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Coping with cancer


I was originally diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, went through chemo, a mastectomy, radiation and a number of reconstructive surgeries. Things were going pretty smooth until I had what we think was a seizure the day after Christmas. They did a CT & MRI and that was when they found what they believed to be was cancer. I had brain surgery a week later and the pathology came back that it was breast cancer.

Follow up MRIs show that they got everything and that I have nothing else anywhere else in my body. I really try to cope by not thinking about it but when I do, it just makes me cry. I tried to do a little research on the best treatment and kept finding stats on survival. None of it sounded promising. I don't see my oncologist for another two weeks due to his tight schedule and then I'll need to wait to talk to my radiology oncologist to be sure of what we can/should do.

Waiting is super hard at this point. I want to know everything now. I've even asked my mom to do research for me as I can't handle it. Sleeping is hit or miss. I have to sleep at an angle so as to not put pressure on my brain. This is causing my back to hurt. Then there are times when I wake up (around 4:30/5:00 am) and can't get back to sleep and then rest of the day I'm a wreck. I have little patience and have been lashing out at my daughter and husband, then apologizing and feeling like crap because of it. I'm pissed and scared that the cancer is back and would really like to not feel this way. I started seeing my cancer psychologist for anxiety again last September but due to the recent multiple hospitalizations, I missed my January appointment and can't get back in until half-way through February. I also take a very low level of escitalopram. I don't like having to take medication due to the side effects and would really like to learn how to deal with all that is going on in a more positive way. I saw Andy's TED talk on 10 minute meditation which prompted me to tweet him. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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Andy's Answer:

Thank you for your email. I’m so sorry to hear about your situation, It must be devastating to have gone through so much, to have thought it was behind you, only for the cancer to reappear elsewhere. My thoughts, and the thoughts of the entire Headspace team are very much with you and and your family. As I am not a medically trained professional it would be wrong of me to give any specific medical advice and obviously you should consult your physician and psychologist to discuss the incorporation of meditation and mindfulness into your treatment plan. As we’ve never met, it’s difficult to say how you might be feeling at the moment, but if you’re anything like most people, underneath all the thinking, the anger, the frustration and everything else you will be feeling scared. And understandably so. How could we possibly experience something like this without feeling scared? I think sometimes we think we should be emotionally stronger, somehow able to just shrug it all and get on with life. But life is not like that. We are human beings living in an uncertain world for an unspecified amount of time, so it is only natural we experience all these different emotions. The best advice I can give you is to start meditating. Download the app, start Take10 and do each day 3 times if you can (once is enough if not). So, do Day1 just before breakfast, lunch and dinner, moving on to Day2 the following day. It is just 10 minutes at a time. There is a very high likelihood that when you do this you will experience some sadness, anger and other strong emotions. This is nothing to worry about and is simply part of letting go. It sounds negative, but it will make you feel lighter, happier and more at ease with the situation. It will also help your relationship with your husband and daughter. After you have finished Take10, move on to the rest of the program, still doing it three times a day if time permits. Resist the temptation to jump ahead and simply reinforce your learning by doing the same meditation three times a day. The team will include a free code for an annual subscription, so you don’t need to anything other than insert the code. In fact they will include four codes, so that your entire family can take part and maybe a friend can join you on the journey too. This can really help strengthen the experience for you. They need only do it once a day though. Please feel free to get in touch again and in the meantime very best wishes for your next consultation...we’ll be thinking of you. Warm wishes, Andy

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I'm pissed and scared that the cancer is back and would really like to not feel this way.

Andy Puddicombe

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