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The Who, What, Why of Mindfulness Exercises for Women with Advanced Breast Cancer (ABC)

By Gregory Burdulis

Many women are living longer with ABC.  Finding ways to cope with cancer’s various stresses becomes critical to leading satisfying longer lives. 

Who:  Here & Now, Novartis Oncology and Greg Burdulis

Here & Now is an advanced breast cancer (ABC) awareness initiative funded by Novartis Oncology and based in Europe.  I helped develop a Mindfulness Resource for Here and Now to support women living with ABC both emotionally and psychologically. 

I spent 7 years practicing mindfulness intensively in Burma. I’ve been teaching mindfulness internationally since 2008.  I have experienced myself and observed in clients tremendous positive changes that come with the practice of mindfulness. 

Why:  Mindfulness Helps with Distress

Previous research has found that around 40% of ABC patients suffer depression and emotional stress. Research also found cancer patients practicing mindfulness experienced a 65% reduction in mood disturbance.

Mindfulness is an effective “psychological remedy” that compliments medicine to help manage stress, boost emotional resilience, reduce symptoms and side effects and manage pain.

What:  Mindfulness and the Recorded Exercises

Mindfulness is present moment awareness of the inner world (your body, emotions and thoughts) and your outer world, including others and your environment.  Mindfulness has a flavor of curiosity and is nonjudgmental. 

Neuroscience shows mindfulness develops the prefrontal lobe area of your brain, the area associated with decision-making, perspective taking, self-awareness and self-regulation.  It has been shown to shrink those areas linked to stress and anxiety.

Mindfulness trains you to be steady instead of being swept away by emotions or believing all your thoughts.  There’s less ruminating about the past and worrying about the future so you’re more present for the life that’s happening here and now.

Mindfulness doesn’t change what happens to us. And it doesn’t cure cancer. Mindfulness changes us…and how we respond to what happens.  Instead of reacting to a situation blindly and out of habit, we see a situation for what it is, and respond appropriately.  Our wiser choices lead to increased wellbeing...and better tomorrows.  That is why some people say mindfulness is about waking up and truly living. 

The Mindfulness Resource offers recordings to develop the following 5 skills:

  1. Calm—de-stress and down-regulate the fight/flight reaction to uncover serenity beneath chaos or anxiety. 
  2. Gratitude—draw your attention and appreciation to what’s good in your life to boost your happiness and perceived quality of life
  3. Self-compassion—be your own best friend instead of your worst enemy through self-directed kindness and acceptance.
  4. Pain Management—leverage your understanding of the emotional and mental components of pain to reduce pain’s negative impact.
  5. Active Imagination--engage your imagination to understand what you have to learn through your cancer experience.

Where:  Here & Now Website

Mindfulness Resources for women with ABC is found here.