Anxiety, Mindfulness, and Bladder Cancer: Breaking the Cycle

Last updated: August 2022

The last two years have been really hard. We, as a people worldwide, have faced challenges we have never faced before. For those of us on the cancer spectrum, this has added another source of uncertainty and anxiety.

For me, uncertainty is a huge hurdle. My childhood was filled with it. Moving 11 times before high school. Having multiple family configurations, stepmothers, step-siblings. Rapid, unexplained changes that I had no knowledge of or involvement in left me very anxious and susceptible to anxiety to this day.

Cancer's strain

Cancer brought on a tremendous strain. I am sure it does that for everyone. The day-to-day stress that is inevitable with work and family and all of the other demands on us. Within three years of my cancer diagnosis, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It was non-cancerous and removed without too much disruption. That is until I started having panic attacks and near-crippling anxiety.

More than once, I had episodes where I would "freeze." I would be talking or doing something, and I would just seize up, unable to finish my thought or move - I just stopped.
A therapist would later explain to me that my episodes were my body shutting down because it was overloaded with stress.

Learning my anxious signs

With time and attention, I learned to feel the signs of onset. I knew what was happening, and I was able to turn my full attention to my breathing. Regulating my breathing and focusing wholly on counting my breaths, metering my inhale and my exhale. This practice allowed me to get ahead of my anxiety or at least manage it at a level I could function with.

Mindfulness for anxiety for bladder cancer

A quick internet search will yield plenty of information on mantras and breathing exercises. I heartily recommend investing some time in finding a practice that resonates with you and your unique situation. Practice is just that, an opportunity to hone a skill and become fluent in the employment of that skill.

Learn how your body responds to a metered inhale, an equal hold, a metered exhale, and another equal hold. Inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth. Gently bring your full attention to the practice. One of the first things you will notice is that your racing thoughts will dissipate. The human mind can only focus on one thing at a time and so focusing on the breath stops all other thoughts.

The gift of mindfulness

That is a gift! If you find yourself overwhelmed by anything, you can stop and bring your focus to your breath. There is no special equipment, nothing to open or get ready and if you're like me, your breath is always with you. If it is not, you may need more medical advice than I am able to offer.

I still have anxiety. I work with a therapist and study extensively. I am starting a yoga practice, as I have read about the healing properties of such a practice. But for the here and now, breath work has yielded a wonderful and restorative relaxation of my mind and body.

Best wishes for your continued joy.

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