An easy-to-use list to stay calm when the cancer panic hits.
It's 1:00 a.m. and I'm still awake. I've been waking up every hour all night long. I have a new pain spot on my back and I have become convinced that the cancer is growing. So I am scared ... very, very scared.
Cancer is terrifying. Michael J. Fox describes his experience of Parkinson’s Disease as crossing the street and getting stuck in the middle of the road as a bus hurtles towards you. You know that the bus is going to hit you, you just don’t know when and how bad it’s going to be. Learning to remain calm while watching the bus fly at you is one of the greatest challenges of living with metastatic cancer.
The hardest part for me is that when the panic comes, it comes in the middle of the night. Normally, I would call someone to find support, but calling after bedtime is not a popular move. So I’ve had to learn how to calm myself. While I do have a prescription for Ativan (I joke that having cancer makes me a legalized drug addict), I try not to use it unless the panic is really bad. I don’t want to build up a tolerance for the drug and not have this aid when I am truly desperate. I have a few calming methods I’ve used over time, but lately I’ve been more scared than usual and I need more tools in the toolbox. So I asked the women I know in a private group for metastatic breast cancer and they suggested a bucketload of calming methods. Here is the list in an easy-to-use format:
As my counselor explained to me, this works because it pushes the carbon dioxide out during the long exhale, and brings more oxygen in, allowing oxygen time to circulate in your body and calm you during the seven count holding of the breath. Once I stop this breathing technique, I will, at times, become anxious again, but at least the few minutes of calm puts a break in the pattern. And I can always go back to the breathing exercise for more.
I hope you find this list helpful. I know that when I’m in full panic, it is hard for me to think. The goal was to create an easy-to-follow reference list that will help us all soothe the panic when it’s bearing down. I mean, as long as I have to stand in the middle of the road, waiting for the bus to hurtle towards me, I might as well read a few good books, watch fun movies and breathe deep. Oh, and maybe I can also dance.