As we navigate through the complexities of living with cancer, whether as patients or caregivers, it’s essential to recognize the toll it can take on our mental and emotional well-being. Stress, often an unwelcome companion on this journey, can manifest in various ways, affecting every aspect of our lives. However, amidst the challenges, a profound resilience exists within the cancer community.

In honor of Stress Awareness Month, we’ve gathered insights from our dedicated peer mentor volunteers, sharing their wisdom on coping with stress while facing the realities of cancer. Their words offer not just solace but also inspiration, reminding us that hope and strength can flourish even in the face of adversity.

Advice for Managing Stress:

Caroline – ovarian cancer survivor: “Do something you love. It keeps your mind in a happy place. If you have trouble figuring it out, think about what made you happy when you were younger. Painting, learn a new instrument, writing in a journal, a new exercise routine or walking in nature can change your mindset. Have tea /coffee with a friend who still treats you like they did before you were diagnosed.  Joining a support group to meet other survivors is also helpful.”

Pat – caregiver mentor: “Find a place that allows you to sign off and enjoy the silence and the view. Agree with yourself that you should treat yourself to something you think is an indulgence. When time is limited step away and try some slow deep breathing. It’s a great pick-me -up. Call a friend and have lunch or a coffee break.”

Janet – breast cancer survivor: “When you are having a rough day, be KIND to yourself. It’s OK to cuddle in a favorite blanket for a day but then a walk outdoors every day works wonders!”

Susan – ovarian cancer survivor: “My hematologist/oncologist gave me some very wise advice early on: stress cannot help you, and it can hurt you. Some things are beyond our control, and we should leave those things in our Doctors’ hands and believe they will work. I appreciate the positive mindset that if someone else can make it through late-stage ovarian cancer, then I see no reason why I can’t! Once you settle into a course of action, believe it will work! I cannot stress enough the importance of exercise during illness and during treatment and recovery!  I think we should keep moving, doing all the things we would normally do that are not forbidden by our doctors, and that we feel up to doing. Spoil yourself a little during treatment, particularly if you find things don’t taste the same as usual. Unless your doctor tells you, otherwise, treat yourself to some things that you really love! I had a near death experience, and it’s one of the most beautiful things that has ever happened to me!  It was so peaceful and blissful that I am no longer fearful of death.”

Tim – testicular & head and neck cancer survivor: “Make sure to take time for yourself.  I would suggest to anyone, whether they are going through cancer or not, to establish some form of regular exercise routine.  It’s amazing what even a simple walk can do for your mindset. Most importantly, rely on your faith, family and friends.”

Dee – ovarian cancer survivor: “Reduce your stress if possible by moving. Take breaks for sitting down and working on the computer. Stretch your legs and take a walk. And on the way stop to look closely – at a bird, tree, flower even a crack in the sidewalk.”

Asking for help if you are overwhelmed:

JoEllen – Sarcoma survivor: “I like to encourage people to take advantage of friends and relatives that offer assistance, whether it be with rides, help with childcare, food, or a listening ear.  Friends and family often times feel helpless, but truly want to do SOMETHING. Let them help.”

Chuck – Leukemia survivor: “To embrace family and those that care about us. Feeling what they feel can help distract us from our own distress. In addition, listening to others, in our position, and realizing we are not alone, also helps some. Using our experiences to ease another person, goes a long way extremely.”

If you are worried or stressed about a change in your health, get screened:

Donald – GIST survivor: “(1) If you have a concern, see your doctor. (2) Consider an annual screening appropriate to your situation, people with a history should pursue screening with their oncologist. (3) Talk with people who are familiar with your particular type of cancer.”

Tim – testicular cancer survivor: “The obvious things are healthy lifestyle (eating healthier, exercise), but I would just say to “listen” to your body.  If something seems off or not quite right, go get checked out.  If nothing else, it will give you peace of mind if it is nothing. If it is something, we all know that early detection is key.”

Want to learn more? On April 17th, 2024 at 12 noon (EST), we are honored to have yoga4cancer – the leader in Oncology Yoga – to explore the what, why and how of Oncology Yoga, which can offer many benefits, including stress relief. The webinar is free and designed to provide action-based steps for all participants. Click here to register for the webinar!