How Mindfulness Can Alleviate The Stress of Cancer


As part of its Speaking Out video series, CURE® spoke with Lillian Dugan of the Dear Jack Foundation about the power of mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation.

Finding moments of calm amidst a cancer journey can feel like a challenge – but, as Lillian Dugan, director of programs for the Dear Jack Foundation, told CURE® as part of the “Speaking Out” video series, mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga can potentially alleviate the physical and emotional burdens faced by adolescent and young adult (AYA) patients.

"[Mindfulness practices] are scientifically proven to help manage the adverse effects from treatment," she affirms. While not a cure for cancer, mindfulness techniques offer tangible benefits in mitigating treatment-related symptoms and enhancing overall well-being.

Dugan explained that at its core, mindfulness is about reconnecting with the body and cultivating a sense of presence. Simple practices, such as deep breathing or grounding oneself by feeling both feet on the floor, can serve as powerful anchors amidst the turbulence of cancer treatment.

“Individuals who are going through cancer treatment, their bodies are not doing well, they're not considered in that healthy class anymore,” Dugan said. “They're [potentially] really struggling. And I think that's what is so impactful for our [mindfulness program] participants is that it actually really connects them back, it grounds them, it makes them feel like they have a little bit more control, they are in their bodies again. … These aren't advanced yoga classes or crazy practices. These are just ways to connect with your body.”

The Dear Jack Foundation offers support programs for young adult patients with cancer and survivors, and its Breathe Now program is an example of the integration of mindfulness into a cancer journey. Through four-day retreats focused on yoga, meditation and psychosocial support, participants are provided with a safe space to reflect and heal. Tailored for individuals and their partners who are one to three years post-treatment, the retreats address the emotional as well as the physical toll of cancer.

"The goal of mindfulness is that we're just working to alleviate some of the stress and the burden that cancer has caused," Dugan said.

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