• Kathryn Hulland

Coping with triggers

2 years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer and pretty much to the day of the anniversary of that diagnosis I found myself sat in the very same waiting room waiting to see the breast consultant, I'd found another lump.

To say I'm grateful for the NHS is an understatement, despite the current Covid circumstances upon ringing the breast care team I had an appointment within about a week with the consultant. She is 99% sure what I can feel is a breast nodule, nothing of concern but is booking me in for an ultrasound to be sure. Normally I'd have the scan at the same appointment but Covid has meant there aren't enough people available who can perform those scans so it will be in a couple of weeks, however I'm very reassured and not worrying about it.

When I felt the lump initially I just went cold, it was tiny but I'd not felt it before and the past all came flooding back, I could feel my heart racing, I felt so sick. The memories of being in limbo, not knowing what the new year would hold, whether it was curable or not arose.

I debated calling the breast care nursing team for a few days before doing it, I was thinking what if it's nothing, is it really there or am I making it up in my head.... We're told time and again how overwhelmed the NHS is & I didn't want to take up an appointment that might be needed more by someone else.

I then came to my senses realising that actually it was better to get checked than to risk leaving something and regretting it, staying alive is far more important than worrying about wasted appointments! At the appointment I expressed my resistance to call and the consultant could not have been more reassuring, as was the nurse I spoke to on the phone, they've been amazing.

The actual reason for this blog is to talk about techniques I used to remain calm and reduce my anxiety on experiencing such a big trigger after the initial shock.

Despite the initial panic I managed to remain pretty calm about the whole episode and not overly worry about it which is amazing. I've worked a lot deeper on my coping mechanisms over the last year to reduce anxiety and this work and all the previous efforts I've put in are definitely paying off!

Every now and then in the time leading up to the appointment it would hit me, and I'd remember what I went through when I was told previously it was cancer and all the unexpected medical procedures of that day flashed back, sudden fear that this was about to happen again. However instead of getting more and more anxious I allowed the thoughts and breathed deep into my tummy and deep into my lungs allowing and acknowledging the worries before releasing them with my breath, envisaging them floating away and not allowing them to wind me up further.

I worked with my meditation practices to keep calm and grounded. I have various types I use and I worked with the really deep healing and nourishing ones.

I spent time in my healing room journalling and focusing on the future I want and the year ahead in 2022, feeling excited for what's to come, not fearful of what I can't control.

I went out in nature to the trees and the water, the places that soothe my soul. I was around ponies and other animals, all this helped to keep my mind and body calm. Much of the time doing this was with Grace, the person I will always keep fighting for.

I made an effort to remain in the moment, to be mindful of the now rather than allow a fear of the unknown to take over, I couldn't change what was going to happen so why worry about it.... why work myself up about the what ifs that may not even happen.

I was called more than ever to just get outside in nature this last week proving again how important it is for me to be able to do this. I remember in 2016 after being told I'd miscarried I went straight to a river near Dartmoor for a walk and got in it. It's incredible how healing and calming nature can be. Dartmoor has been calling me alot lately, I really must get back out there soon!

It's taken 10 years to build up these practices so they are ingrained enough to actually help in a crisis, in my mindfulness courses they called it weaving your parachute, keep up some good practices and they'll be ready to help catch you when you fall, and make for an easier landing when needed.

If you'd like to start looking into mindfulness practice I recommend starting with Jon Kabat-Zinn's body scan.

The NHS website also has some tips and links, just search mindfulness on their site. Your GP may be able to refer you to a mindfulness course. I was referred to the Accept Clinic in Exeter about 10 years ago for a mindfulness course to help me cope with my chronic illness, three quarters through I still couldn't see how it would help but as it turned out it was life changing. It's why I'm so passionate about running basic introduction workshops alongside nature and the animals, for me the combination of the two has helped immensely.

Another course I did more recently which I'd recommend was by Breathworks, again this was focussed on chronic illness but they do run different ones.

Other more spiritual meditations I am currently working with are by Rebecca Campbell.

Madeleine Walker's are also a staple of mine!

Also Money Heist on Netflix.... that took my mind off things 😄

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