Don't Let Worry Rob You of Peace of Mind

by Jane Ashley

WORRY – it’s something that almost all cancer patients and survivors do. What exactly is worry? Depending on the dictionary, here are some definitions:

Don't Worry About Tomorrow

To torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts.
• A state of anxiety and uncertainty over actual or potential problems.
• Give way to anxiety or unease; allow one's mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.
• A strong feeling of anxiety.
• A troubled state of mind.

Worry is not something new

We are not alone. When we look at history, we see that mankind has always worried. We shouldn’t feel guilty about worrying – cancer patients and survivors have valid reasons to worry.

Related article: Keeping The Fear of Recurrence Out of Mind

You May Have To Fight A Battle More Than Once #2

Fear of recurrence.
• Frustration over changes in our body.
• Job insecurity or job loss.
• Physical intimacy after treatment.
• Financial issues.

Yet, we can’t let these worries take over our lives. Let’s look at how other people have described worry.

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” – Leo F. Buscaglia
“Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.” – Swedish Proverb
“A day of worry is more exhausting than a day of work.” – John Lubbock
“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.” – Epictetus
“Worry is interest paid on trouble before it comes due.” – William Ralph Inge
“Worry trades the joy of now for the unlikely catastrophes of later.” – Tim Fargo

Related Article Staying Positive and Keeping the Fear Away

Throughout history, people have worried. Yet it serves us no useful purpose. We’re not suggesting that you toss caution to the wind and not follow your medical team’s suggestions on diet and exercise. We’re not saying that you shouldn’t be concerned if a new symptom develops – but instead of worrying about it, talk to your doctor about it – and then move on.

As I always tell myself, “I didn’t do a year of treatment to become NED so that I would worry myself to death over the fear of recurrence.”

So what do we do to find peace of mind?

Idle Minds

That is the $64,000 question for most of us. The first step in conquering worry is to acknowledge that worry is a destructive behavior. It’s not good for our well-being. It causes insomnia. It contributes to higher blood pressure. It distracts us from the simple pleasures of everyday life. Once we decide that we want to conquer WORRY, we are more likely to try the ways that other cancer patients and survivors have overcome their “worry syndrome.”

• Work during treatment, if you’re able. They say that an idle mind is the Devil’s workshop. That pretty much says it all. Our work provides structure and a sense of normalcy. It also provides much-need income. If you can’t work fulltime, ask your employer about adjusting your work hours to accommodate your treatment schedule.
• Stay busy. If you are unable to work during treatment, find an activity that you enjoy doing. Knitting, adult coloring books, learning to paint , wood carving, sewing or reading – whatever you enjoy, get up every morning and get busy doing something you enjoy. Avoid watching TV all day long – too much negative news that will bog you down.

Exercise. Walking and simple exercises at home help you maintain your strength and balance. But more importantly, exercise releases endorphins, those “feel good” hormones that fight depression, help you sleep better and reduce aches and pains.
Volunteer. Nothing helps heal our souls more than volunteering. We begin to realize that cancer is not the worst thing that can happen in our lives. Soup kitchens and nursing homes are great places to volunteer – we’ll realize how fortunate we are.
Make future plans. Don’t allow the fear of recurrence to prevent us from making future plans. Take a trip to the beach for your anniversary. Pick a state park to visit next month. Pick a date and stick to that date to go to the museum or aquarium you’ve always wanted to visit.
Learn something new. Engaging our brains in learning a new skill drives worry away. Many state colleges offer continuing education classes at reduced prices (some are even free). Craft stores like Hobby Lobby and Michaels offer classes – from learning to sew or watercolor to learning to knit or crochet. Take a photography class or upgrade your computer skills .

Dealing with Scanxiety

A Day Of Worry

Scanxiety is the intense anxiety/worry when we have our regular scans after treatment. If we’re not careful, we may allow our minds to go into some very dark places. I have been guilty of that myself and driven both me and my husband crazy.
Scanxiety is a special subset of worry. It happens just before a scan until the time we get your scan results. Sometimes, it is several days before we get our results. So what can we do?

Related Article: Scanxiety - Sound Familiar?

• If you’re on several message boards, don’t read a post that starts off with, “I got bad news today.” Don’t even allow yourself to read the details.
• Most recurrences occur within the first one to two years, so if you’re past that time frame, relax. If you’re within 1-2 year time frame, your medical team is there to help you knock a recurrence back – you’ve done it once, you can do it again.
• Eat healthy and pamper yourself with a warm bubble bath or relaxing shower.
• Ask your doctor for some anti-anxiety medicine, if your anxiety is debilitating.
• Remember that every person’s cancer is different. Even if an acquaintance has a recurrence, we don’t know the complete details of their diagnosis. They may have other health problems, genetic mutations, have been allergic to the recommended chemotherapy or delayed treatment. If we’ve followed our doctor’s recommendations to avoid recurrence, that is all that we can do.
• Yoga really helps relieve this intense anxiety. There are lots of classes just for cancer patients.
• Fill your days with things you enjoy doing – photography at the lake, watercolors, cooking a special cake – and last but not least, walk…walk…walk.
LAST BUT LEAST … I resorted to cleaning the grout in the master bathroom once when my Scanxiety overwhelmed me. It worked, and we sure did enjoy those gleaming tile floors.

DON’T WORRY – BE HAPPY!

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