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A Full-Body Scan: The Reality of a Cancer Diagnosis

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Article

I see a psychologist who is helping me to understand my feelings and to learn mindfulness meditation techniques.

image of Andy Winnegar

I regularly attend these therapy sessions to explore and better understand my emotions. One of my fears is that if I accepted the sadness of depression and let myself cry or feel down, I might not escape from those feelings. I grapple that apprehension of facing the depths of depression might lead to an inescapable quagmire of emotions.

According to my therapist this type of denial can be harmful. As she said, running away from your own feelings will eventually catch up with you. You are basically running away from yourself. Denial of grief is a coping mechanism and it will need to be dealt with or it may come out in other ways. In my case, my drinking increased and this self-medicating dulled my emotions, but I was still depressed.

In my ongoing journey of dealing with cancer, I've been working on managing my emotions more effectively. I've been learning to navigate my emotions using the mindfulness full body scan technique.

When going through the process from feet to head, my thoughts, worries and feelings pop up but rather allow the distraction that these thoughts must be set aside.

That is something that will happen and understanding these thoughts and worries are an important part of the mindfulness process.

The full body scan is a way to cultivate awareness of physical sensations and promote relaxation.

Here is how it works:

  1. Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit or lie down.
  2. Begin with posture: If you're lying down, make sure you're in a comfortable and relaxed position with your arms at your sides. If you're sitting, sit with your back straight and your feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes if it helps you focus.
  3. Take deep breaths: Begin by taking a few deep breaths to center yourself. Inhale slowly through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. This helps you relax and prepare for the scan.
  4. Start from your feet: Begin the body scan at your feet. Focus your attention on your toes, the soles of your feet and your heels. Notice any sensations in these areas, such as warmth, coolness, tension, or relaxation.
  5. Move upward: Gradually shift your attention upward, moving to your ankles, calves, knees and thighs. As you do, continue to observe any sensations without judgment.
  6. Continue through the body: Progress through each part of your body, from your hips to your abdomen, chest, back, shoulders, arms, hands, neck and head. Take your time with each area, allowing your attention to linger for a moment.
  7. Stay mindful: If you encounter any areas of tension, discomfort, or pain, observe these sensations without reacting or trying to change them. The goal is not to change your physical sensations but to become aware of them.
  8. Mindful breathing: Throughout the body scan, maintain awareness of your breath. Your breath can be an anchor to the present moment. Notice the rise and fall of your chest or the sensation of the breath as it enters and exits your nostrils.
  9. Acceptance: Practice non-judgment and acceptance. It's normal to have various sensations in your body and the purpose is not to label them as good or bad but to simply acknowledge them.
  10. Conclude: When you've completed the scan, take a few deep breaths and slowly bring your attention back to the room. Open your eyes if they were closed.

You can adjust the duration of the scan to fit your needs, but it's often done in 10-30 minutes. Over time, regular practice can lead to increased relaxation and a deeper connection with your body.

I've realized that delving into depression and allowing myself to feel sad doesn’t result in being overwhelmed by grief or any loss of self-control.

Understanding the importance of sharing emotions with family and friends is a crucial lesson. I’m still working on being more open. I appreciate the intimacy I share with my wife and it does alleviate my sense of social isolation since my cancer diagnosis.

Reflecting on these experiences and trying to confront the realities of my diagnosis and potential treatment have been impactful. I haven’t often expressed my true feelings.

But rather than face cancer by myself, I have found this type of intimacy by being open and expressing my true feelings with family and friends. It has been beneficial as I feel less socially isolated and alone.

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