Apologies for my radio silence this past few weeks; no real reason or excuse, perhaps I just lost my mojo a bit. However, it’s back and it’s back because I’ve been supported by a range of people and events and choices.
I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time at The Penny Brohn Centre in Bristol. Their philosophy is very much around the whole person and the holistic impact of cancer and the holistic process of healing.
We offer our Bristol Whole Life Approach in different ways to meet your individual needs. Whatever your diagnosis, we can help you take back control of your health and wellbeing and live as well as you can with the impact of cancer.
I attended an introductory one-day course and then a residential 2-day course which focused on a range of subjects.
Living Well with the impact of cancer course
This course provides you with a tool kit of self-care techniques that can help support your physical, emotional and spiritual health.
Cancer can affect your life in so many ways. The Living Well course encourages you to explore the impact of cancer on your life with people who understand the journey you are on. The course allows you to share your experience with others in similar situations, and explore the steps you can take to help you live well.
You will learn about:
- our Bristol Whole Life Approach
- information and discussion on healthy eating and physical activity
- the impact of cancer on your emotions and relationships
- how to manage some of the practical issues.
Throughout the course you will experience different self-help techniques including relaxation, meditation, mindfulness and imagery.
Even though the overview of the course refers to ‘the journey you are on’ I overlooked this error and attended and I’m so glad I did. 10 of us attended and spent time together exploring options and issues. It was cathartic in many ways and revealing also.
Perhaps for me one of the most revealing aspects was that the practices of meditation and relaxation which were regularly facilitated throughout the courses, I found really difficult and if I’m honest and frank, quite tiresome at times. Why? I wondered. Why could I not relax or free my mind of useless thoughts as I was being instructed? Part of the problem for me was I realised my frustration at how this time was being used. It’s not at all that it wasn’t appropriate, it certainly was but I came to see that right now I have a need for information, facts, direction and plans, the hard real stuff if you like. I am not though undermining the importance of relaxation, de-stressing and being genuinely mindful and aware. If anything I’ve twigged how important it is and given it more value and credence. Stress impacts hugely on the body’s ability to fight cancer cells; too much stress switches off your killer cancer cells and negatively impacts on your immune system creating the conditions for mutation and tumour growth. However, cells often behave badly as we all know.
For a fabulous overview of cancer killer cells watch this informative 2-minute video Killer T Cell: The Cancer Assassin
So I’ve learnt more about relaxation and the importance of reducing stress through reflection of the course content rather than at the time. Like lots of learning, it’s about being in a state of readiness to utilise information that’s lodged in your brain somewhere, perhaps in the drawer marked ‘when it’s time’.
We also spent some time talking about the link between health and good nutrition and throughout our stay we were given amazing meals, smoothies and snacks made specifically to incorporate the nutritional balance needed to support healthy immune systems. A session on nutrition also flagged up the importance of fibre in diets for patients who have or have had breast cancer and hormone therapies (yes and yes) and how this helps the body get rid of excess oestrogen and hormone overload. Well, as you can imagine my ears perked up! Anything that reduces the quantity and side effects of the hormones currently flooding through my system and making me fairly miserable and unliveable with has to be a good thing.
So ever since I’ve tried to incorporate much healthier nutrient dense foods into my diet and whether it’s a placebo effect or not, I do feel better and my sleep has improved.
In an effort to get my side effects from the hormones under control I did have a month off of Tamoxifen, with the intention and my Oncologists suggestion that I switch over to an Aromatase Inhibitor (AI) and stop the Tamoxifen since it was causing such overwhelming issues and impacting on my (and others’) quality of life. When your Oncologist starts talking about quality of life regarding your drug regime you know that they have an inkling of the impact it’s all having.
However, my imagined liberation from the hot flushes, night sweats and associated anxiety was not to be. It turns out that Tamoxifen is not the bad friend I had thought that she was; my monthly injection of Prostap is the rotter in all of this. Confirmed by my GP when I went to see her rather accurately when she said ‘Prostap quite frankly is S%$t’. #Agreed.
So now we know that Prostap is the main culprit we’re (my GP, my Oncologist and me) now trying to find a combination of treatments that still gives me ‘insurance’ against a recurrence whilst enabling me to function as a happy bunny on a daily basis.
Being with the group at Penny Brohn also provided an opportunity to connect with new friends, people whose life has changed in lots of ways and for whatever reason found themselves on the same course as me. It was a good way to spend time reflecting and connecting; it reminded me of the maternity ward parallel- where you meet random people and get to know them very quickly because your experiences have many overlaps. I’m grateful to everyone I met and talked to for teaching me something.
One of the funnier moments was when people were talking about who had and who hadn’t supported them and the term ‘The Withdrawal Method’ entered into the frame regarding vanishing friends and family :-). We all agreed and laughed together knowing that those who stayed with us matter. There was much laughter, chatting, smiling and bonding between us. Ain’t life grand when you live it well?