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Why I Don't Do Support Groups (and the physiology behind it)

Yesterday I was scrolling social media and came across a breast cancer support group. Someone posted that she had the same cancer that I was diagnosed with.

Curious, I clicked to read:

“ILC is more difficult to find, does not form a distinct lump but rather a spider web formation. It makes up 10-15% of all breast cancers. It likes to spread to other areas of the body like spine, belly, eyes.”

And now I can’t unsee that.

When I read it alarm bells went off and that primitive part of my brain registered, "Threat, threat, this cancer likes to spread--we're unsafe!" It then elicited a physiological threat response in my nervous system and I experienced an adrenaline rush, tension in my solar plexus, butterflies, a gripping in my throat…I even feel that activation now, many days later, as I type this.

My body is doing exactly what it’s designed to do. My brain is detecting a threat which causes my body to go on high alert so I can get the hell away from the danger.

But the thing is, I can’t get away from it. The messages that I’m in danger are all around me. From a FB scroll, the news, to commercials on TV--even just my thoughts ruminating on the fact that cancer likes to spread to my spine, my belly, and my eyes!

So that threat response is activated over and over again. And not only is that scary and uncomfortable, but it’s terrible for healing. It shunts resources away from our immune system and keeps us hyper-vigilant and steeped in fear. Or in some cases, over time just shuts us down into a helpless collapsed nervous system freeze state.

So while all of what the OP wrote could be true (I didn't fact check because I don't Google medical topics) there is zero upside for me to revisit and recreate that threat over and over again in my mind.

But Jen, isn’t that burying your head in the sand? Absolutely not.

I’m well aware of the risks and I take care of myself in the way that suits me and my body best. And once that’s sorted, it’s actually more protective to keep myself steeped in the present moment and the felt sense of safety that I intentionally cultivate, so that my nervous system and immune system can work optimally.

So if other people’s advice and experiences can “get in your head” and trigger fear responses for you, allow yourself to be very careful about what you let in to your sacred bubble.

Understanding risks and acting intentionally can feel empowering and increase a sense of safety. But constant exposure to worst case scenarios and ruminating thoughts can actually create a net negative result and keep you stuck.

A coach can help you identify if you’re unwittingly creating more fear and holding yourself back from the safety and light that is yours now.

DISCLAIMER: If you gain strength and support from online groups then that is a beautiful thing for you. There is no right way to do cancer. Do what feels good. xo


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