We sat down with CEO and Co-Founder of The CanSurvivor Network, Kelsey Smith, to answer questions regarding ways to cope with stress, anxiety, and fear while managing breast cancer during a global pandemic.
We have included the entire video above for anyone who missed it and wants to watch it in full. Here is a recap of the key takeaways from the discussion with Kelsey Smith:
>> Can you define and explain what it means to build a “self-care foundation” and why it is so important for breast cancer patients?
When you receive the diagnosis and those three words “you have cancer” it brings alarm and it is trauma. This is a great time for healing, pouring back into yourself and reevaluating your whole life and making sure to find ways to love yourself. A self-care foundation is about creating a foundation for building your own self care routine that is not just a massage but having self awareness and finding out early what you need to get through this difficult time. It is about having a good team on your side that is going to validate your experiences, more than just your medical team but also your mental health team. This can be anything from a professional counselor, a group of others going through a similar situation, or any individual that helps you find ways to get through and love yourself during this time.
>> There are seven pillars of self care ranging from mental well-being to self awareness to healthy eating, which pillars do you think are the most important to focus on in different stages of your journey?
The seven pillars are health literacy, self awareness, physical activity, eating healthy, risk avoidance, good hygiene, and responsible use of products and services. Fundamentally in the very beginning of this process health literacy and self awareness were two major ones to understand my diagnosis. People do themselves a disservice when they don’t know or understand the diagnosis you have. The more you know the more you can find the right resources and not feel alone. It is not a simple diagnosis and you need a plan and make sure that you are following the right protocols.
>> One of our users reached out and informed us that her lumpectomy was postponed because of COVID-19. During these uncertain and anxious times, how do you suggest she can turn her emotional pain and disappointment into something purposeful?
That is a terrifying situation to feel like you want to get this cancer out of you and not being able to or in control of your situation. Discussing the implications of this situation with your medical team is the most important place to start. Writing a letter to your government officials can help you feel heard, validated, and gain back control over an impossible situation. You are validated in feeling scared and upset right now and it is awful to be going through not being able to have your operation.
>> the term “time vampire” is something or someone who literally sucks your time like a vampire sucks blood. Can you identify your own personal experience with time vampires during your own journey with breast cancer and any tips or advice as to how to get rid of and manage time vampires in your daily life?
Time vampires are not emphasized enough. A lot of people spend idle time aimlessly scrolling social media. Find the applications that help identify your screen time so you only spend a certain amount of time on certain apps. One of my favorite quotes by Jeff Olsen is: “time will either promote you or expose you” and once you lose that time and resources you can’t get them back. For me, social media gave me a lot of FOMO or spending a lot of time feeling like my life didn’t look like other peoples lives. Another time vampire I had to get rid of were people who were negative and always seemed to have a crisis. I no longer had time in my life to give that energy and attention with my own diagnosis. I had to learn to be OK with focusing on me and finding time to love myself and heal myself.
>> What advice can you give to individuals struggling to find gratitude during this pandemic as it pertains to their breast cancer diagnosis and treatment?
Wanting to work through your pain and looking for support is the first step. Wanting to better your own situation into something better and not focusing on negativity is something you want to push yourself to do especially right now. We know the world is very broken right now, but you can start to feel better by taking stock of the things that are around you that you worked hard to get. Creating a new routine can also help ease the feeling of losing control and help give you purpose and focus to finding gratitude again.
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