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.