Recognizing and Managing Stress from Cancer


I need to acknowledge and address the impact stress from multiple myeloma has on my mental and emotional wellbeing.

Illustration of a man with short black hair and rectangular glasses.

The weight of choosing the best course of a multiple myeloma treatment plan and anticipating potential relapses are significant sources of apprehension and dread. It feels like a constant balancing act, navigating different options and possible outcomes. The mere thought of relapse is enough to send shivers down my spine, causing tension and unease in myself. Using the powerful influence of our minds, I have found ways to combat negative thoughts. Silently saying mantras like "Believe in magic and miracles" and "I am healthy," I focus on positivity. Instead of labeling our prescription "chemotherapy," I refer to it as "healing elixirs." These techniques help keep my stress levels under control.

During a recent visit to my storage unit, I committed to clearing out its contents. This decision was not only financial but also in line with the Swedish tradition of "döstädning" or "death cleaning." As I sifted through the accumulated items over the years, I realized the importance of freeing my loved ones from this burden after passing on.

However, it was disheartening to see how limited my abilities were — I could not help my wife move the heavy boxes of books, retrieve essential documents from the file cabinets, or even place bags of items onto the loading dock. Helplessness and anger at my physical limitations of the fractures in my spine overwhelmed me as I watched her take on tasks that used to come quickly to me. My exasperation grew as I felt incapable of helping or rearranging items into neat piles.

As I sort through my personal vault, I sometimes observe appalling behavior toward her. My voice takes on sharp, almost barking tones whenever we speak. It dawned on me that those closest to me bore the brunt of my frustrations, and this realization allowed me to see how much stress was affecting me while clearing out my belongings.

I gazed at my "things to do" list, and a wave of sadness washed over me. My energy levels have been affected, making it difficult to check off more than one or two tasks each day. It's disconcerting not to be as productive as I used to be. The more I think about it, the more discouraged I become, yearning for my past levels of efficiency.

The weight of life's unexpected and tragic events can take a toll on our mental and physical wellbeing. When my niece's fiancé was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident, I felt the heartbreaking impact of his loss. Despite wanting to attend the memorial service, we decided to wait a couple of months before visiting my 31-year-old niece to give her space and time to grieve. When we finally did see her, she expressed immense gratitude for our support during such a difficult time. This experience made me reflect on how trauma can negatively affect us, and I wonder if the significance of losing my mother may have contributed to my diagnosis of multiple myeloma.

Every day, without fail, I gather with my group, the Bells of Hope. They offer a safe haven where we share our thoughts and struggles and find inspiration in each other's company. As the leader, I carefully choose a topic to discuss during the first part of our hour together, guiding us through deep conversations that bring understanding and insight. For the last five to 10 minutes, I close with a meditation and the words "Om mani padme hum" as a mantra of compassion and gratitude to bring us closer to inner peace. This daily commitment also serves as my faithful alarm clock from Monday to Saturday, reminding me to carve out time for self-care and mental well-being amidst the chaos of life. The lighthouse is one of the signature symbols of our heartfelt group; it symbolizes our sharing of our light, wisdom and steadfastness amid the stormy seas of life.

In addition to my regular self-care routine, I find gratification in preparing fresh, healthy meals made from organic ingredients. As in the TV show, I feel like Top Chef cleaning and chopping fresh vegetables for homemade delicious dishes. Knowing that I am nourishing my body helps me to de-stress and feel grounded.

Attending regular physical therapy sessions not only helps with my physical wellbeing but also aids in the release of tension. On Tuesday afternoons, I join a qigong class. Through this ancient Chinese practice of movement and meditation, I have found a sense of calm and balance in strengthening both my mind and body.

Every week, I make time to sing — not only for the benefit it brings to my breathing for my collapsed lungs but also for the pure enjoyment it brings me.

Finally, attending multiple myeloma support groups has been highly beneficial for me.

Sharing my concerns with our cancer community has been instrumental in helping relieve life's uncertainties.

Through these activities, I have learned the importance of staying connected with diverse communities of positive and inspirational individuals. Surrounding myself with people who uplift and encourage me has been invaluable in my quest for wellbeing and happiness. I become more mindful of how I respond to outside challenges.

So think, how do you address and manage your stress?

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