The news of Olivia Newton-Johns death at the age of 73, from Breast Cancer is already world news, in the last hour. In the United States, over 200,000 women and approximately 3,000 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year.
Because of the severity and urgent demands that this diagnosis can create, often the psychological support is swept under the carpet with little more than a support group. While there might be some, there are hardly any comprehensive plans available to support the psychological needs of patients.
Newton-John was originally diagnosed in 1992. She served as an inspiration, always was seen with a smile and positive outlook for the public.
"Cancer got me over unimportant fears, such as growing old" she is quoted as saying.
Emotional Health and Breast Cancer Survival
The link between emotional and physical health, is documented, and studies by the American Psychological Association have shown that mortality rates are 26 times higher in patients with depressive symptoms and for those that are diagnosed with major depression, that number changes to 39 times higher.
Those who are diagnosed will obviously often suffer from anxiety and situational depression, and some will suffer from body image struggles as well.
There are also challenges such as early menopause, lower libido, lack of ability to enjoy activities such as socializing and family activities, because of fatigue and side-effects of both the cancer and the treatments.
There are surgeries, body-altering procedures and of course, there are financial struggles.
When a celebrity passes away, it creates a ripple effect of social-activism and awareness.
This is and will be the case for breast cancer, because of Olivia Newton-John's passing.
How can you improve chances of survival of breast cancer, or even prevention?
While Zen Buddhism itself is not a treatment nor cure, many physicians and hospitals support the use of Zen as a resource for patients as well as the caregivers -family and medical.
Mindfulness and meditation have been proven to support the emotional and physical healing of many struggles and challenges, breast cancer inclusive.
As Newton-John mentioned, she was faced with the realization that some fears were unimportant. Zen Buddhism, a secular non-deity study, offers spectacular strategies to help those who wish, to get into the moment, to prioritize and be present in the here and now.
Meditation offers a person insight, self-awareness, sets a foundation to help to boost the immune system, and creates a sense of peace; namely inner peace.
Meditation is not passive nor is it something to fear; you don't have to be a guru to enjoy the benefits.
Meditation itself involved mindfulness, but mindfulness unto its own, is not meditation; to be mindful is to be are of the present moment and in gratitude of the details of life. It allows us to see how everything is fluid.
How does meditation help with breast cancer?
Meditation helps us to observe our thoughts and to learn to let them flow like a river by us, with those that are more productive for us like rafts that we can hold onto.
Breast cancer brings a slew of thoughts and so meditation can help to organize them and to see them for what they are- just thoughts.
Mindfulness helps us to stay present.
Does meditation or mindfulness change the outcome? Yes and No.
A UCLA study showed that meditation helped breast cancer patients short and long-term. In fact, their research showed that the benefits of meditation lasted six months and longer, for those who practiced mindfulness and meditation for only six six weeks. Some of those benefits included reduced stress, reduced mood disturbance and reduced fatigue. When we have less stress, more balanced moods and more energy, our immune systems often are stronger.
Will a Zen approach promise healing? No, but nothing can make that promise 100%. What is will do is help you to manage whatever comes your way, with more ease, and offer you increased resources, resilience, strength and tools.
Meditations for Breast Cancer
Here are a three quick ideas that you can do right now, to help you to bring mindfulness and meditation into your life to ease the struggle with breast cancer.
- 1Body Scan- Focus on parts of the body, noticing stress, pain and also, ease. As you become more comfortable, pay more attention to the areas that feel ease.
- 2Yoga- Using yoga to bring awareness to the body strength and to release tension is a wonderful way to incorporate a moving meditation. Yoga can be any stretching or you can enjoy a class.
- 3Practice Curiosity- focusing on a curious outlook helps to learn rather than fear; and helps to bring a stance of self-love and self-kindness to experiences.
- 4Tapping- Tapping is a gentle form of self-care that is used in trauma recovery and stress reduction. I created a video (below) that you can follow. Tapping draws on the ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture, which teaches that the body's energy travels along specific pathways. Certain points on these pathways are stimulated to improve the flow of energy. The stimulation is done by inserting very thin needles (acupuncture) or by applying pressure ( acupressure). *(webmd)
Also, below the video, on this page, I invite you to sign up for free weekly zen, activities and journal prompts.
If you are interested in my free course, Happy Again click HERE. If you'd like free weekly Zen, fill out the form below.