Tag Archives: Wellbeing

Helping young people rebuild their lives after cancer

A digital program to support young people adjusting to life after cancer has been awarded $1.37 million from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Dawn collaborator Professor Sandie McCarthy, from the University of Queensland’s (UQ) School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work is leading the project BALANCE, which will be developed by UQ in partnership with cancer support organisation Canteen.

Professor McCarthy said the aim of the digital program was to enhance the physical and mental wellbeing of young people treated for cancer by giving them the knowledge and skills to sustain a healthy lifestyle.

“Surviving cancer does not necessarily mean younger people can return to their former state of health – they must work at it,” Professor McCarthy said.

“Young people need mental health strategies to manage the distress associated with their cancer experience.

“As the program is driven by the needs of young people, it will be designed and delivered in consultation with them.”

For more information about BALANCE, contact Professor McCarthy at s.mccarthy@uq.edu.au

Video courtesy of Channel 10 News, airing 8 October 2021

 

The BALANCE program is supported by:

UQ Balance Program Supporters

So what is motivation ?

Motivation is the determination to reach our personal goals or desires. It is influenced by how much we want to achieve that goal, what we might gain from the achievement and what we from expect from ourselves.
There is little doubt that when it comes to health and wellness, the ability to stay positively motivated and continue with good physical activity and nutrition habits can be a struggle. Often we start out strong and then ‘life’ gets in the way and we go back to our old, perhaps not so good, behaviours. So here are some quick tips to help you stay motivated. 

- Self-belief to stay motivated is important as it influences our thinking. Developing a positive and high self-belief can create successful changes in our behaviours especially during exercise and help us reach our goals. Use positive self-affirmations.

- Find your reason why you want to achieve this goal, write it up somewhere and keep your focus on it, this is often a good way to stay motivated if you feel you are faltering.

- Set realistic, rewarding goals and regularly review them. This is a key aspect of keeping yourself motivated to get the positive benefits. To start with, it is sometimes helpful to just set one achievable goal and work it into your daily routine, break it down into manageable parts.  For example if your goal is to exercise, start by doing a daily walk for 30 minutes. Have a timeframe for when you want to have achieved this a s regular activity and then build on it.

- Keep a good and regular routine – Use an app or a reminder system so you can’t let the day escape before you have achieved your daily goal – some people make this work by creating a daily appointment for themselves just as they would for any other appointment for example the hairdresser, doctor, dentist or a friend. Being busy’ or ‘being too tired’ often causes a break down in the routine that was
initially set.

- Use your family and friends as support – tell them about your goals and encourage them to help keep you motivated. Buddy up with someone so you can help and motivate each-other or get yourself a mentor to guide you. Check your goals and your progress frequently. Seeing good progress is a great motivator in itself, and can also improve your self-confidence.

- Keep goals fun and reward yourself when you have achieved them, make a plan for when and how you will do this. Put a note on your calendar for reward day so you keep progressing towards the goal.

Remember …..
If you lose motivation for a day or two, don’t let that deter you. Pick yourself up and carry back on again, see it as a challenge not a failure, setbacks are normal.

Sexuality and Relationships after Cancer

Cancer doesn’t just affect the person diagnosed it has an impact on the people who are closest to them and it can also be very stressful for their partners. For many partners there will be a period of shock, anxiety and fear until they have adjusted to the situation. There are many tricky topics for couples to negotiate during diagnosis, through treatment, and beyond and one of those topics is sexuality and intimacy.

Being close to someone who has been diagnosed and treated for cancer can impact on all aspects of the relationship including the sexual and intimate relationship of a couple. There may be a number of concerns, including resuming sexual activity because you are afraid of hurting your partner, or concerned that initiating sex is inappropriate when they are feeling tired or unwell. You may be worried about showing shock at scar or other bodily changes due to treatments, or anxious that the chemotherapy and radiotherapy could have an effect on you. It may be that you are worried about the future and are fearful of losing your partner. All of these issues may play a role in diminished sexual intimacy.

Equally your partner may be concerned about whether you will still find her attractive, how you see her now, and if you will be comparing things to how they were before. These concerns are common, and you may be both making assumptions about how the other feels without knowing it. Communication with your partner is key and taking the time to discuss how she feels about intimacy, and when she thinks a good time might be to resume sexual activity. It is important to have an open and honest conversation that remains supportive to discuss fears and worries you both have, dispel some myths  and how you will overcome them and potentially show affection in other ways.

If you can relate to some of these points, it is really important to chat to a health professional, there are often simple strategies to help address these problems.

Below are some resources that may also be helpful:

https://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/affected-cancer/cancer-types/breast-cancer/impact-breast-cancer-sexuality-and-intimacy

https://www.petermac.org/services/support-services/cancersurvivorship/survdirect/sex-and-intimacy

https://www.cancervic.org.au/living-with-cancer/sexuality-and-intimacy/sexuality-and-intimacy-overview

https://www.macmillan.org.uk/cancer-information-and-support/impacts-of-cancer/sex-and-cancer

https://breastcancernow.org/sites/default/files/intimacy_and_sexuality_for_cancer_patients_and_their_partners.pdf

Janine Porter-Steele

Janine is The Clinical Nurse Manager of the Wesley Hospital Choices Cancer Support Centre in Brisbane.  The centre offers support, sharing and information for women, men and their families affected by a diagnosis of cancer. For many years Janine has also been actively involved with the Women’s Wellness Research Programs as manager,  delivering the programs, supporting the development of resources, and co-writing a number of the journals.

Janine undertook much of her training in the UK as a registered nurse, midwife, health visitor and family planning nurse. She completed a Bachelor of Nursing at QUT, a Masters in Nursing Leadership at ACU and she is also Breast Care and Women’s Health Nurse. Janine believes very strongly in providing interdisciplinary and comprehensive support for people affected by a diagnosis and treatment of cancer and has a particular interest in younger, midlife and older women’s health. Janine completed her PhD studies in the area of cancer and sexuality linked with the Women’s Wellness after Cancer Program (WWACP). Her particular focus is in managing menopause, sexuality, body image and depression issues for women.

Lately, Janine has been working with Auckland University and the University of Queensland to deliver a program as part of a research trial providing a Women’s Wellness Program for young women in New Zealand  (NZ) diagnosed with breast cancer. She and the Women’s Wellness team have also been recipients of a grant from Wesley Medical Research. They are using this to replicate the NZ feasibility trial with young women diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia.

In her spare time Janine likes spending time with family and friends. She enjoys walking the local bush tracks in the area. Her favourite relaxation is wandering along the beach in Northern New South Wales and kayaking the rivers down there.

Leonie Young

We hear stories all the time about people diagnosed with cancer but when it becomes personal we’re never prepared.  Somehow, we seem to think we’re different and these things happen to other people.  Well I learned otherwise.  Cancer is what opened up another world and changed so much about who I thought I was.

Breast cancer was totally unexpected especially as I was only 32 years old.  I was busy enjoying being a mother to my two small daughters.  I certainly wasn’t ready to die, although like most people diagnosed with cancer, this is what I thought.

Just hearing the words You have cancer can be a devastating experience people usually remember for the rest of their lives long after they have forgotten all the details of medical treatment and tests that followed those words.

Often people are so frightened by the word “cancer” they hear nothing else.  Interestingly, hearing the diagnosis may actually be more traumatic for some, regardless of their diagnosis. That’s what having a cancer diagnosis is like – people aren’t necessarily brave or especially wonderful in what they do, they just do what they have to do to survive because there’s really no other choice.

My world soon changed to the previously unknown one of tests, surgery, and chemotherapy.  Cancer treatments aim to save lives but in doing so, they often bring life-changing side-effects.   I eventually found ways to make meaning of what I had been through  and found myself being involved with many aspects of cancer consumer advocacy, support, training, and mentoring.  I became interested in research because I believe evidence based practice is the only way we will see change and I have  been able to work along-side researchers  providing input from my personal experience as they develop their research projects.

Likewise, in my work at the Wesley Hospital Choices Cancer Support Centre (Choices) I help support people diagnosed with cancer from the perspective of someone who has “been there” and now with my work and through initiatives like the Women’s Wellness  Programs and the Younger Women’s Wellness After Cancer Program, this support is able to continue in a very rewarding way.

I’ve survived to see my daughters grow up, get married, and have children.  I have to confess I’m torn between wanting to stay young and knowing that growing older is a privilege many women still don’t have.  When I was that young woman back then I really wanted to be where I am today so I do try really hard to embrace the ever increasing grey hair and consequent extra trips to the hairdresser and wrinkles and all the other things that come with age.

Over time I learned to respect cancer, not fear it.  I discovered the power of the lived experience, the value of peer support, and about how I could make a difference.

I want breast cancer to go away so my daughters and grandchildren – and your children, grandchildren, sisters, mothers, friends can live without the fear of breast cancer.

Alcohol

Alcohol consumption is always a risk and the risk further increases if there is an excess on a regular basis or if binge drinking occurs. Excess alcohol consumption by women can cause issues in weight gain, high blood pressure, and increases risk for many health conditions including cancers and diabetes. Health and wellness in relation to alcohol does not have to take away alcohol all together for women, however promoting a healthy lifestyle whereby alcohol is not relied upon can ensure you are not consuming too much. These are some useful tips for the home and the workplace to promote this balance and provide positive healthy living messages surrounding alcohol intake:

1. Try not to make staff or other outings in places that promote alcohol consumption.
2. Always have water/other options available instead of alcohol at work functions.
3. Attempt to set goals to reduce the amount of standard drinks you have per day/week.
4. Avoid binge drinking.

These few tips can reduce the risks that come with consuming alcohol. Though avoiding alcohol all together would be the ultimate goal to avoid the many risks that can come from its consumption, remember there are other options. By placing smaller goals like specific weeks or months with no alcohol it is recommended to decrease the chances of getting a life-threatening illness and increasing overall health and wellness.

Goal Setting

Goal Setting can be an important action in ensuring health and wellness. Setting goals both large and small can provide direction and focus and promote healthy habits to provide positive outcomes. Here are five goals that the Women’s Wellness Program focuses on to encourage healthy change:

  1. Healthy weight and waist circumference.
  2. Physical activity.
  3. Reducing unhealthy habits.
  4. Healthy eating.
  5. Reducing stress.

Setting small goals within each area gives a starting point. Goal setting should start with goals that are not easy but not impossible. Starting with smaller goals allows you to put in the effort to do something and be able to maintain it. This can include reducing consumption of certain foods/alcohol/smoking daily or increasing physical activity per week. This can also lead into taking time in your day to attempt to reduce stress levels. From here goals can be increased and placed in more specific areas of weight goals, physical activity goals, and beating unhealthy habit (smoking/alcohol/caffeine) goals. Each of these is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and increasing overall wellness.