mindfulness for cancer

Mindfulness for Cancer

It's been two years since I started running Mindfulness courses for Cancer patients and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. It has led to more and more demand from local organisations, asking for Mindfulness to help support people living with Cancer. 

A previous course participant sent me this beautiful message last week, I think it says it all.

"I joined your mindfulness course earlier this year. I didn’t realise just how helpful it would be. I had my op.for breast cancer in April and feel a bit sore and bruised but ok .I listened to your tape while meditating and found a new kind of calmness and peace.I use your tape most days, and can’t thank you enough for the inner strength it gives me ,a feeling of being in control in relaxed way without judgment. Thank you so much, you really helped more than I can say" Betty Cancer Patient

Last week Nightingale Cancer Support Center had a two page article about the work we do to help people living with Cancer. It is clear that people are finding Mindfulness extremely helpful, once again this is some feedback from a previous course participant.


What is Mindfulness for Cancer?

Being diagnosed with Cancer is a traumatic experience, it is a life-changing experience and of course a very scary one. Most people will not be prepared for hearing the news that they have Cancer, it's always going to happen to someone else, not me! Until it does, then the reality can be extremely difficult to accept

Often Cancer patients will seem very strong and optimistic whilst going through therapy. This is because they go into classic "fight" mode, our natural reaction when we are under threat and
Cancer causes real fear. They may also struggle to accept it's even happening to them, having a sense of detachment to the whole experience. It's easier to not think about it, let the doctors do their job and it will be fine. That's not to say they never feel panic or anger, there are a whole host of emotions that come with the "you have Cancer" diagnosis. 

And whilst we are making progress in treating the physical side of Cancer and people are surviving where in the past they may not have, it's the emotional and mental side effects that can be the most difficult to deal with and longer lasting, even when you are given the all clear. 

While you are going through Cancer, everyone is giving you attention, you are getting support and people are around you. However for the Cancer survivor, it's never really over, sometimes it's the after effects that start the real struggle. 

What we cover on the Mindfulness Courses

We run four, six and eight-week courses. These courses are loosely based on the Mindfulness-Based Living Course (MBLC), with the exception of the eight-week course which is the full MBLC. We also use some of the teaching points from the Mindfulness for Cancer course developed by Trish Bartley at Oxford University. 

One of the fundamental elements of what we teach is kindness to self, compassion, and self-acceptance. Very often Cancer patients can feel self-judgment and self-critical thoughts. And cultivating a kinder attitude to self can at first be very challenging but once there is a breakthrough, things really start to change. What we are looking for is a sense of self acceptance and a more peaceful way of living with Cancer, one that is not full of anxiety, stress and panic. 

Telling a Cancer patient to be positive or to fight is not helpful - it can have exactly the opposite effect.

We spend a lot of time working through the different emotional states and thinking patterns, using formal and informal Mindfulness practices. By formal I mean guided meditations to help develop a sense of calm, informal meaning shorter meditations and focused daily activities. 

What I have noticed is that after a couple of sessions, people start to see that their mind can be settled and it can be a little less noisy. Many of our participants have experienced a real change in their view of life, how they are living it and begin to find a better way to live with Cancer. They stop trying to go back to who they were before the big "C" and start to accept the new person they have become.

If you want to find out more about our Mindfulness for Cancer courses please get in touch.

Taking Care of You

It's been a busy start to the year. I've been running Mindfulness courses non-stop, mainly Mindfulness for Cancer. I am privileged to work with such amazing, beautiful people. I am humbled by the strength and courage of all the participants on my courses.

I try to give my all and make every effort to be totally present in my sessions. I share my own experiences, I show my vulnerability because I want everyone to see that I am just human, that I am no different than them. It is important to me that each participant feels we are all connected and that we all struggle at times. None of us is immune to difficulty, challenge and suffering in life, it is all part of being human. 

I have noticed that I can sometimes feel totally drained after one of my group sessions. It's not a physical tiredness, it's much more about being emotionally exhausted. 

Sometimes the answer is to give up the fight Surrender to itLet it beDon't control itDon't fight itIt will pass if you leave it alone.png

Caring for Yourself

When we care for others, we can forget to care for ourselves. And we can think that taking care of ourselves as selfish and certainly not a priority. However, if we don't take care of ourselves then we are less able to care for our loved ones, we are less able to do our work and help others.

This week I've struggled, even had to fight with many of my own emotions. And I've sat in silent contemplative meditation, reflecting on particular questions, to see what might come to the surface. 

What is the point of fighting, what's the point of pushing yourself to keep going when the mind and the body are both saying "time out"? There is no point, we have to stop, we must listen and give up the struggle. We should listen to the signals our body is giving us. 

Sometimes we need to take care of ourselves first, sometimes we have to place ourselves in the centre of our own life. If we don't, then we are no good to anyone, especially to those we are trying to help.

“Radical Acceptance is the willingness to experience ourselves and our lives as it is.” - Tara Brach

No Guilt

So I gave up tonight, I have been totally unproductive and there's no guilt. What is the point of taking time out and then feeling guilty? If we decide to let things go, to stop the struggle and give ourselves what we need, then we need to drop the guilt too.

This is the point I guess, sometimes we just have to give ourselves permission to do nothing, to stop doing and just "be" for a while. Give ourselves permission to stop trying to avoid the need to slow down, to let whatever needs to pass, to just pass. 

We are not used to being, we are taught to be productive, to keep "doing" and if we are not careful we burn out. 

If we learn to listen to the mind and body, then we can learn to take care of ourselves before it becomes too much. Pay attention to the signs, learn to give yourself what you need and remember you are worth it!