When I wrote F.I.E.R.C.E.: Transform Your Life in the Face of Adversity, 5 Minutes at a Time! It was aimed at helping people escape the clutches of debilitating environmental situations to live the lives they deserve. I knew that the Breathe, Focus, Action component of the FIERCE process could help anyone dealing with adversity; however I never imagined that it would help cancer patients navigate their treatments. That’s why I was extremely humbled to receive this note from a breast cancer patient:
“Sometimes all you need is a reminder to breathe – not only breathe, but also move forward. Moving forward starting with one small goal, helped me get through the rest of my treatments. Practicing these FIERCE steps gave me permission to think about what was in front of me in smaller, more manageable pieces with the reminder to be courageous and take action for myself.” – Heather
Since the launch of my book, I have had the privilege to work with many cancer patients through my PhD research, and many of them have testified to the fact that the process has helped them acquire coping skills. By using the Breathe, Focus, Action element during times when they have been overwhelmed by their situations, they were able to summon the grit to push forward with incredible courage. I’m so honored to have been invited to share this process with you here on Don’t Let Cancer Steal Your Joy, and hopefully it will help you find the FIERCE warrior inside of you.
FIERCE: F for Focused Breath
The F in FIERCE stands for focused breath and the process involves taking a deep breath, facing fear, finding the fire and focusing on the way forward.
In her article Stress and Cancer on Psychology Today, Lucy O’Donnell explains the link between stress and cancer. It is not uncommon for a healthy person to come down with a viral infection after a period of intense stress, so it is only understandable that there is no benefit to exposing a cancer-afflicted body to prolonged stress.
A 2013 study showed that stress reduces the effectiveness of cancer drugs while another study found that a group of breast cancer patients who received ongoing psychological interventions, relaxation training and advice on minimizing stress, were 45% less likely to experience a recurrence of their breast cancer than those who received no psychological interventions. The same study found that of those who did experience recurring breast cancer, those in the intervention group were 59% less likely to die from breast cancer.
Make Breathing Your Best Friend Always
Step #1: BREATHE
Breathe in for a count of 7
Breathe out for a count of 11
Deep breathing aids relaxation and blood pressure reduction. With stress reduction, your mind is cleared to reallocate your energy for positive action such as clearly focusing on the goal at hand.
Set small, simple, achievable goals, even if it’s just to get through your next treatment procedure.
Step #2: Focus
What is your immediate goal?
Focus on your immediate goals so as to avoid being overwhelmed by the road ahead.
Step #3: Action
What are the steps you need to take to achieve your goal? Indeed, your immediate goal might be a small stepping stone in the path to beating cancer. That’s alright, too!
Choose an action you can take right now that will propel you in the right direction.
This is the tool Heather used to combat debilitating fatigue from chemotherapy and mustering up the courage – although exhausted – to push forward through the next steps of surgery and radiation therapy. I encourage you to take a moment to stop and breathe. For just five minutes, stop thinking about the what ifs and the maybes, and just take some time for focused breathing. Do it daily for best results.