Structure and distraction

From guest blogger Jane Bissell

In the days immediately following a diagnosis of breast cancer, we know some, but not all, the information about our cancer.

And there’s nothing worse than ‘not knowing’.

If the information we have is incomplete, sketchy, or not available yet, then we cannot make proper decisions, and feel a lack of control. This increases stress, anxiety, and makes for sleepless nights. And it’s not (we hope!) because someone has neglected to tell us – it’s because the medical team just don’t have all the answers yet. ‘We’ll know more after surgery,’ they say – and that’s absolutely right, because after surgery, they will have more information about the cancer, and can recommend appropriate follow up treatments, if needed.

But that period of time between diagnosis and surgery can be one of the toughest to get through. It’s hard enough, waiting for action to be taken, for something to be done, but the wait for information, to know what’s going on, can take a heavy toll on the nerves.

When I was going through chemotherapy, I had some sessions with a counselor to help me manage this difficult time. I remember one piece of advice which worked well for me.

Structure and distraction.

Placing some structure into the day, continuing normal routines like going to work, taking the kids to school, exercising as usual, can give a framework and focus to the hours. Adding in distraction – going to a movie, out with friends for coffee, reading a good book, driving to a windswept and beautiful beach for a walk or swim – can make the days pass, while we wait.

I’m the first to admit that it sounds far easier than it is to actually do. It takes some discipline to keep our minds focused on the day’s routines but having them there in the first place makes it easier.

The distraction bits give our emotions a wee break from the seemingly relentless one-track worry of not knowing and waiting for something to happen.

Jane Bissell is a writer and life writing workshop facilitator living in Auckland.
Visit her website to find out more.


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