Topic: Anxiety

Forum: Not Diagnosed But Worried — For those who are experiencing symptoms or received concerning test results, but haven't been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Posted on: May 25, 2017 01:31PM

Posted on: May 25, 2017 01:31PM

MTwoman wrote:

Hi, I've been NED for 14 years and have been a therapist for 17 years, so I have a lot of varied experience dealing with anxiety. Anxiety is just awful and can not only be debilitating, but can keep us from being able to take in and process information just when we need to be at our best. Too little stress can leave us bored, but too much stress/anxiety can leave us with panic, unusual amounts of anger and/or the inability to "perform" at our best. In the "not diagnosed but worried" category, anxiety can mean that we aren't able to hear our medical providers when they give us good news, or we aren't able to rationally discern what information is good and credible scientific evidence and what information is unscientific and only inflames our anxiety. It may impair our ability to listen, remember, read and comprehend our personal risks, our treatment options and our ability to calm ourselves, even if we have been found to have no evidence of disease.

Image result for anxiety curve

So how do you know if you are too anxious? Look at the stress curve above. Do you feel fatigued or exhausted? Are you sleeping well? Can you turn your mind to something else when you need to focus on another task? Or is your anxiety all you can think about. Are you eating properly? Or have you lost your appetite. Are you able to engage in activities that reduce your feeling of anxiety/stress? If you are able to concentrate on something else for periods of time, and utilize good coping skills to reduce your feelings of stress, then you'd fall in the optimal performance stage. If your normal patterns of sleep, energy and appetite have been disrupted, then you would fall in the distress stage.

I am going to suggest some strategies for each category, and am hoping that others will chime in with what works for them. What I'd like to see is a thread where anyone who is new to the experience of breast cancer or other breast health issues, has a place to refer to for concrete suggestions for managing their anxiety. There is no judgment here, as we've all experienced anxiety (to some extent) in our own journeys.

Stress occurs when perceived pressure on a person is greater than their ability to sustain resilience. The following skills can be used to improve and maintain your resilience:

  1. Practice distraction: deep clean something; do a home project that you've been wanting to do but haven't gotten around to; binge watch netflix; if you like to cook or bake, make a complicated recipe that takes your full concentration.
  2. Exercise: studies have shown that at little as 20 minutes of walking can bring down your stress response and walking in nature has a more robust response
  3. Regular relaxation: listen to a relaxation cd or use an app, try guided imagery, practice counting your breathe, practice yoga, try mindfulness or meditation, take a hot shower or bath, get a massage
  4. Use good self-care: make sure you are getting good nutrition and good sleep

For those of you who find that the above strategies aren't enough to reduce you anxiety to a tolerable level or for those of you who have pre-existing anxiety issues.

  1. Talk to your primary care provider (or psychiatrist if you have one) about medication options, both long term and short term; for both anxiety and sleep
  2. Think about getting into therapy and learn cognitive behavioral techniques to address your anxiety
  3. Find a group that lets you connect to others who have experienced similar levels of anxiety and who may be able to share ideas about what has been effective for them.

For those who are here who have been diagnosed, there was a study recently released that found a statistically significant improvement in the recurrence anxiety of breast cancer survivors. See a summary here: https://community.breastcancer.org/forum/105/topics/855472?page=1#idx_1

I may review and revise this post at will without defining why, unless saying why is integral to the work. I would like to be able to add links and additional information as I find it.


Dx 12/10/2002, DCIS, Right, 1cm, Stage 0, Grade 2, 0/3 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2- Surgery 12/19/2002 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Sentinel Surgery 12/23/2003 Reconstruction (right): Nipple reconstruction Surgery Reconstruction (right): Saline implant Surgery Reconstruction (right): Tissue expander placement Surgery Mastectomy: Right
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May 25, 2017 02:52PM minustwo wrote:

MTWoman - great post.

2/15/11 BMX-DCIS 2SNB clear-TEs; 9/15/11-410gummies; 3/20/13 recurrance-5.5cm,mets to lymphs, Stage IIIB IDC ER/PRneg,HER2+; TCH/Perjeta/Neulasta x6; ALND 9/24/13 1/18 nodes 4.5cm; AC chemo 10/30/13 x3; herceptin again; Rads Feb2014
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May 25, 2017 02:53PM MTwoman wrote:

thanks! I hope it will keep folks from having to repeat the same things to people who are struggling

Heart

Dx 12/10/2002, DCIS, Right, 1cm, Stage 0, Grade 2, 0/3 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2- Surgery 12/19/2002 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Sentinel Surgery 12/23/2003 Reconstruction (right): Nipple reconstruction Surgery Reconstruction (right): Saline implant Surgery Reconstruction (right): Tissue expander placement Surgery Mastectomy: Right
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May 25, 2017 05:08PM - edited May 25, 2017 05:08PM by sas-schatzi

MTw I agree with MT. Hahahah try and write that fast three times.

MTw thank you, for bringing your solid counseling background and offering assistance. You are a blessing sorely needed here :)


Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out shouting "holy crap....what a ride".
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May 25, 2017 05:45PM melissadallas wrote:

Great post

LCIS, extensive sclerosing adenosis, TAH/BSO & partial omentectomy for mucinous borderline ovarian tumor. Dx 5/20/2012, LCIS, Stage 0, 0/0 nodes
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May 26, 2017 07:59AM MTwoman wrote:

Heart

thanks sas and MelissaDallas. I'm hoping folks will add to the list. In fact, a got a pm from someone reminding me of 2 other important things to help reduce anxiety, so I'm adding:1) being in nature - whether it is a walk, run, hike or just sitting on a park bench. Breathe the clean air and notice your surroundings. Listen to the wind, watch a bird (I've heard from another poster that hummingbirds have magical powers to mesmerize and bring peace to their watchers) or sit by some moving water and just watch. Try to slow your breathing and just be present. The Japanese call this "forest bathing" and studies have shown that it can reduce the physical signs of stress. 2) Animals/pets - spending time with your favorite animals/pets can also reduce the feelings of anxiety. Pet them, brush them, play with them, hug them. They are therapy in fur (or feathers).

I will be out of touch for about 10 days, so peace to you all!

Dx 12/10/2002, DCIS, Right, 1cm, Stage 0, Grade 2, 0/3 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2- Surgery 12/19/2002 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Sentinel Surgery 12/23/2003 Reconstruction (right): Nipple reconstruction Surgery Reconstruction (right): Saline implant Surgery Reconstruction (right): Tissue expander placement Surgery Mastectomy: Right
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May 26, 2017 09:00AM gb2115 wrote:

I have been in therapy for pre-existing anxiety for a couple of years, so I am well versed in the CBT techniques. I was actually feeling normal levels of anxiety (after having weaned from meds) and was about to cut the cord with my therapist when, oh surprise, you have cancer. So I continue going, but it's extremely helpful and I'm thankful I hadn't cut that cord.

What I've found the most helpful, for my anxiety, is what she calls "big picture," though re-framing might be the actual term, not sure. Spanning out in your mind, to look at a problem or event with a more global view, or to see it from another point of view. I also picture events as a big wave...it will crest and feel awful, but I will eventually be on the other side of it. I am also a christian, so we do a lot of "God is in control" point of view. That helps the most, honestly.

I also watch funny movies if I've had a really bad day. Get Smart makes me laugh like silly every time.

Great thread!!!

First Dx IDC in 10/16 at age 38, stage 2A, 1.2 cm ER/PR+ Her2-, Grade 2, 1/3 nodes. Lumpectomy + radiation + tamoxifen. Second Dx IDC recurrence in original location 5/21. 1.3 cm ER/PR+, Her2 -. Grade 2. 2/2 nodes. UMX + AC/T + Zoladex/Exemestane + Zometa.
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May 26, 2017 09:47AM MTwoman wrote:

Thanks so much for sharing what has been helpful to you gb2115! Looks like you've worked hard at managing anxiety and have learned some really useful strategies to increase your resilience. Well done!

Dx 12/10/2002, DCIS, Right, 1cm, Stage 0, Grade 2, 0/3 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2- Surgery 12/19/2002 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Sentinel Surgery 12/23/2003 Reconstruction (right): Nipple reconstruction Surgery Reconstruction (right): Saline implant Surgery Reconstruction (right): Tissue expander placement Surgery Mastectomy: Right
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May 26, 2017 11:48AM djmammo wrote:

Read an article this week that surprised me but explains why so many people find gardening relaxing and satisfying. Turns out there is a bacteria (not the kind that makes you sick) in the soil that when inhaled or ingested causes the release of serotonin in the brain that calms anxiety and elevates the mood. It has also been shown in the lab that mice exposed to this bacteria learn mazes faster than those not exposed so it improves learning too.

So go play in the dirt !

Board Certified Diagnostic Radiologist specializing in Breast Imaging. Contact me at DJMammo@gmail.com
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May 26, 2017 01:08PM MTwoman wrote:

Awesome reminder DJMammo! There is actually a thread where we've been discussing this!

https://community.breastcancer.org/forum/73/topics/854729?page=3#idx_69

I have found weeding to not only be therapeutic, but meditative. All I have to keep in my mind is "plant" and "not plant" (i.e. what I planted and what I didn't=weed). I have been able to pass an hour at a time just weeding and breathing. I didn't even know about that bacteria at the time, but certainly experienced the calming effects of dirt.

Thanks for the lovely addition!

Dx 12/10/2002, DCIS, Right, 1cm, Stage 0, Grade 2, 0/3 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2- Surgery 12/19/2002 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Sentinel Surgery 12/23/2003 Reconstruction (right): Nipple reconstruction Surgery Reconstruction (right): Saline implant Surgery Reconstruction (right): Tissue expander placement Surgery Mastectomy: Right
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Jun 4, 2017 12:11AM WenchLori wrote:

Dirt is a wonderful thing! I play in it as much as I can!


If I stop laughing, I'll start crying! Lori Dx 3/18/2016, IDC: Papillary, Left, 1cm, Stage IIA, Grade 2, 2/13 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Surgery 7/5/2016 Mastectomy: Left; Prophylactic mastectomy: Right; Reconstruction (left): Tissue expander placement; Reconstruction (right): Tissue expander placement Chemotherapy 8/4/2016 Taxol (paclitaxel) Chemotherapy 8/4/2016 AC Radiation Therapy 2/19/2017 External: Chest wall Hormonal Therapy 5/22/2017 Arimidex (anastrozole)

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