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Cancer Respites

Posted 8/9/2016

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  We all know how cancer can take over your life. In addition to all the medical appointments, there may be other things like acupuncture, support groups, Reiki. We may spend more time thinking about what we can and should eat. We may well need more sleep, and many people develop a nap habit which is restorative, but takes up several hours/day.

  Alternately, some people try very hard not to change a single thing in their lives. They continue to drive the carpools and fold the laundry and make lists of daily tasks. While this strategy may work well in terms of pretending that things are normal, it is exhausting.

  Hence the idea of cancer vacations. I first heard this concept years ago from a patient who felt that she was doing cancer-related things or worrying about cancer every moment of every day. She first tried it out when she went away to visit friends for a week-end. As she packed, she told herself that she was purposefully leaving cancer out of her suitcase; it would wait for her at home. She said this worked pretty well, and she was able (no doubt partly because she was having a good and busy visit) to dismiss cancer thoughts that did intrude. Once home, she wondered if this same strategy might work in her usual life. She began, some days, by identifying a particular hour of the day that would be her worry/cancer time. If feelings and concerns came up at other times, she reminded herself of the schedule and pushed them aside. It mostly worked. Clearly there were days that were consumed with medical appointments and other necessities, but she gradually expanded this concept to cover more days and sometimes took a full day or two "off from cancer". You might try it,

  And you likely will enjoy this related article from Cancer Net:

Slowing Down: When Cancer Gets to Be Too Much
August 2, 2016 · Lidia Schapira, MD, FASCO

As a clinical oncologist, I often meet patients and their loved ones at a critical time. Routines have
become disrupted by a cancer diagnosis, relationships may have shifted, and the future may look
uncertain. I see how families come together and focus intensely on providing support and guidance.
They gather information, help find the right specialist, accompany their loved one to consultations, and
often spend long hours in hospital or clinic waiting rooms, simply to “be there.” A diagnosis of cancer
and undergoing cancer treatment can sap the energy from an entire family or group of friends. So it is
with great respect for their effort and time that I write to remind you that it is also important to think
about pacing yourself for what may turn out to be a marathon.
My advice to a friend who was just diagnosed with cancer was this: take the time to accept the news,
to process your thoughts and feelings, and then slowly put yourself back together and prepare for the
work of undergoing treatment. It’s completely normal to feel sad, vulnerable, scared, or surprised. Ask
for help when you need it. Take time to enjoy at least something every day. It takes a huge amount of
emotional energy to cope with a cancer diagnosis. We don’t think enough about replenishing the energy stores that were used up in the process.

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