The Fork In The Fight: Recipes For Calm And Creativity

Andrea and Grace have a lovely history together.  Go here to learn more about them, and to read the first three posts in their first segment of The Fork In The Fight series.  Look forward to reading Part 2: Navy Bean Root Vegetable Stew and Part 3: Introduction to Ayurveda later this week!

The Fork in the Fight: recipes for restoring our souls and thriving in the face of cancer

Part 1: Recipes for Calm & Creativity

This is the first post in the second segment of the Fork In The Fight series.  In this three-part segment, we will be sharing a recipe for the soul in finding retreat in creativity, a recipe for the body with a delicious navy bean stew, and a recipe for the mind as Andrea introduces the world of Ayurveda. Stay tuned!


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Andrea’s California retreat.

 

Solitude & Retreating – Andrea

Over the past month, emerging from the wilderness of ocean waves in Big Sur for a retreat with Scott Blossom, and hours in front of books, family or movie classics, I’ve found that turning inward, away from the social engagements beginning to brew, has been a very sound choice. Even with my partner and husband away for one month on his own sabbatical of sorts, with solitude and quiet setting in around the clock, longing for even more has not been uncommon for me. I have canceled a few appointments, and gotten to bed early. A few nights I have also stayed up late watching a new favorite television indulgence, sipping wine and writing. These, too, have been a practice of healing. There are many ways to wander inward. Cooking, Meditation, like the practice we shared in Breathing Into Self-Awareness And Ease, Yoga, and writing are my top four. What are yours? Not sure, but want to try something creative and different? We encourage you this month to fight for some YOU time. Take a stab at something creative. Find stillness in the gentle movements of your hand while painting, drawing, or writing.

Stillness & Creativity – Grace

Boy, do we all know that life can be messy and unexpected, and sometimes just completely overwhelming! There can be moments when it all seems too much or we lose sight of reality. It has taken mistakes (loads) and time (a lot) to teach myself to breathe, to be gentle, to seek happiness in all moments, and most importantly, to act positively and decisively when I feel stress creeping in. I learned much of this along my cancer journey, but I continue to turn to use these newfound superpowers everyday and you can easily master them, too. The most helpful of them all has been meditation (followed closely by x-ray vision).

I am a creative person and a voracious reader. During treatment I didn’t always have the energy to think creatively or concentrate on reading but I still yearned for those outlets. This is how I stumbled upon “doodle meditation.”

After finding an interesting audiobook or podcast, I’d grab a pen and paper. As I sat listening to these stories, I would begin to doodle. I never had anything in particular planned, but I always started with a single point and drew outwards from it, balancing a squiggle here, with a squiggle there. I made a point not to concentrate on my drawing, but rather to let my hand and mind doodle freely as I listened. I would feel more relaxed after even a few minutes of this, and my buzzing and whirring anxieties would be calmed.

Whenever I find myself stressed or too caught in a moment, I start up doodle meditation. It’s the easiest thing in the world and absolutely everyone can do it.

How to Doodle-tate:

  1. Find a great audiobook, podcast, or music. If you are looking for a book that can’t help but make you excited to be alive, try “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall.
  2. Next, take out a piece of paper and pen. I like to use felt tip pens but any pen and paper will do.
  3. Starting with a single point, draw a shape in the middle. Any shape!
  4. From there, draw what comes naturally. An arrow pointing left or a small spiral twisting right? Or three polka dots under a zigzag?
  5. Perhaps most important to this whole process, don’t stop to think about what your doodle looks like or what should come next. Practice freeing up your mind and just letting the pen move.
  6. Keep doodling for as long as you like!

Doodle meditations are a simple and fun way to take a break and I hope that you find joy in them! If it seems too unstructured to start with, I recently came across Zentangle and would absolutely recommend them. While my doodles weave randomly, Zentangles are “artistic meditation” that use patterning beautifully. On LacunaLoft, Mallory recently posted about coloring for stress and shared a gorgeous free coloring and creativity guide, too!

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Andrea tried the doodle-tate exercise and loved it. Isn’t her drawing whimsical?

We would LOVE to see what you create so if you try doodle meditation and want to share your creations, please comment and we will reach out to you. We may even feature your doodles in our next series!

With love and gratitude,

Andrea and Grace

 

Put A Fork In It! Send us your comments, suggestions and food-fighting ways to support a healing life.

Emotions of YA Cancer Survivors, Part II: Anger

cancer survivor anger

(This post is the second of a series addressing emotions faced by young cancer survivors and how to cope with them.  See Part I: Guilt here.)

For the cancer patient or caregiver, anger can stem from many places. In my own experience, the anger started right away with the two words I’m sure we’re all familiar with: “why me?” Had I done something to deserve this? When a friend of mine sent me a cancer-related article that I disagreed with, my rage became more evident as I let the annoyance show itself to the people I most cared about – my family and closest friends. Unfortunately, these people were on the receiving end of some rants that I still cringe over when I think back.

Even if you never experience the “why me” questions, you may feel mad regarding the difficult side effects to your health and your life. Many of us experience fatigue, nausea, and pain – and sometimes it’s hard to know when it will stop. We spend time devoting ourselves to the anger and resentment rather than focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel.

Many resources I came across as a cancer survivor all had one thing in common: let yourself feel the anger rather than ignore it. Acknowledge that you’re mad about cancer – about how it’s changed your health, your fertility, your appearance, your life – and find healthy ways to express it. Debbie Woodbury, the founder of Where We Go Now, said: “I remember being really angry at the people who wanted to move on and forget about my cancer before I was ready to do the same. I felt alone, abandoned and unheard. As my anger increased, it got too big to share with those same people.” I remember feeling this way. Maybe some of you have too.

Meditation was a great outlet for me to focus on the present and find peace in all of the chaos and irritation I felt over cancer and its treatment. Aside from that, here are some other great suggestions from Cancer.net and the Mayo Clinic:

  • Discuss your anger with a trusted family member or friend
  • Do a physical activity while feeling your anger at its full intensity
  • Beat on a pillow/soft object or yell out loud in a car or private room
  • Explore complementary therapies, such as massage, relaxation techniques, or music or art therapy
  • Take the powerful energy of anger and direct it to something positive, active and creative – writing, exercising, painting, knitting, etc.

Regardless of where you are in your cancer journey or your journey with cancer survivor anger, if you have felt anger then please know you are not alone! I hope the above suggestions begin to help you in coping with your emotions – please feel free to share in the comments if you have any great ideas for how we can all best cope with our cancer anger.

image via

Psychological Impact Of Cancer In Young Adults & An Online Survey

Today we have a guest post from Liane Kandler.  She is a clinical psychology doctoral student in Ontario, Canada.  You can read more about her background here.

I am not a cancer patient or survivor. I am a healthcare professional and a doctoral student in clinical psychology. I research the impact of cancer, specifically the impact of cancer in young adults. I am also an advocate, friend, and family member to patients and survivors. Understanding and improving the impact of cancer on patients is both a professional and a personal goal.

I learned a lot in the 8+ years that I have been in this field. I learned that cancer, at any age, is hard. It can be frustrating, distressing, stressful, and worrisome. There are good days. There are bad days. Some acquaintances may become great friends. Some great friends may become acquaintances. There may be financial stress. You may find you have an incredible support system, or a support system that needs help. You may grow from the experience. You may not feel like you gained anything. Cancer may impact you differently than it impacts others, but it will have an impact.

Broadly speaking, studying this impact is what we do in the field of psychosocial oncology. Psychosocial oncology is:
“a specialty in cancer care concerned with understanding and treating the social, psychological, emotional, spiritual, quality-of-life and functional aspects of cancer, from prevention through bereavement. It is a whole-person approach to cancer care that addresses a range of very human needs that can improve quality of life for people affected by cancer” (Canadian Association of Psychosocial Oncology).

Psychosocial care is critically important for all patients, with organizations forming worldwide to research, understand, and meet this need. The International Psycho-Oncology Society is celebrating its 30-year anniversary, and has the mandate of integrating psycho-oncology into day-to-day, mainstream cancer care for all patients. The American Psychosocial Oncology Society is similarly dedicated to advancing psychosocial care for all people affected by cancer.

These organizations, and other similar ones around the world, emphasize the importance of psychosocial support. Cancer is a life-changing illness – it literally impacts all areas of life. That means when it comes to seeking help, you may also need, or want, help in the different areas of your life affected. This might mean social support, psychological help, perhaps financial counseling, or more. That’s why social workers, psychologists, nutritionists, and sometimes even quit smoking programs are often now available for patients, to help them throughout their cancer journey and into survivorship.

For young adults, one of the most often requested services is to connect with other young adults cancer patients and survivors –to connect with someone who understands the experience, because they too had to go through it. Thanks to this, patient and survivor created resources have exploded in the last decade: blogs, websites, novel treatments and therapies, support events, retreats, and more. These are all incredible resources, but this is a new field and we still have a long way to go to ensure that all young adult cancer patients and survivors have access to appropriate psychosocial care.

Consistent with this, my research project is trying to help map the psychological impact of cancer in young adults. I designed an online survey that asks for information about cancer history, the key issues facing young adult cancer patients and survivors, positive or negative life changes that have occurred since diagnosis, quality of life, distress, social support, life satisfaction, physical activity level, stress, and more. Although there are research studies out there that already ask many of these questions, they don’t do so together. This is really important, as we need a greater understanding of how all of these factors relate to one another. In the end, we are hoping to develop a clearer understanding of the issues faced by young adult patients and survivors, as well as how resources and tools can be better tailored to meet specialized psychosocial care needs.

If you were diagnosed with cancer between the ages of 13 and 39, and are now over the age of 18, then you are eligible to participate in this research by completing the online survey. To say thank you, participants will be entered into a random prize draw for a personalized iPod nano, a Kindle e-reader, or a $100 VISA gift card.

As I mentioned earlier, I have learned a lot in the 8+ years that I have been in this field. However, I also know that I have a great deal left to learn. I am thankful for every survey response, every blog I read, and comment I receive. I am hopeful that research and progress in the young adult psychosocial oncology field will mean that no young adult ever has to feel alone.

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions, or feedback, or you would like some help getting in touch with young adult resources, feel free to get in touch by email (aya.oncology@gmail.com), Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for considering this research – please share!

Improving Emotional Support In Cancer Care

A piece that I wrote for I Had Cancer’s blog recently is about improving emotional support in cancer care, both for the patients and the caregivers.  It tells a little bit about when I’ve seen emotional care emerge naturally and where I have seen it to be lacking.  Emotional Care is so vital to cancer care and to cancer cures.  I don’t have any answers right now for how to fix this…but I know that we all need to do it together.

Here is an excerpt:

What can we ask of our patients and survivors, to try and illicit real responses? What can we ask to let people know that if they are having a hard time, that this is normal, and that there are people out there who can help? How can we let them know that admitting a need for support is a very brave and courageous way to handle their diagnosis?

You can read the rest of the post here!