Depression and anxiety are not unusual for people on a cancer journey, though given the complications mental health is often neglected, as the physical body trauma of treatment takes over. Between 20-30% of cancer patients are affected by depression and anxiety, compared to 5-7% of the general population. (source theBMJ 2018).
Some cancers such as pancreatic cancers can release chemicals that are thought to cause depression. Advances in treatments means that half of the people diagnosed can be expected to live for at least 10 years. This means that many cancers can be defined as long term. This can adversely impact quality of life, physical fitness due to longevity of treatments and fear of death.
October 10 was World Mental Health Day, and as a two time cancer survivor, I was reflecting on my mental well being during the cancer journeys. It was the feel good factor mood that catalysed me into recovery; and the continuous drive to stay focussed on feeling healthy and passionate about life.
My kindred companions for well being and feel good factor are:
- Healthy diet to suit my body’s requirements. I was fortunate to have spent a day with Dr Andrew Weil, and he advised listen to your body’s intelligence and it will tell you what you need. Green juices, increase in protein in my diet, Ayurvedic supplements and regular meal times are a must. I soon discovered that I can have what I fancy and it is also healthy. The occasional naughty treat no longer creates the guilt factor.
- Physical activities that are joyful and challenging. I enjoy time in nature and walking, four times a week, I walk minimum of 5 kilometres per hike, 20 minute morning routine of yoga keeps me flexible, I dance to my favourite music, gardening and a collection of yoga and exercise DVDs give me variety. Twice a year I join the gym for a month at a time, swimming and classes energise me.
- Culinary hobby, the desire to feed my body healthy nutritious food increased my interest in cooking and baking. Creating recipes and the thrill of delicious and attractive looking dishes lifts my moods. I am currently compiling a short book of my muffin recipes and each has a story. I am now baking cakes.
- Spiritual upliftment, this has been the core of my well being strategy. Vedic philosophy has always guided my thinking process, post my second cancer, I adopted AUM meditation and this clears my mind. Dr Wayne Dyer’s Power of Intention and the work of Louise Hay and Robert Holden on Life Loves Me, created a shift towards purposeful living. This year I took to extensive gratitude journaling, only to discover my fifth career path.
- Professional Work, I am fortunate to have a network of peers and I worked on a variety of different projects, this included cancer Well being. The most rewarding was a visiting faculty role with a business school and this challenge reinforced my self belief, confidence and courage to explore new ways of working in an academic setting. I took on several roles and worked with different subjects and colleagues, this was rewarding.
Health is not just being disease-free. Health is when every cell in your body is bouncing with joy.