The biggest issue that many cancer survivors face is Fear. And for some people that fear gets worse, and more life limiting after treatment has finished.
What can we do about that ? Is it just something you have to accept ? That it's just the way life's going to be now after your treatment is finished?
A huge issue for a lot of people is fear of checkups and ‘scanxiety’, the crippling fear of going for scans, waiting for the results and not knowing if you are going to get bad news again.
So what can we do about that?
We all want to thrive, don't we? When treatment ends, we all want to live our best life, and so many people will give you advice and tell you different things of what should do. What should you do? Should you change your diet? Should you take supplements, avoid certain foods? Should you be a vegan? Should you eliminate sugar, dairy, or meat?
Should you stop drinking? Do you need to lose weight? Some of those things may or may not be appropriate for you. Now, it all depends on your individual circumstances, but they are not the biggest thing that you need to do. If you are a cancer survivor, you will know that cancer equals fear. So to really thrive, the most important thing we need to do is to let go of the fear, and sometimes that's easy said than done. I know that.
Working on your mindset is the most important thing you can do for your recovery, my love. You see, cancer is all about fear. It's everywhere you look, cancer equals fear. Even from that minute, you get that first diagnosis to when the doctor's going to look at you and say, 'I'm really sorry, it's cancer', you know, in that moment, your life is never going to be the same.
If you're living in fear and being anxious and unhappy that is not where you thrive, and as a cancer survivor, you are no different. In order to completely recover and stay remission, you need to step outside of this fear. You cannot let it take over your mind with fear around recurrence or the anxiety or the ‘why me?’ syndrome.
Many cancer survivors get sucked into a never-ending cycle of being constantly anxious but how do you break free? To me, it's all about mindset. The physical recovery of cancer is so important, obviously. But mindset recovery is just as important and it must be built into every single cancer survivor's recovery plan. And if it's not, your hopes of fully recovering in every way, not just getting rid of the cancer cells, but I mean of living a healthy, happy life. Your hopes of recovery are pretty slim. So what can you do? Well, first of all, we need to turn this on it’s head – the fear of going to the hospital.
And of course, when you've had that diagnosis and maybe you've had chemotherapy or you've had surgeries, whatever treatment you’ve had, some pretty, pretty terrible things have happened. They've happened to me.
But I now view those scans and those routine hospital appointments in a very different light.
I've had to view them now as not just saving my life, but doing everything that I can. It's quite empowering to think that you are the owner now of your plan. When I was first diagnosed, you really put your hands in the experts, you put your faith in them. You don't know anything about cancer. Well, I certainly didn't.
When you meet an oncologist who's a consultant, who's a quite an important person at the hospital, you just drink in everything that they say. They are the expert, and you are just learning this horrible world that you've got to learn too... . But as time goes on and when your treatment is finished, you've been through so much, and hopefully you’ve learned a lot too.
You've had so many hospital appointments, probably you have probably experienced quite a lot of frustrations with the administration. Appointments not happening when they should, people not doing what they should. I learned that I had to not be so trusting and I had to be the one that checked up that if somebody said something was going to happen on a certain day that it did. I became my own advocate. I take a notebook with me now to more hospital appointments just in case somebody tries to blind me with science or use a term that I'm not sure of. I always just write it in my notebook, so that would be one of my tips for you. It's just to get yourself organized. Going into a hospital I know can be quite nerve-racking.
I know, there's the smell of the hospital, there's the sounds of the hospital, there's the memory, probably of so many bad things that have happened when you've been in a hospital. And again, somehow we need to change that experience from being a scary, horrible thing to being an empowered one. You are a survivor. You are strong, You have beaten what tried to kill you. You are a Queen. Feel that energy. Put it on like a cloak.
If you've been through cancer treatment and you've completed your treatment. You are a survivor. You are a powerful person, and you can do this. You can put your big girl pants on, either metaphorically or literally. Getting dressed up for your hospital appointment can make a difference to how you feel.
In the early days, I never used to make an effort with my hair and makeup, my mind was all over the place just getting showered and dressed for hospital took all of my energy. But now I do my make up – because it makes me feel better, more like a woman, more like me, and less like a ‘cancer patient’ because I’m done with that label. Also, it makes me feel more confident. And it might sound a bit obvious, but I think carefully about what to wear. Do you need to wear clothes that are easy to get on and off? It just makes me feel calmer, knowing I am really well prepared.
I always get to my hospital appointments in very good time, so I'm not flapping about parking or being late or finding the right place that I need to be in (so many times my hospital has changed the place I need to be in after I’ve arrived, it has caused me such stress in the past) If I’m early, it’s not a problem. I try it as much as I can to be cool, calm, and prepared. I also plan for the day that I'm going to go for a hospital appointment, to have a something to read in my bag, a bottle of water and a healthy snack. I also plan a treat to look forward to that evening, maybe watching a favorite film and having an evening meal planned that I will really enjoy. It could be having a nice glass of wine. It could be catching up with a good friend. And on that note, I'd like you to think about when you go for your hospital appointments, who do you need to tell? Because you may have the sort of friends or support around you who's really, helpful and supportive. The sort of friend who knows the right things to say.
If you don’t have that friend -you have me in your corner. That’s why I’ve recorded my tips, and some mantras and affirmations that will help you.
You may have somebody around you who loves you, but is maybe not that helpful because they're going to be worried as well, and then you are going to pick up on their anxiety. They're going to know that you are anxious, and so you, you are not really helping each other. So for me personally, I just like going on my own, I wait for the results and then I'll tell people, ‘oh yeah, I've had a scan’, or whatever I've had and it's all okay. Now, I will tell them when I've got the results. I won't let anybody know that I'm going for a hospital appointment if I can help it. Because I don't want to share that anxiety and I don't know, answer questions about it, and I don't really want to give any negative connotations to it.
It's all to me, very positive.
So how can you best turn this thing that's making you anxious into a positive experience? Well, remember, you are a survivor. Remember, you are in control of this. You are making these appointments. You are going, you are doing the very best thing that you can for your health.
And so anything else that you want to do, I touched on some of those things before, changes in your diet. Taking supplements. Of course you can investigate them. But do them from a place of loving and caring for yourself, not from a place of, ‘I'm scared and panicking about getting ill again’. Maybe there are things in your lifestyle that you want to change, but this is NOT about blaming you at all.
For me, it was about taking responsibility. I knew in my old life before cancer, I used to get too stressed. I know I used to worry about things I shouldn't have worried about, things that weren't that important, and so I make a conscious effort now not to do that.
I made a conscious effort to improve my diet, and I'm going to write more about diet in future articles because I am not somebody who's obsessed with what I eat. I'm not recommending that you completely banish anything from your diet that you love, everything within moderation, I always say. I studied nutritional healing and one of the best things that I heard was when the teacher was saying and telling me all these wonderful things that I'd never heard before about how foods could heal you, how your body renews itself every seven years we get a new body, because your cells are continually dying and being regenerated and being replaced. So you know you're not the same body, or the same person that you were seven years ago. But one of the other bigger things that I took away from that was the 80/ 20 rule, and that was the fact that if you mindful of healthy eating 80% of the time, then the remaining 20% can be eating for the sheer pleasure of it. Guilt free.
I try not to think about what I can’t eat – although I know when I eat slowly and mindfully – not eating quickly in front of a screen, that I feel so much better when I eat natural foods in their pure state, not processed, or full of additives. In winter I love nourishing soups, and plenty of root vegetables with my meals. In summer I love fresh salads, full of colour and vitality.
The good stuff that you know he should be eating. If you are doing that 80% of the time, then they are 20%. You can just indulge in whatever you fancy. Food is necessary of course, but there’s also a lot of emotion that's attached to it. So what I would say, again, fear is an emotion.
I just want to invite you really to think about how do you react when you are in fear? Is your heart racing? Are you panicking?
What is that that you need help with? because there's always an answer to these things, and it may be learning to meditate. It may be breath work exercises. It may be as simple as going for a swim once a week, just help with your physical breathing and relaxation. I love to swim, I feel when I'm in the water, that's my happy place. You need to find that happy place where you can just literally leave your troubles outside the door for and just be.
And just remember what it feels like to be in that space when you are not worried about anything. And then once you've got it, get really conscious about how that feels.
I’m not promising you that I can help take all the stress and all the worries out of your life because that is part of life.
It's really how you can manage yourself to bounce back from the lows. It's really thinking about how you can manage yourself, manage your emotions to bounce back from the lows and go back to what I started talking about, about living in fear.
That is not how we want to be living. You cannot let this fear take over your mind because. Bluntly, what is the point of recovering if you are going to be just living in fear and scared of everything? Scared about recurrence or worried or asking that ‘why me?’
I do think life isn't fair. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. But you're here and you're reading this, how would it be if you just decided you are going to make the rest of your life the best of your life?
You may not be, you know, as young as you used to be. None of us are. You may have had your body and and your emotions ravage by cancer because cancer is so devastating. I get that. But it can be an opportunity for you to decide how you want to live the rest of your life. What do you want to give time and emotion to in the future?
What do you want to prioritize? What are you going to make sure that happens for you that maybe didn't happen before? Is it spending more time doing things that you like? Is it spending more time with people that you love? If you got hobbies, have you got books that you want to read, films that you want to see taking the time out for.
This is your time. It's not just about let's have the treatment, let's get rid of the cancer. You really need to work on your mindset as well and transform yourself from a frightened cancer patient, into a thriver. I'm here to hold your hand. If you need anything, just reach out to me.
And if you would like online tools to help you Overcome Scanxiety – click here to access my THRIVE tools to help you it, you’ll be able to
- Look forward to dealing with scans and check ups with ease and calm
- Have the confidence to tell your medical professionals what YOU need
- Have peace of mind and stop the overwhelm
And the best part is, once you watch these 6 short videos, attending appointments will be 10x easier than it was!
- No more racing mind worrying about the outcome
- No more being unable to think about anything else when an appointment is coming up
- No more awful sense of dread when you are invited to attend a check up