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On Friday my friend Chris wrote me an e-mail and in it he said “The universe loves you.” I really need to believe he’s right. I just wish it wasn’t such tough love.
Sleep disorders are common among cancer patients.Extensive treatment, increased anxiety and depression, pain, and other discomforts during cancer treatment can make it difficult to get a good night's sleep. Cancer patients may be affected by sleep struggles including insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, and restless legs syndrome. Insomnia may be caused by medications used to treat cancer, including steroids. Chemotherapy drugs can cause fatigue. Many cancer patients nap during the day, but this can lead to insomnia at night.
Not getting enough sleep can have especially negative effects for cancer patients.Sleep deprivation is always difficult, but it is especially tough for cancer patients. Not getting enough sleep can weaken the immune system and make symptoms or negative side effects worse. Sleep deprived cancer patients may also experience weight loss or weight gain, poorer memory and cognitive processing skills, increased irritability and higher risk for depression, and poorer judgement. Not getting enough sleep can make it more difficult to recover.
You may experience night sweats and hot flashes during chemotherapy.Some cancer patients experience night sweats or hot flashes at night. Overheating can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. It's a good idea to lower your bedroom temperature and use breathable bedding and clothing at night. Consider a mattress with buckling column gel if you're experiencing hot flashes or night sweats. This mattress material is more cooling than memory foam and latex and can help avoid retaining heat.
You can get better sleep with good sleep hygiene.Good sleep starts with good sleep hygiene. You can train your brain and body to become tired at the same time each night by maintaining a regular sleep schedule. You should go to bed and wake up about the same time every day, and keep up a consistent bedtime routine in which you do the same few things before bed each night. This can signal to your brain that it's bedtime and help induce feelings of sleepiness that can help you drift off comfortably. It's also a good idea to keep your bedroom dark and quiet. Be careful about what you do in the hours before sleep. You should avoid caffeine, alcohol, exercise, heavy meals, and screen time just before bed, as these can interfere with your ability to get to sleep and stay asleep all night.
Sleep therapy can be helpful.If you're experiencing serious sleep disorders that can't be resolved with better sleep hygiene, sleep therapy may be necessary. Cognitive behavioral therapy can be used to improve sleep and treat insomnia by addressing your sleep behavior and identifying actions you can take to improve your sleep habits. Some sleep therapies include sleep restriction therapy with a particular sleep and wake schedule and light therapy with light exposure to reset your circadian rhythm. Sarah Johnson, Tuck Sleep Foundation
Oprah's Super SoulWhat's a list of inspirational podcasts without including the Queen of inspiration herself, right? Super Soul Conversations is the online version of Oprah's hit TV show: SuperSoul Sunday. Featuring conversations with world-renowned leaders, thinkers, and visionaries this podcast is sure to give you that much-needed boost.
That’s So RetrogradeAn entire podcast dedicated to wellness topics? Sign us up! In their podcast That's So Retrograde, Los Angeles based friends, Elizabeth Kott and Stephanie Simbari dive into wellness-related topics (physical, spiritual, and everything inbetween!) with leading psychologists, meditators, and gurus from around the world, while sharing their (oh so relatable) personal journeys of maintaining a more balanced life.
Magic Lessons with Elizabeth GilbertAre you an aspiring artist/creative or just creatively-minded? Then you'll really like this one! Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of best-selling novel "Eat, Pray, Love" and "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear." In her podcast Magic Lessons she inspires young creatives to harness their full creative potential.
#GirlBoss Radio with Sophia AmorusoLearning from industry-leading businesswomen how to redefine what success really means. It doesn't get much more inspirational than that! In her podcast, #GirlBoss, Sophia Amoruso has conversations with CEOs, founders, VPs, journalists, and other businesswomen who are taking their industries by storm to dive into their personal stories with success, what it means to them, and how we (as women) can attain our own personal successes.
Good Life ProjectIf this doesn't shout "inspiration!" we don't know what does: “A good life is not a place at which you arrive, it's a lens through which you see and create your world" (Jonathan Fields, founder of Good Life Project). Candid and open conversations with some of the world's greatest thinkers, entrepreneurs, artists, and more on how to open your mind, switch your perspective, and embrace all the positive vibes the world is offering you.
*DISCLAIMER. All views and opinions expressed in these podcasts don't necessarily reflect the views of Rethink Breast Cancer.
BeforeBefore I got cancer, I kept my hair quite long. I was the type that would freak out when my hairdresser cut it too short, which I considered anything above my shoulders. I loved my hair. It was my shield – it protected and sheltered me. I connected it very closely with my sense of femininity and sensuality. When I was diagnosed and knew that I had to undergo chemo, losing my hair was one of the moments I feared most. In an effort to gain control in a situation where I felt like I had close to none, I decided to shave my head the night before chemo. Leading up to that evening, I wrote a letter to my hair: Hello my lovely hair, Have I ever told you how much I love you? I think I have, but just in case I haven't said it enough – I love you. You are absolutely beautiful. I love how dark you are. I love how silky you look and feel. I love how you look down and in a ponytail. I love the way you slip out of place during yoga and blow all crazy in the wind. Thank you for your patience while I went through my blonde phase. I don't know what that was about. I know the constant hair colouring was irritating, especially since I was trying to change you when you were beautiful just the way you were. But I realized my error quickly enough! I have loved traveling with you. I hope you have enjoyed seeing the world. It's amazing to think of all that you have seen and felt – sand from various beaches, water from so many oceans and lakes and (most recently) earth all the way from South Africa. Didn't the wind feel great? I knew you would love it when I let you down in the jeep to blow in the African wind. I think that might have been one of my happiest moments with you. Wild and free, just like the animals. It makes me smile just thinking about it. We're going to be saying goodbye to each other soon for a little while. It won't be forever, but I wanted you to know that I will miss you like crazy. I won't be the same without you. Not only are you beautiful, you're my armour. I always felt confident with you there. I hope you come back exactly as you are right now – dark brown (almost black), straight, silky, full (but not too full). I wouldn't change a thing about you. I love you so much. I'll miss you. Come back soon! Cassandra xoxo A close friend came over to shave my head and we expected tears and sadness. Instead, there were moments of laughter. Mom managed the playlist and poured the champagne when it was over. #champagnemakesthingsbetter When I look back on that night, I feel as though something in me both broke and was reborn. In that moment, a big part of my innocence was lost. That can be said for many of the experiences you must endure while battling cancer, but that one sticks out in my mind. To have the courage to shave your head… It’s a powerful thing. It’s a way of both losing and reclaiming your power. I’ve always known that we become stronger at the places where we break and I experienced it first hand that night. I’ll never be exactly like the girl I was before I shaved my head and that thought empowers me.
DuringMy hair didn’t fall out until after my second chemo. I don’t think many people realize that losing your hair is a very slow and painful process. It fell out in the shower in large clumps. I would stand there in tears and watch as my hair poured down the drain. I was terrified to step out and look in the mirror – I knew one day I would come out completely bald. For weeks I couldn’t touch my scalp. It hurt to lay my head on my pillow and I would wake up each morning to more strands of hair covering my sheets. It seemed endless. Eventually the pain subsided and the clumps stopped falling. I was not left with a completely bald head like I had anticipated. I had what I called an ostrich head – bald, but with random hairs scattered on my scalp. Lovely! Style Side Note: I think it’s extremely important for women to find what works for them during treatment. I put a lot of thought and searching into my chemo look. I purchased wigs, but didn’t enjoy wearing them because they were itchy and made me overheat. I was lucky enough to find a shop on Etsy that I loved. The designer sold comfortable yet fashionable chemo hats in a variety of pretty colours and patterns. In 2015, I came across the #NoHairSelfie campaign and was enraged. For those who don’t know, it encouraged people to use a filter on their selfies that would make them bald (like a chemo patient). As I perused the plethora of selfies, I saw a red. The people looked so happy. They were commenting on how they looked bald – whether they felt cute or ugly. I couldn’t believe that this campaign was created… And by a hospital no less. What stunned me more was that all the participants didn’t seem to see the insensitivity of their actions and comments. I assumed that they were ignorant to the fact that they were glamorizing chemotherapy, although to this day I don’t understand how it went unnoticed. I wrote a blog about the campaign (full post at this link).
AfterMy hair grew back quickly, and I thank my Italian roots for that. I purchased headbands and loved wearing them to bedazzle my growing peach fuzz. I had the same haircut I did when I was one-year-old and my buzzcut matched my father’s hairstyle. Breast cancer caused me to reflect on sexuality and femininity in various aspects – hair being a major one. Society displays the ideal woman as having long, luscious, wavy tresses. Don’t get me wrong – that hairstyle is gorgeous. But not fitting the mold made me sad at times. Once again, I felt “other.” Instead of thinking of society, I thought of myself. How did I feel with short hair? What emotions did it bring out in me? Once I looked inward and stopped comparing, the answers came easily. I felt empowered, strong and beautiful. Transformed. I still do. I’ll admit that I feel more exposed with short hair. In moments of shyness or uncertainty, I don’t have my hair to hide behind. That has turned out to be both a good and a bad thing.
I’m sure I’ll grow it out one day, but for now I’m truly enjoying the short style. I feel like it gives me confidence in a way that my long hair didn’t.It might sound crazy, but sometimes I toss my head and go to brush my long hair away from my face. At first, this phantom motion hurt my heart – I was obviously still mourning what I had lost. Now? I smile and send a bit of love to the person I was before and thank my hair for coming back to me. A little while after chemo, I went to pick up a package from the UPS store. The gentleman asked for ID to confirm who I was. I handed over my licence, which I forgot had a picture of me with long hair. At this point, I had super short hair but more than a shaved head. He looked at my licence and back up at me and said, “Oh my gosh! Your hair is so much shorter. It looks great. That must have been quite an adjustment!” I smiled from ear to ear, beaming because he didn’t realize why my hair was so short. I had slipped under the radar and could just be me. No cancer questions, tilted puppy dog sad faces or pitiful looks. I smirked at him and said, “You have no idea.”
Cassandra Umbriaco is a guest blogger for Rethink Breast Cancer. Since being diagnosed with stage two breast cancer at 28 years old, she combines her love of writing with a passion to help women affected by cancer. Check out her blog at cancerunder30.wordpress.com
Cassandra loves travelling as much as she can, dresses that twirl, anything Disney and her little red Fiat – Luna.
How many times have we created a killer list of new year's resolutions that we're sure will turn us into the super-foodie, yoga master, book worm, marathon runner, fitness model (or whatever) that we want to be - or at least think we should be? And how often do we go through the year feeling guilty because we're struggling to complete even half of the things we planned? In theory, new year's resolutions are great - but in action they often overlook the fact that self-improvement is a process. We can't make instant changes in our lives that will turn us into brand-new people. So... we're gonna go ahead and cross this out: