. The winners, Spelbound, put on a fabulous performance in the final, and you can watch it here.

You may be wondering what that has to do with this blog, and for that we have to turn to one of the other performers, Christopher Stone. Up until his appearance in the final, Christopher was an accountant – with a secret passion. His dream was to sing, but he just didn’t believe in himself. You can see that here in his audition.

When cancer comes into your family, it seems as though everything about it is negative, but I say that it doesn’t have to be that way. Because it is possible to go on from this experience with a determination to make things better – in the world or in a single relationship. Part of that might involve following a dream that you have let slip so far in your life. I can’t hold a note, so for me it wouldn’t be singing – writing and relationships are my passions. How about you? What dreams could you have the courage to take a step towards so that you can, in the words of my friend Wendy’s book, ‘Never Die Wondering’.

If you need any further inspiration, just take a look how it turned out for Christopher Stone in the final – here’s his performance. Christopher may not have won the competition, but he certainly is a winner through and through. I wish him every success and look forward to buying his first album!

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Even after cancer treatment has ended, many people find that their sleep is still affected. Both physical symptoms related to the cancer or treatment and worry can cause sleeplessness. Add this to the fatigue which can remain for a year or more after treatments such as chemotherapy and there is a real effect on quality of life. Sleep medication can even be prescribed, but most people do not want to rely on such medicines.
These days it is quite common for people to use complementary treatments in addition to their cancer treatment, but now there is evidence that yoga can be beneficial after treatment to alleviate some of the remaining effects. Participants in the study reported improved sleep, less use of sleep medication, reduced fatigue and improved quality of life. The study followed a 4-week yoga programme, and I would expect that continuing with the yoga would result in ongoing improvement.
(For more detail about this study see Medical News Today.)
I also am interested in how this relates to family members. For partners, their sleep may also be affected directly by a wakeful bed-mate. There is also the worry that family members feel. Although not included in the study, it may be that yoga would also be helpful here – and it is also an activity which could be a new shared interest if you were to join in.
Are these issues that have affected you? How do you handle sleep issues? Are there other beneficial treatments or activities you have tried? Please add your experiences in the responses.

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The Beacon Centre


Cancer Treatment Centre

This week I was fortunate to be taken to visit a new cancer treatment centre. The Beacon Centre was opened at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton only last year. I was extremely impressed both with the facilities available and the wonderful environment that has been created there.

One thing that really stood out was the attention to detail. Flooring changes in order to define seating areas from walkways. Natural light and natural materials are used as much as possible. The colours change from one department to the next, so you’re never uncertain if you’re in the right area. And family members have not been forgotten. There is comfortable seating, somewhere to get a drink and have a chat, an information centre with a member of staff to help answer questions (away from where the treatments are given) and even an overnight stay room for family members when needed. Feedback is also encouraged through an easy-to-use touch screen, and responses to previous feedback are right there for you to read.

Because the Beacon Centre is new, all these features were able to be incorporated in the design phase, but many of them can be used elsewhere. The Beacon Centre was recently awarded MacMillan’s Quality Environment Mark, the only treatment centre to receive the award at that time. I hope that other centres will also apply for the award in time.

I’d like to hear of your experience of other cancer treatment centers. What details made your time there the best it could be, and what could have made things easier?

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Recently I’ve been thinking about how the stages of grief relate to cancer. And how this is not only the case after someone dies. We can experience grief stages when we first hear about the person’s cancer, for loss of the life we envisioned or for their reduced abilities and health, if it becomes clear the person will die, or after their death. The person who has cancer may also experience grief stages as they face the end of their time here. I thought it would be helpful to share what I wrote about the stages of grief in my book Their Cancer – Your Journey. (There are several versions of the stages of grief, including the Elizabeth Kubler Ross stages of grief – these grief stages are a slightly simpler version)

Grief – Stages Of

“According to research conducted by psychiatrists J. Bowlby and C.M. Parkes, there are four stages of grief that people commonly experience. You may find that one or more of these phases describe where you are in your grief at any time. Your progression from one stage to another may not be smooth, and where you are can vary from day to day. The four stages are:

  1. Numbness. This is where you may be in shock, feeling disbelief and cut off from reality.

  2. Yearning, pining. Here you find you wish to bring back the person, long for them. You may feel much anger and disappointment at this stage.
  3. Depression, disorganisation and despair. Now you find it difficult to function in your everyday life. You may struggle to concentrate or not be able to bear thinking about the future.
  4. Recovery and reorganisation. At this stage more positive feelings begin to surface. You are ready to take the first steps of moving forward with your life, and adjusting to your new reality.

When you first reach the stage of recovery, it is likely to be fragile. You may start by catching fleeting glimpses of how life may be. It is tempting at this stage to slide back into guilt, thinking “How can I be thinking of the future when he or she is not here?” Guard against this temptation. Guilt serves no one, especially not your loved one, who has left already.
Describing these phases of grief makes them seem passive, as though you have no control over your route through them. There is a benefit to taking your time. No one can tell you how long it should take you to move from one stage to another. There are many things that affect your ability to adjust and move on through this unfamiliar landscape.
A more ‘active’ way of looking at grief comes from William Worden, who described a series of four tasks that are involved in mourning.

  1. To accept the reality of the loss. This shows that you can make the choice to face this reality with courage, and resist the temptation to deny it.
  2. To experience the pain of grief. This task is where you dive into the pain. When giving birth, a mother is encouraged to flow with the pain, rather than resisting it. If you give yourself the time and the space to do this with your grief, you will allow the emotions to flow rather than become stuck. Self-medicating with alcohol, or anything else that prevents you truly feeling your emotions, would be avoiding this task.
  3. To adjust to the environment where the deceased is missing. The loss of someone close to you changes the scenery of your every day. In fact the build up to death may have changed
    your life beyond recognition, so that it revolved around caring for the person with cancer. When they die, this is a huge adjustment. Your task now is to create the new landscape of your life, metaphorically moving the furniture to at least partly fill the hole that they have left.
  4. To emotionally relocate the deceased and move on. This task involves making a space for your loved one as a memory rather than a current relationship. Keeping them in your heart in this way allows you to look forward to a future without them and not feel bad about yourself for doing so.

You will find a way through these phases and tasks. The human spirit is resourceful and resilient. In the early stages it may feel as though your world has ended. And so in a sense it has. However, there is a new world for you to step into, when you are ready.”

This is an extract from the book ‘Their Cancer – Your Journey’, which you can get as a cancer ebook or as a paperback through Amazon UK or Amazon.com

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It sometimes seems that cancer treatments are very harsh, and cause ongoing health problems (see my last post), so could there really be help for cancer from the humble pomegranate?

New research published this month has shown that compounds found in pomegranates act to slow tumour growth in breast cancers which are hormone dependant. This is research done in a laboratory (published by the American Association for Cancer Research), but the implication is that this could translate into a real help in people with the disease – or even help with prevention.

If you take this research and put it together with previous studies, which showed that drinking pomegranate juice slowed the progression of prostate cancer (another hormone dependant cancer) it does look as though this could really help some people. (Reported in 2006)

What are your thoughts?

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Even after cancer recovery, ongoing health problems may not be properly addressed, MacMillan Cancer support reported today. These health problems may include physical symptoms caused by either the cancer or the treatment, or mental/emotional issues such as memory loss, depression or anxiety (see this news item at the BBC). Cancer survivorship is not the end of the story. (more…)

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How many people have wished you a Happy New Year? How many have awkwardly avoided the subject, if they know your family is in an unhappy time, facing illness and challenge?

At this time of the year, when a friend or family member is facing cancer (or you have lost someone), the traditional New Year celebrations and resolutions may seem hollow. Who cares if you lose weight or get fit when someone’s life hangs in the balance? Everyone else may seem to be looking ahead with the excitement of unwrapping a final present – a whole fresh year in which anything is possible. Perhaps you just can’t think that far ahead.

But of course there’s no rule that says you have to join in. It’s perfectly fine to have no New Year Resolutions at all. If you want to mark 2010 in some way, you could declare it ‘the year of family’, or ‘emotional regrouping’.

If you do want to set some resolutions, here are a few ideas that might be a bit more helpful:

  • Resolve to look after your own health by eating properly and making time for moderate exercise.
  • Resolve to accept that everyone is under stress and forgive any mistakes or harsh words (yours or other peoples).
  • Resolve to make time for yourself, even if only a little, to do things you enjoy.
  • Resolve to let go of any past disagreements that are still festering.
  • Resolve to find something to laugh about, a new friendship or a sense of peace in the year ahead.

Do any of these resolutions appeal to you? What are your suggestions? Please add them as a reply below.

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