Do You Need a Time Out from Cancer?

Started by Tonia, December 22, 2014
12 replies for this topic
Tonia

Member
558 Posts
Posted on
December 22, 2014
“I think, therefore I am.” René Descartes
 
I think a lot and have always assumed the millions of thoughts banging around in my head were productive.  Sure, I end up worrying nonstop too, but that’s the price of thinking things through and problem solving, right? 
 
With apologies to Descartes, I tend to believe, “I think, therefore I am working the problem.”
 
Over the years, infertility, miscarriages and breast cancer worked my mind to exhaustion. When I was under siege, sleep was the only break I got and it never came easily or lasted long enough. As soon as I opened my eyes, the thoughts were there again, right where they left off. 
 
As painful and fatiguing as all that thinking (and worrying) was, I felt compelled to keep at it. In truth, I was in a continuous thought loop and couldn’t get out. 
 
What I needed was a time-out. 
 
My first cancer time-out came as a complete surprise from an unlikely source. My very long diagnostic and testing phase was finally over and I was facing a mastectomy. Cancer had been my 24/7 companion for five months and inhabited my every thought.  I was beyond tired, scared to death of the surgery, and my mind was racing. 
 
Basically, I was freaking out.
 
Suddenly, out of nowhere this popped into my head: Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? SpongeBob SquarePants!
 
The theme song from a cartoon show I watched with my son shocked my other thoughts silent and made me laugh, something I didn’t think was possible until it actually happened. Its blessed relief brought home a new realization. If I had any hope of managing stress, I had to find a way to turn off the nonstop thought machine.
 
After SpongeBob intervened, I started actively looking for ways to quiet the noise in my head. I didn’t know it at the time, but what I was looking for was mindfulness and SpongeBob had handed it to me on a silver platter. 
 
Funny movies and people who made me laugh (a big thank you to my sister Amy) became go-to tools for bringing me into the present moment. Plus, it’s impossible to laugh and worry at the same time, letting joy and hope become real possibilities.
 
In addition to laughter time-outs, I discovered yoga and brisk, 30 minute walks. Even mild exercise pumps up my feel-good endorphins, giving me a break from negativity and worry.  More importantly, focus on physical activity reduces a great deal of meaningless mental activity. Moving my body became an active meditation, giving my monkey mind a much needed time-out. 
 
And then there is breathing. We all do it, every minute of every day, but mindfully doing it is life altering. I learned that focusing on my breath, drawing it in and letting it out slowly, instantly rewards me with a moment of calm. With a little practice, I now find myself automatically taking a deep breath whenever I feel overwhelmed or stressed.
 
If you need a time-out from cancer (and who doesn’t?) possibilities are all around you. If you’re up to it, socialize with loving and supportive family and friends. Take a warm bath. Practice gratitude. Listen to music. Go for a walk. Tap into whatever works for you.
 
Cancer time-outs are much more than momentary pauses.  They reduce stress, calm your limbic system and bring you back a little bit of yourself. They also clear your mind and free up the space and distance you need to problem-solve complex issues.
 
Living with cancer is overwhelming and takes a huge amount of energy. Taking care of yourself requires getting serious about cancer time-outs, even if it takes SpongeBob SquarePants to help get you there.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 22, 2014
“I think, therefore I am.” René Descartes
 
I think a lot and have always assumed the millions of thoughts banging around in my head were productive.  Sure, I end up worrying nonstop too, but that’s the price of thinking things through and problem solving, right? 
 
With apologies to Descartes, I tend to believe, “I think, therefore I am working the problem.”
 
Over the years, infertility, miscarriages and breast cancer worked my mind to exhaustion. When I was under siege, sleep was the only break I got and it never came easily or lasted long enough. As soon as I opened my eyes, the thoughts were there again, right where they left off. 
 
As painful and fatiguing as all that thinking (and worrying) was, I felt compelled to keep at it. In truth, I was in a continuous thought loop and couldn’t get out. 
 
What I needed was a time-out. 
 
My first cancer time-out came as a complete surprise from an unlikely source. My very long diagnostic and testing phase was finally over and I was facing a mastectomy. Cancer had been my 24/7 companion for five months and inhabited my every thought.  I was beyond tired, scared to death of the surgery, and my mind was racing. 
 
Basically, I was freaking out.
 
Suddenly, out of nowhere this popped into my head: Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? SpongeBob SquarePants!
 
The theme song from a cartoon show I watched with my son shocked my other thoughts silent and made me laugh, something I didn’t think was possible until it actually happened. Its blessed relief brought home a new realization. If I had any hope of managing stress, I had to find a way to turn off the nonstop thought machine.
 
After SpongeBob intervened, I started actively looking for ways to quiet the noise in my head. I didn’t know it at the time, but what I was looking for was mindfulness and SpongeBob had handed it to me on a silver platter. 
 
Funny movies and people who made me laugh (a big thank you to my sister Amy) became go-to tools for bringing me into the present moment. Plus, it’s impossible to laugh and worry at the same time, letting joy and hope become real possibilities.
 
In addition to laughter time-outs, I discovered yoga and brisk, 30 minute walks. Even mild exercise pumps up my feel-good endorphins, giving me a break from negativity and worry.  More importantly, focus on physical activity reduces a great deal of meaningless mental activity. Moving my body became an active meditation, giving my monkey mind a much needed time-out. 
 
And then there is breathing. We all do it, every minute of every day, but mindfully doing it is life altering. I learned that focusing on my breath, drawing it in and letting it out slowly, instantly rewards me with a moment of calm. With a little practice, I now find myself automatically taking a deep breath whenever I feel overwhelmed or stressed.
 
If you need a time-out from cancer (and who doesn’t?) possibilities are all around you. If you’re up to it, socialize with loving and supportive family and friends. Take a warm bath. Practice gratitude. Listen to music. Go for a walk. Tap into whatever works for you.
 
Cancer time-outs are much more than momentary pauses.  They reduce stress, calm your limbic system and bring you back a little bit of yourself. They also clear your mind and free up the space and distance you need to problem-solve complex issues.
 
Living with cancer is overwhelming and takes a huge amount of energy. Taking care of yourself requires getting serious about cancer time-outs, even if it takes SpongeBob SquarePants to help get you there.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Report
Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 23, 2014
SpongeBob is my 17 year old sons favorite, too (still at his age :)) and this made me smile. I really could use a break from thinking about bc this holiday season so thanks for the reminder of the simple ways I can break my mind from all the obsessing. Congratulations on being part of cure - it's a great magazine. Happy Holidays!!
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 23, 2014
Hi Claudia! Our sons have SpongBob in common! Thanks so much for finding me here at Cure. I'm glad my article resonated with you and wish you a blessed and peaceful holiday season! Debbie
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 27, 2014
After 3 1/2 years of mets, I've finally stopped thinking about it all the time. I'm not sure your brain can keep up a high level of intensity forever. Living with cancer is difficult for a host of reasons, but one does manage to adjust.
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 27, 2014
Yes we need a time out from cancer. I am a cancer survivor in 1 year remission. The dtrategies ypu suggest are good ones thsy have been helpful in yhe past. You reminded me that I need to use them again. I am experiencing "scanxiety" as my annual CT scan approaches. Yoga and funny movies are on my agenda this weekend. Thank you
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 27, 2014
Hi ButDoctorIHatePink. Finding some peace from thinking about mets all the time is a major accomplishment. Thanks for your reassurance that adjusting is possible. Debbie
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 27, 2014
Hi Carole: Enjoy the yoga and funny movies this weekend! I'm sending good wishes for your CT scan and happy my post resonated with you. All the best, Debbie
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 31, 2014
Deb, Congrats on this next accomplishment of Cure, but also for the 5 yr anniversary. It's a milestone! One suggestion was specifically to take time for a good cry with a tear jerker movie, another was to wear a rubber band, give yourself 10 min with the beastly thoughts, snap the rubber band and move on. Have a wonderful New Year!
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 31, 2014
Happy New Year, Carole! I love your suggestions! It just goes to prove that there is always something simple we can do to help break the tension and give ourselves a little break. Thanks so much! Debbie
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 31, 2014
Fantastic article!! I totally agree with you. We all could use more laughter, exercise, yoga and mindful breathing in our lives, but especially when battling cancer. Thanks so much for sharing great tips!!
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