10 Ways to Cope with Breast Cancer
Massage & YogaMassage
Before Elizabeth Swaringen could undergo a single mastectomy for ductal carcinoma in situ in 2004, she had to do something for herself: She scheduled a massage.
"It seemed that having a massage was a logical thing to do before the surgery," says Swaringen, who lives in Pittsboro, North Carolina. "I'm sure that massage had an impact on my being calm (the day of surgery)."
Swaringen, a freelance writer who was diagnosed at age 48 through a routine mammogram, underwent massage at Cornucopia House, a cancer support center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, that offers services for free to anyone affected by cancer.
"All our services help people cope with the stress brought on by cancer treatment," said Becky Carver, executive director of Cornucopia House. "[Cornucopia House] helps people decide how they can live their lives in the most healing way."
Instead of worrying about her upcoming surgery, Swaringen, who had received massage before her diagnosis but not on a regular basis, decided to cast away any fears.
"I was focused on where I was at that point in time," Swaringen says. "At that point, I was on a massage table. I knew I was in good hands."
Although she had an "always on the move" life as a full-time graduate student, having a mastectomy left 26-year-old Chrissy Hufford feeling inactive.
On the recommendation of a physical therapist, Hufford, diagnosed with Stage II ductal carcinoma in February 2006, started taking yoga classes. She says she enjoys yoga because she can relax and do it at her own pace. "On my bad days, when I'm in a lot of pain, it can be hard to get into, but it is always relaxing," says Hufford, who lives in Pennsylvania.
Elizabeth Swaringen had practiced yoga for three years and feels it helped her recover from her mastectomy. "I feel like doing yoga made a difference in my range of motion post-surgery," she says, adding that she was able to reach the top of a doorway not long after her mastectomy.
Hufford finds comfort in the fact that she can self-pace with yoga, unlike many other activities, which helps when chemotherapy makes her feel tired. She has started taking classes at the local YMCA, where the self-described "bald girl with a bandana in the front of the room" has met a few other breast cancer survivors.
Hufford has also taken components of yoga practice, such as deep breathing and meditation, and used them in other parts of her life. You might find her deep breathing during chemo to de-stress or meditating to clear her mind.
"I almost push myself to get out of the bed to do yoga," she says.