Breast Cancer: The Importance of Connecting Body, Mind, and Soul

Despite the excess of awareness campaigns about breast cancer, early detection, prevention, and treatment, attention to this disease's psychological and emotional impact on the woman and her family is almost non-existent. The conversation about this is negligible despite its significance in the patient's and her family's recovery journey. In this article, I will share my experience with breast cancer, the treatment journey, and my role as a life coach in supporting cancer patients on their journey with this disease.

ريم الصويغ
Reem Alsowayegh
Published on:Sep 15th 2023 |Updated on:Jan 10th 2024
سرطان الثدي

 The Journey of Diagnosis and Treatment

Due to a family history of breast cancer—my mother, may she rest in peace, had suffered from it—I regularly underwent ultrasounds and mammograms. About ten years prior to my diagnosis, I began noticing nipple discharge, which started after the birth of my youngest child. The test results showed dense tissue in the breast, but doctors saw no signs of cancer or cause for concern. Even though these symptoms are considered warning signs that demand further examination, I want to pause here to emphasize the importance of following up on such symptoms, not ignoring them, and seeking a second opinion.

In Ramadan of 2018, I noticed a lump in my breast and observed a change in its shape without experiencing any pain. I underwent an ultrasound, but the specialist assured me that there was no tumor. Then, I consulted another doctor who diagnosed the condition as breast cancer and re-performed the ultrasound, mammogram, and breast biopsy, confirming my diagnosis.

The doctor rushed the decision for surgery, telling me I needed a double mastectomy within two days without conducting further tests. I wasn't comfortable proceeding with such a significant surgery so fast. I took my time to gather additional opinions and a more detailed treatment plan. Here, I want to highlight the pressure that cancer patients sometimes feel from doctors and sometimes family to make quick decisions when they need time to think, research, and become convinced of the upcoming treatment steps. So, I advise taking your time upon receiving such a diagnosis, seeking multiple medical opinions and treatment plans, and choosing a healthcare provider who explains everything without pressure.

After that, I sent my medical reports to Europe, where doctors there told me I needed additional tests, including progesterone and estrogen tests, and other analyses that could help formulate an appropriate treatment plan.

Then, I traveled to Germany, where I underwent more tests and some re-tests of the previous ones. I then underwent a mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy and radiation treatment. The entire treatment journey took about two years. Even after recovering from the disease, knowing that the journey is not over is essential. A cancer patient continues this path, which requires a lot of care and support.

What I Didn't Know About Breast Cancer

Much information is often unknown to breast cancer patients, making the diagnosis and treatment phases even more challenging. Some of these details include:

  • The possibility of experiencing swelling in the lymph nodes in the arm. Therefore, it's essential to inquire about this possibility, maintain a healthy weight, and perform exercises to drain fluid from these nodes to relieve swelling and pain.
  • The dryness that affects the body due to chemotherapy.
  • The possibility of menstrual cycle disruption due to treatment.
  • Pain at the hair roots when hair falls out due to chemotherapy.

The Emotional Overload

As soon as I heard the cancer diagnosis, I was consumed by intense fear. For so long, cancer has been associated in our minds with death. I felt panicked and scared of the disease and its treatment. I was worried about my children and what would happen to them.

The truth is the emotions of a person diagnosed with cancer are deep, complex, and painful. They require understanding and support from those around them right from the start. The diagnosis also affects the patient's family and children, who often do not receive the same level of attention as the newly diagnosed patient.

Therefore, it is essential to acknowledge these emotions, especially the feeling of fear, to openly discuss them, and to seek the necessary support to overcome these feelings.

Emotions Felt by Breast Cancer Patients

  • Fear.
  • Anxiety.
  • Pressure to start treatment immediately.
  • It is being puzzled by many questions.
  • Distraction.
  • Sadness.
  • A sense of loss due to the removal of the breast, which is tied to femininity.
  • Fear of the disease returning, even after the end of treatment and achieving recovery.

Advice for Breast Cancer Patients

  • Listen to yourself.
  • Tune into your body and connect it with your feelings.
  • Set your priorities.
  • Express your needs and values.
  • Listen to those around you and engage with them gently.
  • Share what you are feeling with kindness.
  • Listen to and accept the reality around you, benefit from it, and find a way to deal with it.

Advice for Those Surrounding a Breast Cancer Patient

The reactions of those around a breast cancer patient can vary—some may distance themselves, unable to accept the change, while others may be constantly supportive. Yet, others may fluctuate between the two. Everyone offers support in their way, but here are some crucial tips for the family and friends of a breast cancer patient:

  • Be aware that the patient is extremely sensitive and should be treated with consideration.
  • Offer practical support, like taking care of her children or assisting with household chores, instead of asking about her well-being daily.
  • Support her children and family.
  • Avoid asking too many questions that might stress the patient.
  • Refrain from giving obvious advice like praying or reading the Quran, as the patient is likely already turning to faith without reminders.
  • Show empathy and comforting gestures rather than pity.

My Role as a Life Coach for Cancer Patients

My personal experience and my mother's experience with breast cancer have taught me the importance of awareness, the need to express fears and concerns, and the courage to ask medical teams questions. Empowering the patient to plan her treatment journey with her doctor in a way that suits her and puts her at ease is critical.

Hence, I offer women who come to me for guidance the tools to cope with feelings or fears, enabling them to speak with their families and caregivers more easily throughout this challenging journey.

The approach I use with my trainees is called Sensory Thinking Methodology. It connects the inner world of the patient to the outside world. I act as an honest mirror, helping the patient have clarity and make decisions without undue pressure or influence.

I also form support groups for women at all stages of their breast cancer journey to share experiences, obtain guidance, and establish strong connections between mind, body, and soul. I also create support groups for caregivers of cancer patients to find ways to cope with stress and its impact on their personal lives, helping them get through these difficult times.

Additionally, I conduct workshops that help recovering and ongoing patients rewrite their stories so they can find the positives in this challenging experience, discuss them, and facilitate emotional recovery.

 

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ريم الصويغ
Reem AlsowayeghLife Coach

Reem is a Breast Cancer survivor. She is a life coach who follows the Sensory Thinking Coaching methodology. She coaches women diagnosed with breast cancer throughout their Journey. She also serves as a life coach for those who are caregivers for cancer patients. Reem holds a master’s degree in business administration and has over 15 years of experience working with children with disabilities and their mothers due to her specialization as a physical therapist. Reem aims to raise her clients' awareness of their life's purpose, helping them achieve balance by enhancing their mindfulness. This enables them to overcome challenges and reach the best version of themselves and their lives.

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