Stress + cancer = a mess! Take time to take care of yourself and manage stress in your life.
As usual, the media is always looking for story “hooks” for the holidays. Holiday stress is one of them. I was watching the TV show, The Doctors, yesterday, and one of their topics was how stress breaks down the body’s immune system. They didn’t mention cancer, but you can connect the dots. We all have cancer cells in our body, but the immune system usually fights them off. Of course there are other factors, but from what I’ve researched, stress is a definite cancer-feeder.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that The first time I was diagnosed, my father was dying. In fact, he passed away two weeks after I first heard the words, “You have cancer.” When my cancer returned in 2008, I was working at the most stressful job I’ve ever had. There were other things going on, as well. Our beloved cat died, there was a lice epidemic at my daughter’s school, and my family was not happy about my long hours (I had two pagers that could go off at any time, even at home.) I stopped working at the stressful job, started doing things to take care of myself, and started following my passion to help others. I never looked back.
Getting support is key to managing stress. I am so fortunated to have a loving and supportive husband by my side. Today I learned from a fellow stage IV survivor that her husband left her and her daughter the day before Thanksgiving. She is an absolutely wonderful woman who has helped so many survivors, including me. She is in the fight for her life, and now she has to deal with this.
Ironically, I spoke with another stage IV friend today who left her husband recently and feels a great sense of relief. Their relationship – or lack thereof – caused her so much stress that she feels better without it. She just had scans and it showed no evidence of disease. And she looks better than I’ve ever seen her. Coincidence? I think not. I pray for the same for my other friend.
According to the National Cancer Insitute, the jury is still out as to a direct causal link between stress and cancer. However …
“Some studies have indicated an indirect relationship between stress and certain types of virus -related tumors. Evidence from both animal and human studies suggests that chronic stress weakens a person’s immune system , which in turn may affect the incidence of virus-associated cancers, such as Kaposi sarcoma and some lymphomas ( 5 ). (My note: more research has been done on cancer vaccines showing that breast cancer and other common cancers can be linked to viruses.)
More recent research with animal models (animals with a disease that is similar to or the same as a disease in humans) suggests that the body’s neuroendocrine response (release of hormones into the blood in response to stimulation of the nervous system) can directly alter important processes in cells that help protect against the formation of cancer, such as DNA repair and the regulation of cell growth.”
So what’s a busy person to do? While sometimes you can’t control external stressful events, you can impact your internal response. Breathing and visualizing a peaceful scene, even for a few moments, can turn off the “fight or flight” reaction to stress and it’s release of harmful hormones. If you can’t sit still for meditation, yoga and a relaxing walk could be alternatives. Learn to say no if it’s something you don’t want to or don’t have time to do. Use the “cancer card” if you must! Keep repeating this mantra: “I love myself and am going to take care of myself so I can be around for the people I love.” And that goes for you who aren’t cancer survivors, too!
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