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LIVING WITH BREAST CANCER

Mindset Practices For The Shock Of My Life

By Rethink Contributor November 15 2018

“You have breast cancer, Leisse, and it’s aggressive.”

Chances are, if you’re here and reading this, you’ve had a similar conversation. And chances are that you know the feeling of what happened next to me: that colour draining, illusion popping, earth shattering, fear mongering feeling of “what just happened? And oh gawd, what happens next?!

I don’t want to assume I know how you feel, how you process, or how you react to this kind of shock to your system; what I can tell you, is this: what I know to be true, from my own personal experiences in facing and overcoming adversity – what I think matters the most.

And I stand behind that: what I think matters most. Mindset plays an active role in how I feel about myself, and how I feel about every experience I find myself having. Here are my top five practices that have helped me maintain a healthy state of mind so I can see clearly under the weight of what I am experiencing now.

1. My Experience is My Experience

You don’t hear the expression “cancer is like snowflakes” often enough, but you should, because it’s true: each cancer is so unique, and each course of treatment for that cancer is so unique. The onus in on me to appreciate that even the best-intentioned people giving me feedback and advice are operating from their own experience, which may or may not be an accurate reflection of my own experience. Likely, it is not, and I don’t have to explain myself to anyone. This is my process to experience my own way. I am learning to trust the ones I trust, listen to my team, and tune out everyone else with grace and compassion.

2. Overcome “Patient” Mentality

As soon as you become a part of “the system,” it can feel as if your identity is reduced to name and date of birth on your paper ID bracelet. No fragrance, standard blue gown, lead from room to room, procedure to procedure, sometimes with little explanation of what is happening, or even the name of who will be performing it. I am still ME, through all of this; despite all appearances, I am not reduced to me, the patient. I am trying to act in ways that are true to myself, and appreciate that Canadian health care is a gift, and is simultaneously is not a perfect system.

3. Think In Moments Vs. Days

Forget one day at a time, live (and process) one moment at a time. This whole process is a physical and emotional roller coaster that, while I didn’t necessarily buy a ticket for, I’m on. And I’m strapped in tight. I’m allowing myself to feel the ups and downs, not with judgment for how I’m feeling, but just for the sake of feeling it. It’s not a good or bad day, it’s a good or bad moment, over and over.

4. Music Shapes My Mood

When we are feeling sad, angry, or overwhelmed, we have a natural human tendency to choose environments and actions that support that state. Sometimes, this is what I need, that space to just sit in the heaviness. Other times, staying in this state causes more damage; music is an easy an powerful way to change my state in an instant. Nothing lifts the mood in your kitchen or car like a quick blast of Katy Perry Revival. If I feel myself getting “stuck” in feelings that are drowning me, and preventing me from moving forward in an emotionally safe and healthy way, I challenge myself to switch on a dance party hit and help lift my spirit to a new state of mind.

5. Focus on The Present

Nothing else is real – the past is long ago and over, the future isn’t happening; the present is the only thing that is right here, right now. How do I feel in this moment? Who do I love, who is loving me? What can I see, feel, touch, hear, smell right now? Dwelling on the past, worrying about the future – it doesn’t serve me. Anxiety about something that does not exist does not serve me. What matters to me is what’s happening now, so I am staying here with it, and allowing myself to live it fully. My advice: have the snorting laugh. Hug your people. See the beauty. Feel the sunshine. Taste the coffee. Enjoy that smile. Filling yourself up with tiny moments of present joy can have a lasting effect that allows your brain to process everything more clearly. I hope this gets easier with time, as you allow myself to practice living only in the present.


For more of Leisse’s story, follow her @leissewilcox or at leissewilcox.ca

To read more about the topic of mindfulness and breast cancer, click here.