Breast Cancer Diary – Health is a Complex Thing


By Darci L. Graves, MPP, Health Power Editor


I recently responded to a fellow cancer blogger’s post entitled “I’m Sulking”, with the following advice:

“It’s ok to wallow, but don’t let it take over. Give yourself a time frame. Like, I’ll wallow until Wednesday. On Thursday begin to make a plan to climb back out. Attitude is a huge part of the fight and that is what we all must do at this point.

E responded with this:

A time frame would be good. That being said, I have chemo again Monday and Tuesday, so who knows how I’ll feel after that. I’ve  just been started on Zoloft. That will take probably a whole month to kick in, but once it does, hopefully I’ll feel more like myself again.

I get it and I don’t fault E for responding that way. Her case is completely different from mine. She is younger  – in her twenties. She has been diagnosed with two different Stage 3 cancers. I can only imagine the disillusionment and even despair that would come with those kinds of life changes.

That said, I wish I could convey to E that health is composed of so many elements. For my day job, we define health as being composed of physical, mental, social and spiritual wellness. All four must be treated and addressed to achieve ultimate well-being.

I want to tell her that although her physical health is suffering, that she can work to strengthen her mental, social and spiritual selves. And that by strengthening those elements of her health it can help ease her physical ailments – not the cancer obviously,  but the impact of the treatments.

As I’ve said throughout these months and even in recent days, the support I have gotten from my social network has been an overwhelming blessing. So that hasn’t required any nurturing  – – you all have taken care of me in that regard. I have found a healthcare team that I have faith in and I have entrusted my physical health to them. That leaves me the responsibility of my mental and spiritual health.

I have struggled with issues of depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember. (Teachers as early as first grade noticed my anxiety too). So that is something that I take daily medicine for and have to work on regularly. I know all too well that when I am experiencing a bout of depression or anxiousness that anything troubling me physically becomes that much worse.

So throughout my cancer journey, I have had to be diligent in nurturing my mental health Even with the medication, it isn’t always easy. Tessa (the dog) was a huge part of my daily therapy. She kept me from being too lost inside my own thoughts. So losing her, I have had to work even harder to stay afloat. The days that I feel sad or anxious are also the days I feel tired and achy and have a more difficult time concentrating. The days I feel strong mentally, I feel better physically. I don’t think that it is a coincidence.

Everyone nurtures their spiritual health differently. I define spirituality as how you find meaning in your life – – what helps get you out of bed each morning – for some it is religion, for some family, for others its nature or volunteering. For me it’s a combination of all of those things – – the work I do for others, the love of my family, how I want to live my life. My post-cancer manifesto is my spiritual aspiration and affirmation.

I hope the Zoloft does help E. I hope that she finds ways to nurture her mental, social and spiritual health so that the physical impact of her chemo is not as traumatic. I hope that others realize how complex good health is and what a balancing act it is to achieve it. We and those around us play huge parts in enabling ultimate health. So please, look around you and within you – –  and determine what you can do to help improve your health as well as the health of others.

Also, remember that when you reach out to give someone a hug, you generally get one in return.


1 month ago

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