Cancer, mindfulness and me

By Karen Ver, Digital Projects Manager, CIPD

I was interested to find out about mindfulness. Some of us at work started an informal mindfulness drop-in session twice a week and I started going along to them. I really felt a connection with this form of meditation as I found it easy to pick it up. There was a good response from colleagues, we increased to three times a week either first thing or at lunchtime. I soon downloaded the Buddhify app for myself and started using this at home on a regular basis.

As a cancer patient, I do have a lot of hospital appointments I have to attend and I do unconsciously get varying degrees of anxiety, depending on what type of appointment it is. I particularly struggle with the regular blood pressure checks. However, since I've been practicing mindfulness I've been able to manage my blood pressure anxieties, otherwise known as 'white coat fever', by doing a little mindfulness beforehand. My oncology team are now fully aware I use this as a technique and so we hold off from too much chatter until after the observations are all done.

I've found that going to sleep, or indeed staying asleep, can be tough sometimes when I've got lots of things going on in my head. On these occasions I've used mindfulness to help me relax and try and get off to sleep/back to sleep. It doesn't always work however it does get me into a more relaxed state where I then do eventually drift off to sleep, rather than winding myself up even more for not being able to get off to sleep!

More recently, I've been introduced to which is a series of mindfulness guided meditations for Cancer patients. I've used a couple of these and they are really suitable for anyone, not just cancer patients. Sleep deprivation can cause many other issues with well-being and mental health issues. I know myself if I have prolonged period of disrupted sleep my concentration is impacted quite significantly.

I recently had a visit to the dentist for two fillings! I asked my dentist if I could try to have the fillings without using any anaesthetic. He was open to me trying this on the proviso that should it become too painful he would revert to normal procedure should it not work out for me. I began my mindfulness meditation and managed to have both fillings without any needles! I was also able to feel everything in my mouth and make sure the new fillings were fitted well before leaving the surgery.

Mindfulness has had a positive impact on me and it’s great that the CIPD has given me the space and time to deal with things during these sessions – and it’s not just me that benefits, other colleagues get a lot out of it too. The CIPD as an employer is incredibly supportive, understanding and flexible about the time I need for dealing with this ‘new normal’ and the changing side effects of my cancer treatment. It’s a weight off my mind and reassuring to me that the CIPD is happy for me to flex my work pattern according to how I’m feeling, day by day. This makes me feel valued. The consequence of feeling valued, is my engagement levels are great – it’s just the motivation I need to get out of bed and come into work every day.

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  • Anonymous

    Karen you are an inspiration to all that know you. I follow your journey in awe of your position approach. I realise at times how difficult it must be but somehow you show the strength to get up and get on with life. I am glad you have found something that makes life a little more manageable. Wendy

  • Anonymous

    Karen - Thank you for sharing your experience of mindfulness meditation. Your positive approach is an inspiration to others. I wish you well. Valerie

  • Hi Karen

    I too am living with having cancer.  I was taught a breathing exercise by a Buddhist friend which is very helpful as I have PTSD and ghastly panic attacks if there are any unexpected loud noises.  I was very angry about some of the treatment and lack of understanding I had received so I made a "crap box".  I found a tatty box, painted it black and typed out lots of instances and people that had caused me pain and stuck them on the outside of my box.  I then filled the box with beautiful wooden things (glittery butterflies, beaded flowers, doves etc).  I took my box to the beach at Eastbourne just after dawn last month, took out the beautiful things and burned the box, waded out into the sea (it was a bit chilly!!) and sent the ashes on their way.  It was a really cathartic experience and my beautiful things that I reclaimed for myself (I call them trust, honesty, hope etc) are now waiting to go on the wall of my study as part of my tree of life.  I have decided to leave the job I love (Head of HR) and retire early and concentrate my efforts on healing well and enjoying every day as my energy levels allow.  My work has been brilliant and supported all the way for the past 2 years but now is the right time to move on.  I wish you health and strength.  Julie