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STRONGER than Before

Cancer doesn’t care if you are a mum, dad, sister, brother, daughter, son, husband or wife?

A nice person or a bad person?

It doesn’t discriminate, so it can feel like there’s nothing we can do to prevent it destroying lives.

Since losing my Nan who raised me to cancer in 2001 and then my Brother to Cancer in 2015 and various close family members having cancer at around the same time, it’s a subject I wanted to learn more about.

In essence I want to understand it.

Why?

Because education is key.

Prevention is better than cure.

And being proactive is better than living in fear.

I myself have had pre-cancerous cells and numerous large polyps removed surgically and have undergone genetic testing.

As part of the genetic testing process, I had to go through what they call a family tree with a consultant at the hospital. This family tree showed all the other members in my close family, highlighting those who have had cancer, and which type of cancer. The Doctor had accessed my Mothers’ medical records (with her written permission) in order to do this. I can’t tell you my shock when it was revealed to me that in 2004, while I was giving birth to my first child, my Mum had been diagnosed with bladder cancer and years before she had also had cervical cancer! How I didn’t know, I don’t know????

Had I not undergone this testing process, I probably would never have found out?

Genetic testing can impact you in ways you never expected and can uncover things you may or may not want to find out?

I’m lucky, I found out that my brothers’ cancer was not genetical. I could temporarily take a sigh of relief on hearing that news…. Then I realised as over ninety percent of cancers are due to environmental factors and not genetical, I now had more control and responsibility over whether I increased or decreased my chances of getting it.

I don’t know which thought is scarier, having no control or having an element of control and responsibility?

All I knew was it was time to understand the disease from a molecular perspective, so I studied advanced cancer biology.

 I was being proactive.

I don’t have cancer, so I have the time and inclination to do this, but what about someone going through this experience?

 Chances are they won’t have either of those things.

Time as a cancer patient is taken up on consultations, treatment appointments and worry.

Leaving most patients full of unanswered questions, that they haven’t thought to ask or may not have felt appropriate to ask a doctor?

It can feel like you’re given a diagnosis and then you are left to discover what that actually means?

But one of the best books I’ve read, written on the subject of cancer since Rebecca Skloots ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, is Alison Porters book ‘STRONGER than Before Take Charge of your Healing to Survive and Thrive with Breast Cancer.

Alison was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015.
She is also the world’s leading self-help publisher Hay House’s, very worthy winner of their Writers Workshop 2016
In 1951 Henrietta Lacks was the first cancer patient to have cells taken from her and grown in a lab, without her or her family’s knowledge or permission! These cells are apparently still growing today and are considered immortal and are the most common cells used in research today.

A Proactive Informative Approach to Healing

Alison’s book is a practical yet loving guide book that offers a proactive, informative approach to managing breast cancer. That places the person at the centre, not the illness. Showing there is freedom to make informed choices, suited to each individual. Early detection of cancer is vital, but as Alison points out, weighing up all the options and taking some breathing space before deciding on treatment is a must.

Her book focuses on being unique and individual in your approach to your illness and its treatment. This is important because there are different types of breast cancer and every person is different in how and why they are affected and their treatment?

Genetic testing can help doctors to provide a more personalised treatment for a specific sub type and its cause. So, knowing all the options is vital.


Conversations with Family and Friends supporting a Loved one through Breast Cancer


I wish I had read the part on ‘Conversations with Family and Friends supporting a Loved one through Breast Cancer’ while my Brother and also my Friend, were going through their journey’s with cancer.

Alison’s advice in this section of the book applies to all people going through any type of cancer, or even any type of serious illness for that matter. It helps you to see things from the other persons point of view and offers some great suggestions on what to do and say?

I feel that’s so important for friends and loved ones to have an insight into, as it’s really hard to know what to say?

You know the person living with cancer that you care about is having an awful time in their lives. Yet, you think you are doing them a favour by acting normal?

And sometimes you are.

But I’m sure there are times when all they want is to let out how they are feeling with those closest to them and this can be so hard to do when they’re worrying about other people’s feelings too. I know when I found out about my friend’s diagnosis, the first thing I did was book us afternoon tea and prosecco in a nice hotel, to help take her mind off things.

Looking back, I can see how me going on about staying positive and offering books and meditations to my Brother, may not have always been what he needed at that time. I mean, given only months to live, I can now see how impossible staying positive would have been for him. But Pre-cancer diagnoses that is what we always did for one another. We boosted each other up with positivity and we always searched for that silver lining.

I guess old habits were hard to break?

On reflection, I wonder if there were times when he just wanted to let it all out and release how he felt?

Although he was always so strong, proud and private, I think this would have been hard for him to do. Especially as he was my big brother who always tried to fix things and look after me.

Listen & Trust

The exercises, meditations and suggestions on self -care and love, scattered throughout Alison’s book, help you to stay more present. Enabling you to listen to yourself and your body, while learning to trust what you feel and hear. All these combined seem to hold your hand and guide you down an uncertain road, laced with fear and anxiety. Helping to shed light and love on a dark journey, to discovering who you really are and what you really want from life?

She encourages you to see your illness as a transformational journey.

And this is exactly what my friend Selena did. Selena was diagnosed with HER2 positive stage 2, grade 4, breast cancer on December the 6th 2016. When I asked her recently what she had learnt from her experience with cancer this is what she said;

‘Overcoming breast cancer has shown me to appreciate all the little things we take for granted in our life. I have grown more confident and stronger through my experience. I live for today. Embrace everyday as life is a gift…it is precious!’

Freedom to Change

As Alison also discovered herself, you will change, but those changes can be for the better?

Although honestly admitting that even after recovery the fear never goes away. But feeling that fear and carrying on with life on purpose, will help to set you free on a path you may never have dreamed of pre-cancer. Knowing there will come a time when you can free yourself from identifying with cancer and move forward. Showing it’s never too late to start over and reclaim your life by changing your mindset, and positively supporting your body to return to balance.

Alison asks;

‘What have you learnt from your dance with breast cancer?’
And that lesson or insight, I believe, is the key takeaway from her book.

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THE WORRY BUSTER

You feeling blue too?

Two weeks into the New Year and all I’ve heard this week from friends, family and associates, is how low everyone is feeling.

No one is immune to worry.

We all at some time, fear the future, ruminate on the past and spend endless, sleepless nights, catastrophising. The dark of the night seems to magnify issues to monstrous proportions.

Even when there’s nothing to worry about, it worries us, and we think that something must be wrong?

I’ve been there many times.

And it feels like there’s nothing we can do, as problems paralyse us from taking any action. This condition is known as paralysis by analysis. It’s when we become plagued with indecision and get caught up in a state of over thinking an issue.

Then instead of dealing with it, we worry about it!

Parenting is a ‘Worrying Business’

And as parents there’s not only ourselves to worry about.

When it comes to our children, we can worry about everything and anything. As we deliberate on what they should eat, how to deal with their unwanted behaviour and how they are progressing at school?

And all of this responsibility can weigh heavy on us. Especially if we feel over whelming pressure from others, such as teachers or spouses, adding to the problem itself

 This can become a constant source of stress, as we feel we must instantly sort everything out, the right way.

This pressure makes it difficult to see the wood from the trees, leaving decision making impossible. But taking decisive action and doing something, even if that action is not the right action to take, sets the solutions to problems in motion.

When we put ourselves out there, answers find us.

When we procrastinate or are fearful of making the wrong choices, and take no action to solve an issue, this leads to a lack of confidence in our own parenting abilities, preventing us from finding solutions.

TAKING ACTION

The only solution is proactively taking action to prevent or deal with problems, rather than Auto Pilot Parent when things go wrong.

This empowers us to handle situations, as well as our children’s behaviour.

 However, taking a proactive approach can also mean stepping back and away from the problem itself.

When we are less involved in the emotional side, we can start to narrow down a couple of options that we could take. Then take assertive action.

For example, we may find ourselves deliberating over several possible schools that we could send our children to. When faced with such an important decision, choosing the right school could seem more daunting than it really is.

Once we can relax, step back and think clearly, the decision usually rests on only one of two possibilities. And that’s the way with most problems.

It’s having the clarity to narrow things down. Knowing that even if we make a wrong choice, we can feel reassured that we can always change course if we are going in the wrong direction.

Being proactive eliminates doubt.

Even if it turns out we were wrong, that’s better than not taking action and never knowing, allowing others to take the lead.

What we find when we take this approach is that, we can never really make a wrong decision anyway, just a different one.

As parent’s, we need to accept that we won’t always make the right choices or decisions all of the time.

That’s ok, because good or bad, we can, and will learn from all of them.

As long as we keep moving, we will make progress, and rid ourselves of this paralysis by analysis.

And by doing what we can, we can feel confident in the knowledge that we are always doing our best.

We will then be free to relax knowing that, we cannot control everything that happens.

But the most proactive thing we can all do as parents, is to stop worrying about our children’s; behaviour, education, health, happiness, safety, success or whatever else is worrying us at the moment, and take- action to do something about it.

Start today by doing the following ‘Worry Busting’ Exercise.

This simple technique helps us to gain a clearer perspective, alleviating a certain degree of worry straight away. Focusing more on solutions rather than problems.

THE WORRY BUSTER TECHNIQUE

  • First think about something that is worrying you at this moment regarding your child.
  • Now write down all the reasons why it is worrying you? Note how worrying about it has helped the situation or how it has made it worse?
  • Then work out how long you have been worrying about it for?
  • Now, decide how much longer you want to keep on worrying about it?
  • Next write a list of all the possible ways that you can try to help solve the problem, or at least make it less of a worry. Brainstorm as many ideas as you can think of, regardless how unrealistic they sound at first.
  • Now choose one way that you can take- action on the problem today.
  • Finally, go and take some action and do something to change the situation now.

Can’t find a solution right now?

Then just decide to relax and step back, and accept the way things are for now.

Clear your mind of the problem, and do something else until a solution comes to mind. Busy yourself with chores or exercise, and let the solution bubble away in the back of your mind, unhindered by you.

You’ve proactively looked at the issue by doing the ‘Worry Busting Technique’. 

Now the only thing you can change, is to stop worrying about something you cannot change. If there is nothing you can do about it, then why waste time and energy worrying?

Worrying will not help or change anything.

After all, most of what we worry about never actually happens anyway. Rest assured, if we are doing all that we can do right now, then there is no need to worry about anything else.

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