Coping with Stress and Anxiety Through Breast Cancer Treatment
We’ve all had one of those days, right? It starts first thing in the morning. Typically, the alarm fails to wake you, because there was a thunderstorm during the night and the power went off and, when you wake up and open one eye to check the time, you see the clock blinking “12:00, 12:00,” and the light on the window shade is WAY too bright for 6 a.m. and oh no – you’re going to be late for work.
Things go downhill from there. The dog picks this day to upchuck his breakfast on the kitchen floor. Your husband walks around the corner and steps in the dog mess. Late already, you hit every single red light on the way to work. You think to yourself, “What ELSE can go wrong?!” And it’s not even 9 a.m.
OK, stop for a minute. You’re at a fork in the road. You can choose to assume you’re in for a bad day, and see everything in that light: a cloud over the sun forecasts rain, your boss’ exasperated sigh from the next room is directed at you. Or you can take a deep breath, and mentally start the day over. The cloud provides a welcome respite from the sun’s burning heat; your boss has just read a whining e-mail from her troublesome child. Which path do you choose?
Ultimately, there’s not much in our lives we can control. But one thing we DO have the power to control, always, is our own attitude. Someone cuts in front of you in the grocery line. How do you feel? You can CHOOSE to feel angry, irritated, put-upon. Or you can assume the line-cutter has a sick child at home whom she’s desperate to get back to with medicine, and then choose to use the extra time in line to peruse the latest copy of People magazine. Not so simple, you say? “I’m in a hurry, too!” Then simplify the situation. Why are you in a hurry? “Because I’m going to be delayed getting home and dinner will be late.” And then what? “My family will be hungry and irritated.” And then what? “They’ll whine.” And then what? “I’ll feel miserable.” Ah-HA! That’s when you choose your attitude. Choose to let their whining roll off your back. Make dinner. Within 30 minutes, everyone will be happy again. So tell me again why you were angry at the delay in the grocery store?
Sure, it takes practice to be able to choose your attitude. But when you have cancer, it’s a good skill to learn. There will be times during treatment when you have a tough day¬–or week, or months. Maybe you’ve had a spectacularly bad reaction to chemo. Perhaps the treatment protocol that works on the other 95% of women with “your” cancer isn’t working on you. Or maybe you’re irritated beyond all reason by the fact that you got the “bad” oncologist, the one with the nonexistent bedside manner, while all your other friends in treatment have the “good” oncologist, the one who looks you in the eye, listens, and holds your hand. Will you choose to feel stressed, knowing that stress probably isn’t the best thing in the world for you right now? Or will you choose to adjust your attitude in whatever way you know how: meditation, calling a friend and venting, ordering extra nuts with the hot fudge sundae (diet be damned)?
Every day, we find ourselves in situations where we can give in to negative feelings, or look inside ourselves for positive ones, elusive though they may be. Yes, it’s hard to choose the high road; sometimes it’s nearly impossible. But don’t give up. Practice forcing the small irritations into a positive light, so that when the time comes you can do the same with your bigger challenges.
Published On: August 10, 2006