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Tips to Better Cope with Cancer Treatment

by Susan Bauer-Wu, PhD, RN

Wellness image

1 Tune in to your body.
You may wonder why you would want to be more aware of your body at a time when you’re not feeling well. But tuning in is an entry into accepting your body as it is right now. By tuning in, you may recognize that what you’re feeling may not be significantly different from how you felt hours, days, or even weeks before, so you may be less likely to panic when you feel discomfort.

2 Befriend your body.
You may feel that your body has betrayed you. But befriending your body doesn’t mean that you have to like what is happening to it. It means that you are kind and gentle toward your body, and you are open to joining, being with, and accepting your body with all its frailties and imperfections.

Author of Article photo

Dr. Susan Bauer-Wu

3 Be aware of sensations as just sensations.
Being aware of sensations as just sensations involves becoming a curious and detached observer. If you step back and observe what your body is feeling, you realize that pain is not just one big overwhelming “thing,” but rather a constellation of many subtle bodily sensations, such as dullness, sharpness, aching, or throbbing, that likely change from moment to moment. Noticing their nuanced qualities and fluctuations gives them less power over you.

4 You are not your pain.
Sometimes it is hard to separate yourself from pain and other discomforts you may experience. The sensations and associated stories consume you, and you lose perspective. With practice, you can begin to realize that you are not the pain (or any other discomfort) or just a patient or a disease; there is much more that makes you who you are.

5 Turn toward discomfort.
The notion of turning toward discomfort seems counter-intuitive. A natural reaction is to resist it, push it away, or run away from it. While distracting yourself from unpleasantness may seem helpful in the short run, it doesn’t allow you to actually learn how to live with what is happening. When you turn toward and pay attention to the discomfort, it loses power over you.

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Dr. Susan Bauer-Wu is a researcher, educator, clinician, and author.

Adapted with permission by New Harbinger Publications, Inc. from Leaves Falling Gently by Dr. Susan Bauer-Wu,

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, January/February 2012.