Tag Archives: Breast cancer

What to say to a cancer patient

24 Jul

Recently I knew of two friends’ dear ones who are diagnosed with cancer. It is always sad, especially when I know young people who have to deal with cancer whilst they are in the prime of their lives.

One of the things I realised with my own experience is that many young people do not know how to respond when their friends are diagnosed with cancer. Simply because cancer is a faraway concept when you’re in your thirties and living the life, pursuing your career and enjoying the life after the twenties.

So what can you say if someone you know has cancer? Here is what I think is helpful.

1) Be calm.

Remember that your friend is probably under a lot of stress and overwhelmed by the diagnosis. It won’t help if you burst into tears and sob. He or she will be obliged to deal with your feelings and that causes more stress. Instead, be calm and show your friend that you are able to handle this piece of news, even if you are falling apart inside.

2) Listen.

Hearing what your friend has to say about his/her experience may trigger your own fears about mortality. It may be very tempting to speak out about your fears – what if you can have cancer too? – but at this moment, it is not about you. Your friend has cancer and does not need to hear about your nagging fear about a lump you had for the last four years. Be a faithful friend and listen to what he/she has to say.

3) Say what you know.

And that means saying things that you know, for sure. Like ” I will be here for you if you need my help in anyway”. Things which you should not say are, ” I’m sure everything will be alright.” Because you don’t know. So don’t say that. And don’t tell your friend what you know about cancer, if you do not know for sure. It is not the best time to confuse your friend at this moment with half-truths and hearsay.

4) Be helpful and mean it.

Many times cancer patients do not know what help they need. So try to suggest ways you can help. Eg. Suggest that you can ferry your friend to the hospital, visit the doctor with her or help with any chores around the house. And if your friend doesn’t accept your help initially, don’t despair. She might not be ready to ask for help yet.

5) Be sensitive.

Ask if your friend is comfortable speaking about cancer. There are days when a cancer patient is tired of being just a cancer patient and wishes to be normal. Remember your friend for who she is and try to be normal around her. She will appreciate being treated as a friend and person, instead of just a cancer patient.

There you have it! Remember, it is difficult to deal with cancer AND someone else’s reaction to cancer. So go easy on your friend.

Here is a helpful website for caring for cancer patients:

MacMillan Cancer Support



Young adults with cancer, finally

7 Jun

Finally we are getting the conversation about young adults! LiveSTRONG, bless them, has started a series of topics to help young adult cancer survivors move forward. There are interviews and accounts from survivors about how cancer has affected them and how they can move on with the leftover effects from treatments.

Some helpful topics include: Dating and sex after treatment, Fertility, Friends and family etc.

I’m so happy that they decided to do a series on this because more young adults are being affected by cancer and we need to get the conversation going. How to survive cancer treatment and also as important, how to deal with the diagnosis while these adults are in the prime of their lives.

You can visit the LiveSTRONG blog for more details, or watch the videos on YouTube.

Cancer and Depression

3 Jun

I’ve written about post-cancer depression here before. It creeps in like a bad flu and when it happens most people are surprised. Depressed? Not me. I’m a fighter, fighting against cancer. Nothing’s gonna get me, no, nothing at all.

The truth is, post-cancer depression is a lot more complex than that. There is a sense of great loss and also a sense of betrayal that the body and soul will not ever return to normal.

And of all the books, websites that I’ve read, nothing describes it as succinct as Dana Jennings, a writer for the New York Times. Gosh I wish I could write like him!

“Partly, I think, I’m grieving for the person I was before I learned I had cancer. Mortality is no longer abstract, and a certain innocence has been lost.

And while the physical trauma is past, the stress lingers and brings with it days washed in fine shades of gray. In the same way that radiation has a half-life, stress does, too. We all ache to be the heroes of our own tales, right? Well, I’m not feeling too heroic these days.” – Dana Jennings

After Cancer, Ambushed by Depression : Dana Jennings, The New York Times

Have a peaceful and joyful day ahead.

No mud, no lotus

19 Apr

Since the ending of my cancer treatment, there has been many instances in my life where I catch myself thinking, “Is this what I want permanently or is this just a temporary side effect that is affecting me now which will change later?” To be honest, I still cannot really tell the difference.

In the past year where I have been coping with the difficulties of a long-distance relationship and relocation, it has dawned on me that I cannot trust myself to make long term decisions. All I can do is to live in the present, to be in the “now”. Thinking about the future just compounds anxiety which I am not able to cope for now.

When I find myself being anxious or worried about the future, I like to tune in to my favourite Buddhist teacher, Tara Brach. It sounds cheesy but sometimes her podcasts are exactly what I need to stay calm and not get swept into downward spiralling thoughts.

My favourite podcast by far is one called “No mud, no lotus”. In it she talks about the intrinsic link between the mud and the lotus. One does not exist without another. And same with life, there can be no blossom if there is no suffering. We all have our own mud. In fact, our lives are pretty much the mud and it is up to us if we recognise the lotus or not.

You can find Tara Brach’s podcasts in iTunes, or visit her website at http://www.tarabrach.com/index.html

Dine and Wine…?

14 Feb

Do you know drinking red wine moderately helps reduce your risk for Breast Cancer?

Apparently there are signs of reduced estrogen in women who drank red wine for a month.

This article is published in Huffington Post.

Crazy, Sexy Cancer

21 Dec

One of the amazing women I have come to know (online at least) after being diagnosed of Breast Cancer is Kris Carr, a Stage 4 cancer survivor who has started her very own cancer battle almost a decade ago. After being told that there is no real cure for her cancer, Kris went on to search for alternative ways of healing and along the way she also made a documentary of herself (which regrettably I have not seen).

On her blog, you can find many posts on health, well-being and advice on food and diet. I find them inspiring, fun and really informative.

Here is a link to a post which feature some amazing women who gave short talks on their journey to empowerment:

Gabrielle Bernstein – Motivational Speaker and coach

Alissa Vitti – Holistic Health Counselor

Mama Gena – Teacher, author, mother

and one of my favourites from young:

SARK – Best selling artist & author


Sex and Intimacy after Cancer

15 Dec

One of the things I realised after treatment is that life does not return to normal. Well, some say that you’ll get used to the new normal  and then they go on to tell you what the possible new normal is. When it is expected, it could be well tolerated without much struggle. However, more often than not the new state surfaces out of the blue and it hits you like a “wham!”, and all you can think of is, “is that the new me now? and how long does that last?”

I came across this educational talk posted on the Livestrong blog about sex and intimacy after cancer. After treatment ended, I found myself not interested in engaging intimately with my partner. There are many reasons: don’t feel like it, not in the mood and pain. Coming to terms with the new self is a slow process and takes a great deal of communication. I remember being confused about the fear of intimacy and love – does that mean I’m not in love with him anymore? – and having to dissect what my emotions are before attempting to speak to my partner about it. I didn’t feel like a woman, more like a sexless person who has the technical functions of a female human being.

Speaking about it allows your partner to understand what you are going through. First of all it is a good thing for your partner to know that you are not rejecting him. Second of all, it reinforces the idea that you are still in the process of recovering and hence he knows what to expect – certainly not back to your pre-cancer normal. Best of all, if you can talk about it and laugh about it, it certainly helps with your relationship.

There are lots of information out there with coping with sex and intimacy after cancer. Here is the link to the livestrong video and it also comes with a handout which you can print out. This page at the National Cancer Institute also has information about how to cope with your sexual life after cancer. At the end of day, be patient and kind to yourself. Dealing cancer has been difficult and now you still have to deal with it?? WTF? I know, I feel that at times too. But moping around doesn’t really help. So focus on the positive and remember that life can sometimes throw you many curveballs, it is really up to you to make the best out of it. If in doubt, a loving hug to your dearly beloved or a relaxing massage never fails.