The holidays are a wonderful but stressful time for all, but dealing with a cancer diagnosis and/or treatment during the holiday season is an emotional roller coaster ride. I know how difficult it is to be diagnosed and facing many unknowns during the holidays. I was diagnosed in late October and had two surgeries just prior to Thanksgiving. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas I was receiving pathology reports, making plans for port placement and chemotherapy to start right after the New Year. Thinking back, the time seemed surreal. I felt like two “people:” one feeling the peace and joy of the season, the other terrified with what was to come. All you can do, is the best you can do. Sounds simple, but harder to actually put into action. The ebb and flow of emotions will feel like a roller coaster ride. Feel the joy when you can surrounded by family and/or friends, be thankful for what blessings you do have, and allow yourself to feel the grief for what you are experiencing when you feel the need. Conserve your energy, particularly if you are in treatment. Try to balance your life with “mini-vacations” of personal quiet time, meditation, prayer, or deep relaxation. Announce to your family that you are taking a ten minute “time-out.” Close your door and listen to soothing music. Try not to ruminate or make lists in your head of what needs to be done. This is a time just to “be,” not to be doing. Blessings and Peace to you all during this Holiday Season.
When I first started this blog it was my goal to explain post traumatic stress and its symptoms. I wanted to help survivors understand that the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are a normal response to trauma, such as a life-threatening illness. I also wanted survivors and their family members to understand that we don’t have to clinically have the disorder to experience what is called subsyndromal symptoms (symptoms that don’t meet the criteria to be an actual clinical disorder; in other words they don’t significantly affect our daily functioning to the point where we are not able to function). But, as I stated in an earlier post that doesn’t mean that the symptoms that we are experiencing are not uncomfortable and potentially harmful to the healing of our body, mind, and spirit. For a full description of the symptom criteria please see the related posting: The Journey/Knowledge.
Now I want to introduce a new visualization to help in letting go of some symptoms/negative emotions that we experience with a life threatening illness. I have adapted a visualization from Five Weeks to Healing Stress by Valerie O’Hara, Ph. D.
As always with a meditation and/or visualization find a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed and begin by focusing on your breath. Just gentle inhalations and exhalations like wave after wave of the ocean washing through you. I also like to add some type of aromatherapy (essential oil, incense stick or cone, or a stress reducing candle). After a while, just smelling a certain aroma that you use during meditation can trigger your relaxation to begin. When you feel centered (focused on yourself, truly being in the moment, and a sense of relaxation setting in), focus your attention at your heart. During your inhalation visualize a heart balloon bound by a colorful string. On that balloon visualize a negative emotion or thought that you want to release. For example, on the first balloon visualize “fear” written across it and as you cut the cord, mentally say the words “letting go” on your exhalation. Watch the balloon float skyward and your heart grow and expand as the balloon frees itself and floats away. Let each cut of a string represent a letting go of a binding negative emotion: a sense of helplessness, anger, hypervigilance, depression, denial; whatever you feel is keeping you from letting go and finding your power for peace and comfort in your life. When you begin to feel more at peace with yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally, let your peace expand by repeating “expanding peace” with each breath. Say “expanding” as you inhale and “peace” as you exhale. Visualize yourself as a wave of peace. Let the barriers of fear and stress be released and come into your core of inner silence and tranquility. The whole visualization/meditation can take ten minutes. After a minute or so, mentally say the word “accepting” as you exhale. Visualize yourself accepting what was, what is, and what you can be by “letting go” of all the negative emotions that bind the heart, mind, and the spirit.