PROACTIVE NOT PASSIVE

Envelope yourself in the "Positive P's"

THESE ARE THE POSITIVE P'S

Envelop yourself in the Positive P’s!

 

So, after four years of surviving and thriving after thyroid and breast cancer diagnoses, my annual MRI showed something worrisome in my lungs. The radiologist wrote, “Consistent with metastasis.” Then the pulmonologist I saw agreed that it would turn out to be metastatic breast cancer. There was a mass involved too, and I knew that might mean it was pretty advanced. It took three long weeks before we finally got the miraculous news that it was NOT cancer, but for over three weeks, I lived as though it was the death sentence everyone fears. Here is what I did, and it helped me immensely. I now see that difficult month as a gift. It taught me the incredible power of being proactive and to make the most of every day.  

 

  • Live in THIS moment, not the future one you fear
  • Live in reality. You are alive right now. Celebrate that.

Pause, notice, and PraiseYou are here. Be grateful for every good thing.

See, smell, listen, appreciate.

Panoramic view– the gift of a difficult diagnosis. You will now have great insight and wisdom you can cherish.

Positive plansEven if you have a terminal diagnosis, you can create positive things. Get out your ideas to help the world, buy baby blankets for the grandchildren or great-grandchildren you might not get to meet, etc.

Put good into the world. GIVE.  Try to do something good each day to help or lift someone else. Give compliments. Buy the person behind you a coffee, etc.

Pare. If you need to live a smaller life to cope right now, that is ok.   

Proactive health. I think this is so key for your health and your sanity. What anti-disease foods can you eat/drink? Get your body moving to fight disease and lift your spirits. I love Dr. Michael Greger’s nutritionfacts.org and his podcasts for learning about the foods to eat or avoid to help fight specific diseases. Same for Food Revolution Network. For cancer, I personally followed Chris Beat Cancer’s anti-disease  eating protocol. Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Cancer film and books also provide great programs into which you can just insert yourself. Other favorite anti-disease films of mine are Forks Over Knives and Hungry For Change. 

Check with your doctor about anything you do. Most knowledgeable doctors will be thrilled to see you significantly increase your veggies and decrease your meat, dairy, and processed foods. Keep in mind that most doctors have little education in nutrition. It isn’t their fault; it is just that medical schools don’t teach this. And get moving, too. Go for a walk while you listen to an inspiring book. Nurture your spiritual side in a way that makes sense to you.  Proactive health is vital!

Prepared not paralyzed. Gather those tips. You will take on treatment and what’s to come in the best way possible!

Play. Picnic in your backyard, dance in your kitchen, swing on a swing.

Poet. You have so many thoughts right now; get them out of your head and onto paper or your laptop. Ideas for your family. Wisdom about life. Whatever it is, just write.

Pamper yourself and your partner. Fill that bathtub with bubbles, light candles, and pull your partner in with you. They are suffering too.

Pause. There is much evidence that meditation or breathing exercises decrease our stress and help fight disease. Try the Calm app or Wm Hof’s powerful breathing Youtube videos,  which significantly reduced my anxiety. Wm Hof recommends taking a cold shower after, though I didn’t try that.  I also suggest using coping methods from Dr. Kristen Race, child psychologist, and creator of the Mindful Life methods.

Pray. One of the best things I heard in the videos I watched was “Give it (the worry, the fear) to G-d.” This suggestion was magical for me. I spent an hour in a PET scan and kept saying to myself, “I am giving this to you, G-d.” It took such a weight off.  

Peaceful sounds. When you feel anxiety rushing, try putting on soothing meditation music or nature sounds. One particularly anxious night, I purposely slept with the sound of a rainstorm on the Calm app on my phone. It made me focus on the raindrops instead of on my fear.

Be proud of yourself and how you handled this time.

CALM YOUR ANXIETY WITH THESE PROACTIVE COPING METHODS:

This comes from Dr. Kristen Race, child psychologist, and creator of the Mindful Life method:

Relaxation Breath: 

  • Inhale to the count of 4 and exhale to the count of 6 to counter the effect of anxiety.

Splash cold water on your face.

  • Cold water on your face activates your vagus nerve, slowing down your breathing and heart rate.
  • The chill switches you from your sympathetic (fight or flight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system. That helps stop your anxiety.

Do the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise:

  • Wherever you are, identify five things you see at the moment. Such as “Number 1, Tree. Number 2, Car. Number 3, window. Number 4, computer screen. Number 5, big marker.”
  • Then identify four things you can touch. Then identify three sounds you hear at the moment. Then two things you smell. Then one thing you can taste. When examining things in your direct experience, you are stimulating your pre-frontal cortex and calming that fight or flight response. 

BBQ method:
This comes from the mindfulness.com app – a short new teaching or practice every morning.

  • The first B stands for Take a deep Breath to calm your nervous system.   
  • Second B is Body posture. Switch to a confident body posture of putting your shoulders back and your back straight. This more open posture tricks our brain into thinking, “I’ve got this.” 
  • Q stands for Question. Instead of saying, “why me?” ask a more empowering question like “How can I grow from this?” “How can I learn from this situation?” This gets us out of stress and survival mode and into a more curious state. Ask, “Is there some good that can come out of this situation?” 

 

Exercise: It is known to help heal us.

  • Take a walk outside, bonus if under the trees.  Do this with someone you like or alone with headphones, listening to an inspiring podcast or book.
  • Stretch in front of a window as the sun comes up.   
  • Do what I call 10@10:
    • 10 minutes of exercise on a 10a break works for me.  
    • 30 seconds jumping jacks, 30 seconds fake jump rope, 30 seconds shoulder rotations forward, 30 sec backward, 30 more seconds jumping jacks, 30 more seconds fake jump rope, 10 pushups, 20 leg lifts on your back, 10 bicep curls, 10 tricep curls.  
    • Thanks BYLR/BACC coach Matt Candel!
  • Want to watch tv or stare at Instagram?  Tell yourself you have to be on a treadmill or doing floor or chair pilates to do it. Make it a treat to be enjoyed with movement.   
  • Turn on your favorite perky music and dance in your living room to a few songs.
Upon the shock and panic of my recent breast cancer diagnosis, I reached out almost immediately to my dear and longtime friend, Bev. She had undergone cancer herself a few years prior, yes. But…, almost more importantly, she was the most thorough researcher I knew on the planet. If anyone knew how or where to start in the daunting and overwhelming new language we quickly learn with cancer, I knew it would be Bev. Her words and advice were strong and calm. Bev’s strategy helped me to quickly get organized and get going making decisions that seemed impossible. Two years later, I am cancer free and try my best to offer the same strength and wisdom to others in need. Thank you, my friend, Bev!
Elizabeth Glenn Higgins
Cancer Survivor