Episode 4. Coping With Uncertainty: The Crucial DecisionJan 30, 2024
Are you finding it difficult to cope with the uncertainty your illness has created in your life?
Join Teisha in Episode 4 of Wellbeing Interrupted, titled "Coping with Uncertainty: The Crucial Decision." This episode delves into the challenges of living with uncertainty due to serious health conditions. Teisha shares her personal journey with MS and stage four breast cancer, offering insights and strategies for managing the unpredictabilities that come with health issues.
Discover how Teisha navigated her experiences in 2023, reflecting on the ups and downs, and learn about the significant decisions she made regarding her cancer treatment. Understand the crucial role of emotional well-being in these tough times and explore unique approaches to maintain mental and physical health in the face of uncertainty.
Key Episode Takeaways:
- Navigating Life's Uncertainties with a Health Condition: Insights into coping with the unpredictability brought by serious health issues.
- Reflecting on Personal Health Challenges: Teisha's experiences with cancer and MS in 2023, focusing on the highs and lows.
- Decision Making and Emotional Well-being: The importance of emotional health while making crucial health decisions.
- Strategies for Facing Uncertainty: Teisha's approach to managing uncertainty through physical well-being, meditation, journaling, and connecting with nature.
EPISODE 4 TRAINSCRIPT
Wellbeing Interrupted Podcast
Episode 4: Coping with Uncertainty: The Crucial Decision
Host Teisha Rose
Introduction to Coping with Uncertainty
Hey there, Teisha here, and welcome to episode four of Wellbeing Interrupted, "Coping with Uncertainty: The Crucial Decision." As this episode goes live, we're nearly into February. Day-to-day activities resume as the Christmas holidays become a distant memory, and we might start worrying about what is ahead of us in 2024. What new challenges will our health bring? Living with a health condition definitely introduces uncertainty into our life, and in this episode, I want to chat about the one thing that helps me cope with the uncertainty and to set us all a challenge to focus on throughout 2024.
Welcome to Well-being Interrupted, the podcast dedicated to exploring the transformative power of a healing mindset. I'm Teisha Rose, your host and the founder of Hurdle To Hope. If you're on a quest to not just survive but thrive after a life-changing diagnosis, then you're definitely in the right place.
Living with MS and now stage four breast cancer has taught me a vital lesson. In the face of a life-changing illness, our mindset is everything. Each week, I'll share insights, tips, and strategies to help you build a happier, healthier, more balanced life. So let's begin your journey from hurdle to hope, starting right now.
Reflecting on Personal Health Challenges
2023 was definitely a long year for me, cancer-wise. It started well. My cancer was in remission, the tumours in my breast, liver, and sternum, all inactive, which was amazing. My voice, though, was pretty terrible. Everyone struggled to understand me. So, although I'm frustrated as to how my voice sounds at the moment, gosh, twelve months ago, it was pretty horrendous. Not being able to be understood when I went shopping was a real eye-opener and very frustrating. Not being able to chat to family and friends on the phone was really isolating, also frustrating. And MS-wise, I was doing okay. No relapse despite my cancer diagnosis. That was a massive plus. Although cancer had definitely dominated the year, the consequence was that MS was neglected. My walking wasn't so great. I felt sluggish and void of energy. But as I'm sure you can relate to, an unexpected challenge is inevitable during a year, health-wise but also in other aspects of our life as well.
So for me, it was May 2023 where things took a bad turn. I remember feeling really tired, and I'm used to fatigue in relation to MS and now cancer, but this was at a different level. I'm very in tune with my body, and something just didn't feel right. In May, I had my six-monthly PET scan to see whether there were any cancer cells in my body. And as we were going to get the results, I remember saying to Andrew, my partner, "I'm not being negative, but just don't be surprised if the results aren't what we're hoping for." I still felt like long-term everything would be okay, but in the short term, there was definitely another bump, another hurdle to deal with. So as we went into the oncologist's room, she gave us the good news: the cancer in my sternum and liver, the tumours, remained asleep, which is amazing. The bad news was that the tumour in my breast, cancerous cells were detected. So within a few days, I was back to the very same surgeon I met over twelve months previously to discuss a mastectomy or a lumpectomy. After discussing both options, my mind was made up. The lumpectomy wouldn't guarantee all precancerous cells would be taken, plus, I'd need radiation therapy, which wouldn't be great for my health, MS-wise. And I really felt that, as I shared in episode one, I had grieved and come to terms with having a mastectomy. And Andrew's words made it so clear as to what choice I needed to make as he said to the surgeon, "No point having Teisha and her two boobs in an urn on the mantelpiece." True, very true. And that really brought it home for me that for peace of mind, I needed to go ahead with this surgery.
Decision Making in Healthcare and Emotional Wellbeing
So the second half of 2023 included two single mastectomies. I had to have them done separately because of MS and my body's inability to cope with a double mastectomy, but I had them done in pretty quick succession. Because I thought, right, once I've decided to do this, I just wanted to get it over and done with and not worry about surgery in 2024. And in other episodes, I'll share more about the surgery and hospital experience because there's so much to unpack there in relation to having your body change so much. But as I've discovered in living with MS, I needed to also look after my emotional well-being during this time. And I remember finding out about a retreat that was on, must've been in September. So I remember going back to the surgeon after my first mastectomy and said, "Look, I want to be boobless. Have the other one removed before this retreat happens?" And she was amazing, and we made it work. So yeah, I was in the hospital a lot over that time. But it was the best decision because I could start my healing straight away and go on this retreat and really prioritize my overall well-being.
Facing Fear and Focusing on Control
So again, I start this year in remission, which is amazing, but I'm faced with a choice. Do I sit in fear, worried that my cancer will return again? Or do I only focus on the elements in my life that I can control? So as 2024 starts, I'm doing everything I can to choose not to live in fear. And that's not easy when living with advanced cancer, and I definitely slip into worry and anxiety. But I keep reminding myself, and Andrew keeps reminding me as well, not to focus on the unknown. In living with a health challenge, our future is a massive unknown. Each day is filled with uncertainty, and that can be terrifying. And for years, I sat in fear. My life was dominated by MS. I was either experiencing a relapse, recovering from a relapse, or sitting and waiting for the next period of poor health. And that's not good emotionally or mentally. And my overall well-being started to really improve. And the relapses became less frequent and aggressive when I let go of this fear. As I also shared in episode one, this was really instigated by a meditation retreat I went on way back in 2009, and the facilitator talked about not worrying about or not envisaging every possible catastrophe that may or may not be part of your future. So in living with MS, I really tried to take that on board, and I really tried to let go of worrying about all of the unknowns. I didn't want to fill my mind all the time with memories of being in the hospital, about worrying about returning back to the hospital, worrying about being back into a wheelchair. And since this retreat, I've only had one relapse in fifteen years. So imagine all of the wasted energy I would have spent on worrying about that one relapse that happened way back in 2012.
It's great to choose not to live in fear, not to get caught up in the uncertainty your health condition brings into your life, to not focus on the unknown. But the second part of this process is to then focus on elements in your life that you can control. I remember years ago saying to my neurologist, "I'll keep focusing on my overall well-being, and you keep focusing on a cure. Then when you come up with something, I'll still be around, ready for the cure. But better still, I may have improved so much I don't need the treatment anymore." But a quick side note, still on MS treatment: I get an infusion every six months, which really helps me, but I'm sure the reason why I haven't had a relapse for so long is also combining this medical intervention with all the natural therapies I do and also my mindset. Over the past fifteen years, this is what I've really tried to do. I've really tried to prioritise my health and well-being, and then align different aspects of my life with that priority. I'll definitely share more about this process in other episodes because it's an absolute key to living well with any illness. But since I decided to prioritise my overall well-being, I've had massive changes in my life, from changing careers to moving to the beach to exploring different natural therapies. And my well-being has definitely continued to improve as this shift happened. So I really, really tried so hard to shift away from the fear I had about being sick again with MS, and to really focus on what I could do to create a healthier, happier, more balanced life.
As I'm talking, I really think I'm recording this podcast episode for myself as well, as I know as we start February, I'm also faced with a choice. I'm again in remission, and this is the exact same spot I found myself at the beginning of 2023, with the cancer going back. Do I sit here, waiting, worrying about the cancer returning? Or do I shift that focus onto improving my overall well-being? The positive about this approach is that hopefully, my health will continue to improve so much so that the cancer decides it doesn't want to come back. Or if it does return, I'll be stronger, physically and emotionally, to deal with the next challenge.
Three Key Focus Areas in 2024 for Health and Wellbeing
To help us shift our focus away from the unknown, away from the uncertainty, and onto our wellbeing, this is what I'm planning to do, and I think you should as well. I think it will help you too. So what I really encourage you to do is list three things you can focus on in 2024 that will help you divert your attention away from the uncertainty of your condition and give attention to the elements in your life that you can control and that will be conducive to your overall well-being. I'll share my three things, and that will make me accountable as well if I put it out there. And it may also give you some ideas as to what you can focus on.
- So firstly, my physical well-being. I actually had my usual neuro physio session on Saturday morning. And I realised how much strength I've lost over the last twelve months. I was actually on the floor after our stretching and exercising. And without holding on to the couch, I couldn't get myself off the floor. And when you're living with MS, this is a really big thing because, at times, you're at risk of having a fall. And if something like that happened, I would be stuck on the floor with no way of getting up or trying to get help unless I had my phone on me. And the next day, I thought I have done so much hard work to ensure my physical strength, to make sure I've recovered from relapses, to regain mobility, to be able to walk, that I don't want to go backwards. I don't want to spend all my energy worrying about cancer and neglecting MS. And this is definitely something I can control. I can make sure that I focus on physical activity, that I make sure that I do all of my exercises every morning. And even that I do my speech therapy exercises to ensure that the muscles around my voice box keep loosening up so I can do this podcast as well. Okay, so for me, that's number one. My physical well-being. I really need to focus on this and commit myself to building up my strength again to give MS a bit of attention.
- And then the second area that I think I can control that will be conducive to my overall well-being is meditation and journaling. I've coupled these together. As for me, they go hand in hand. My days are so much better when I start with a meditation. And then, while my mind is quiet, I journal. And this really helps release any worries I have. And I feel the tension leaving my body, which is good for a number of reasons. Firstly, I hold so much tension in my body with MS. My muscles are so tight that if I can release some of that, then it helps with my pain management. But it also helps me to quieten my mind as I have a tendency to overthink things, and I need to stop that. Because when you're trying to cope with the uncertainty of a health condition and having all this internal dialogue racing around your head, it doesn't do your health and well-being any favours. So this is my plan in the mornings: to get up to my stretching, some of my physio activities, also my speech therapy activities, the trilling, and all the different noises I have to make. And then to listen to a meditation, whether it's a guided meditation or just some relaxing music on YouTube, and then I sit there with a notepad and just write anything that comes to mind. To get it out of my head and onto paper. I even write down as well what different things I want to do throughout the day and wait just again to get it out of my head.
- So now we're up to number three. And the third thing I want to do this year that I can control and that is conducive to my well-being is more time grounding myself in nature. And this is very doable for us because, in 2024, it's the year of our tree change. As I mentioned earlier, in living with MS, I've made some significant life changes over the years to prioritise my well-being. And about ten or so years ago, that involved moving to the beach. And after going through what we did last year, we actually bought a hundred acres of land a couple of hours north of where we live, and I cannot wait to live there. And that's what will be happening in 2024, and I call it the oasis for my healing. And I know that I need to be surrounded by nature, I need to be more grounded, and this place is just perfect for that. But even before we move, I really want to make more of an effort to sit outside, to practice mindfulness, to be aware of the birds around, to feel the sun, to get more vitamin D, to go to the beach, to listen to the waves. I can't walk very well on the beach. But it's just so important for, I don't know, my healing to just be immersed and connected to nature a bit more.
Conclusion and Encouragement
So those are the three things I want to commit to in 2024. And hopefully, it'll make me more accountable by talking about them in this episode. But also, follow me if you're not on Instagram @hurdle2hope, Hurdle2Hope with the number two. And I'll share with you some behind-the-scenes of how I'm going with these three things. So I'm focusing on my physical wellbeing, my meditation and journaling, and also grounding myself some more in nature. I know there'll be times where the uncertainty created by cancer and MS will get to me. I'm not pretending that I don't have those moments. But diverting my attention and doing these three things consistently throughout the year will definitely help my emotional well-being and my mental health.
Today, we've acknowledged that living with a life-changing illness creates a new level of uncertainty in our life. But we're faced with a choice. Do we sit in fear, constantly worrying about the unknowns? Worried about what our illnesses will do to us? Or do you actually focus on elements in your life that you can control and are conducive to your overall well-being? And I really encourage you to go through the process I did and write down three things you can focus on in 2024. Then in moments when you're feeling overwhelmed, divert your attention away from the uncertainty and onto these three elements in your life. That you can control and that will be conducive to your healing. And that's my goal. Not to just focus on MS and cancer, but to look after my overall well-being. So whatever happens in the future, I'm able to have a positive impact on my experience.
Okay, so that's all for me. And as I mentioned before, if you're not already, follow me on Instagram at Huddle to Hope with the number two. Chat soon.
Thank you so much for joining me today on Well-being Interrupted. If today's episode inspired you, or you think it could help others, please share it by tagging @HurdleToHope in your Instagram stories or just by telling a friend about it to spread our message of healing and hope to those who need it. Your ratings and reviews are invaluable. By taking a moment to rate and review on your listening platform, you help us attract inspiring guests and create content that empowers all of us to thrive. Don't forget to follow me on @hurdle2hope for more insights. I'd love to see you there. Always remember, to thrive after a life-changing diagnosis, your mindset is everything.