- Question from Shantel: Do you think that the lifestyle changes, with modern living, has added to people being less active and not eating enough nutritional food?
- Answers - Marisa C. Weiss, M.D. Studies of how people move around and access the things they do in their life show, in the U.S. at least, that people will jump into a car if they have to go more than 5 minutes away from their home. We are also very busy, working long, long hours, often from a desk chair. All of the demands in our life do seem to make us more sedentary. So many of us find that we have to go out of our way to incorporate regular physical activity into our lives.
- Mitch Golant This discussion is interesting for a few reasons. One is that we are focusing on the value of exercise and there is no question that that is there. The research that we have been doing on women with breast cancer has linked not only diet, nutrition, exercise, relaxation, and visualization, but also the notion of social support as the unifying factor in helping reduce stress. It is the idea that whatever you are doing, if you are doing it with others who are doing it; the benefits are tremendous. From my perspective, we are focusing on exercise at this moment, but keep in mind the value of social support. We are really talking about the support where you can share your actual feelings and emotions.
- Marisa C. Weiss, M.D. Dr. Golant, what are the words that you hear women express that mean 'stress' in your book?
- Mitch Golant There is a whole range of words. The word usually used first is 'anxious' - "I'm feeling edgy, alone, hopeless. I'm feeling isolated." And often they will start talking about having a knot in their stomach, tightness in the chest.
- Marisa C. Weiss, M.D. How do you draw the line between having a busy life that feels important and significant versus a life that has too much stimulation, too many demands that are tough to manage?
- Mitch Golant That again is an excellent question and there is no simple answer. What seems to happen is that women in support groups begin to talk about what is called goal reappraisal. They begin after the diagnosis to re-think what is important to them. Prior to the diagnosis, you are most likely thinking that your life is going along like everyone else's. The diagnosis of cancer - an event perhaps not too dissimilar to what happened this week with the terrorist attacks - completely changes your life. And we begin to re-prioritize. That process of re-thinking and re-feeling what is important is often called the silver lining around the cloud of cancer. Often people who have gone through it have talked about how they have changed their life and in what way. It's a wake up call. The answer really is the process of exploration of what is important.
- Marisa C. Weiss, M.D. That is one of the values of a support group - to help facilitate that inner process of sifting through the things and people in your life that mean the most to you and make you feel the most connected.
On Wednesday, September 19, 2001, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Stress and Your Immune System. Mitch Golant, Ph.D. and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions on how stress affects your treatment, and what you can do to boost your immune system.
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