#321 Breast Cancer and Your Hardwired Brain - Increase Your Capacity for Joy

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How can someone expect to have the ability to deal with and manage a breast cancer diagnosis when they never thought this would happen in their life? 

Maybe they don’t. 

But we do have the capacity to learn these skills. 

In this episode we’ll talk about the challenge of overcoming how your brain is hardwired to freak out, to be fearful, and to think in worst-case scenarios. 

You may think you’re stuck with all of these negative emotions because that’s just how your brain works, but that’s not the case. 

We’ll talk about how to overcome your hardwiring so you can increase your capacity to feel at peace and create more joy in your life. 


Referred to in this episode: 

How to work with Laura 

Episode #156 Breast Cancer and Scanxiety 


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Read the full transcript below:

Laura Lummer 0:00
You're listening to better than before breast cancer with the breast cancer recovery coach. I'm your host, Laura Lummer. I'm a certified life coach, and I'm a breast cancer thriver. In this podcast, I will give you the skills and the insights and the tools to move past the emotional and physical trauma of a breast cancer diagnosis. If you're looking for a way to create a life, that's even better than before breast cancer, you've come to the right place. Let's get started.

Laura Lummer 0:33
Hey, friends, welcome to episode 321. I'm your host, Laura Lummer. And I am here today recording freshly back from taking my first pet scan. Now, I've had a lot of scans between two breast cancer diagnoses. But they've all been either MRIs or CT scans. And the PET scan for those of you who don't know you, most of you probably do. But the PET scan shows metabolic activity where there's cancer in in the body versus the CT scan, which just shows where there is or has been cancer. But it doesn't really show whether that cancer is active at this point, I didn't really realize the extent of the differences of those two scans until last year, when I was having some pain in my right hip. And I had a scan a CT scan, and then I went to see a orthopedic oncologist, I think it was an orthopedic oncology surgeon, because we were trying to determine the best mode of treatment for my right hip. And in looking at the CT scan results and showing them he walked me through it. And he was showing me where there was cancer in the right hip. But he said, but I can't tell if that's dead disease or active disease. And so we started talking about that. And I didn't realize that they could tell that from a CT scan. So back around that time, my oncologist also recommended a PET scan. But I didn't really want to do one because it involved radioactive glucose. And I didn't want to put more glucose in my body or radioactive substances of any kind. Anyway, fast forward, my oncologist again, wanted me to do a PET scan, and curiosity got the best of me. So I did do a PET scan today. And well, I was I got the injection, they inject the radioactive glucose. And then I went into this very cozy room where I had a very cushy recliner chair. But as I was sitting there in that room, I started to think about the difference and how I was feeling the difference between my perspective of getting this PET scan now at this stage of my life, versus how scans have felt in the past. Now, when I was very first diagnosed in 2011, of course, I was terrified of that first scan, I went in to get the scans and the diagnostics, and I just thought, I've no idea my dying, what's going on here, you know, it was very upsetting. And then going through treatment coming out of treatment. And then going through every six months, I had a scan, then once a year, I had a scan, and then it moves to every two years. And for those first couple of years, there was definitely skin xiety going on. And in fact, I did a podcast about scans it I'll link to that in the show notes for this episode. But it's a very real thing. And what it is basically is us deciding on and running a Netflix original series in our head about how horrible the outcome of this scan is going to be. Right? We're afraid that it's going to find more disease or advanced disease or something like that. So we feel anxiety, we anxiety is always that result unless it's something you know, clinical diagnoseable, which is day to day anxiety is a result of us thinking worst case scenario about something that hasn't happened yet. That's always going to bring up those feelings of anxiousness. So as I was sitting in that room today, I started to think back on how different I was feeling. And I just kind of reflected on past experiences. So for example, back in 2011, in my first breast cancer diagnosis, I then had the capacity to think differently. But I didn't have the ability to do it. Because I had not yet learned the tools to be able to be in that kind of situation, identify the thoughts that were creating my feelings and then choose something different to be able to feel the way I wanted to feel. Now, today I did I have both the capacity to think differently, and the ability to think differently because I've gone through so much mental training from 2011 until now. So the situation is I know that they're hot has been cancer in my body. I know there potentially still is cancer in my body. I don't know to what extent it's still in there. Isn't that the weirdest thing like something can be in your body, and you just don't know it like, you've got to get this scan to look inside of you. But I can choose to be fearful that the results of this scan may be worse than what I think they are. I can choose to believe that they're going to be better than what I think they are. I can choose to just stay in curiosity. And that's really where I wanted to be. I just wanted to be curious. Because when these results come back, if they're better than what I'm thinking, I'm actually thinking they're going to be good. So if they are what I'm thinking, of course, that's awesome. And if they're not as good as what I'm thinking, then I just wanted to stay in curiosity. So I could say, no matter what these results, show me, I want to use this information as a stepping stone. In the lifestyle program that I choose to live. I want to understand it and put it in perspective. Are there things I can do in my lifestyle? Are there adaptations I can make in my lifestyle? What are my options with my traditional long colleges? What are my options, and just managing life, knowing the information that I'll know once this scan comes through. And so I started to think about how I see this interesting contrast in people that I coach and people that I talk to. And on the one hand, a lot of times I hear this, this is just how I am, this is how I think this is how my brain works. And I call that our hardwiring, right? That's actually a good awareness, to know how your brain works. To know when I hear certain things. This is what my brain does. When I'm faced with certain situations, this is what my brain does automatically, right? That's the first thing it goes to. And that's a result of whatever the way you're hardwired, the way you've been conditioned to think your whole life. But for some reason, a lot of the times, especially when a client first starts working with me, we believe that the way we're hardwired is the way it has to be. And I want to take hardwiring and link that to capacity, right? So we have the capacity to learn, and behave, and think and feel differently. But we don't have the ability yet. Because we haven't realized that we can override our hardwiring, we choose. And this is the amazing thing. This is where this idea of consciousness comes in. Because I can observe the way my brain works. I can look at my brain and say, This is where my brain goes, I happen to know that the way my brain works is to first go to fight, figure it out, fix it, right, no matter what comes up in my life, if I go with my hardwiring, my brain will immediately push back, right? If it's something I don't want, if it's something I don't like, if it's something that doesn't align with my values, my brain will first go to fight it or fix it. Sometimes that's good. Sometimes that's not good. And so I have to learn to observe that this is a chemical neurological response that happens in Oregon, that is in the skull of my head, right? It's inside my skull. This is how this organ works. But somehow I have this ability to look at it. Recognize that's how it works. And then say that I can choose differently, right? I can choose a different Netflix original series. And it may or may not be accurate, because it's all made up, right? Anything that isn't in this moment, that hasn't happened yet. That is in the future. It's all imaginary, because we have no idea what's coming in the future. And yet we go with what our brain is hardwired to do, which inevitably, I don't think I've ever met anyone who's just hardwired to think the best of everything, right? Some people have more positive attitudes than others, and are able to be more optimistic. But most human brains don't work that way. And they work by telling us something scary, and then we go into fear, and then we feel terrible. And then that undermines our health. So on the one hand, I see this acceptance of this is just the way it is. And when we're looking at that, and the acceptance of my brain just works like this, it's hardwired, then the coaching is to be able to show someone that maybe there are other options there. Maybe we don't have to go with the hard wiring. Maybe if you could choose to see how we can observe the hard wiring, and then choose something different. This can change, and then your capacity to live a different life actually changes along with it. But let's contrast that with what I see on the flip side. The flipside is I often see people in the sense of what's really happening in their life. resist that. For example, I have cancer I don't want to have cancer. So I'll fight myself a fight my body or resist it or push it away. I'm in a relationship, I'm not happy, I don't want to feel unhappy. So I don't want to deal with this because I don't want to, I don't want to be in this moment saying, Oh, this is what is. And it's so interesting. Because in both cases, if we look at the way our brain is hardwired, and we say, this just is what it is, that's true. And I have a choice to change it. If we look at our life, and we're willing to be in the moment and say, This is what is, this is true, there's facts to show this, there's evidence to show this right, what I'm thinking ahead of time, there's no evidence to show that that's all make believe. But right here, right now, if I can be in this moment, and accept this is where my life is at, then I can also increase my ability to increase the capacity I have for living differently. Because until we can be in this moment, and accept what is we can't take steps to change it. I'll often be coaching people, and they'll say to me, I don't want to be sad. I don't want to be mad. I don't want to be scared. But the truth is, you are sad. You are mad, you are scared. And until you can tell yourself that you can't really work with it. Right? Because you're not accepting it. You're not embracing it. And so the question is, what is wrong with feeling sad, mad, fearful, what we perceive as negative emotions, there's literally nothing wrong with that. And yet, it's so interesting, because we judge them, we judge those emotions, we resist those emotions, we push them away. And then we prevent ourselves from being able to deal with them, and we're past them. And yet, on the other side of the coin, we look at a negative way that our brain works and accept it and say, That's just how it is. Isn't that fascinating? So the real truth of it comes down to this to once we accept what our current ability is, do I have the ability to change something? Do I have the ability to think different? Have I learned how to do that? Once we look at and say, gosh, no, I don't know how to do that. Then we recognize, but I have the capacity to learn more. I have the capacity to change. But I need to learn more things in order to have the ability to fulfill that capacity. Right? And we can also say, in the sense of being in the moment and being what is right now, what is true in my life, because here's the thing, we want to reject and push away what we don't like in our life. But that doesn't change what is. So it's like we go through this cycle of kidding ourselves. So when I go in for a scan, I know what is true, right? I know that there has been cancer in my body, I know where it's been in my body. I don't know, if it's still there, most likely, there's still some there. I don't know if it's active or if it's not active. But I know that the PET scan is going to show some evidence of cancer either having been there or still being there or a combination of the two. So I don't have to be afraid of that. Because I know that it's true. And if I can stay in that, then I can say well, how do I want to feel about the fact that this is true? Do I want to feel scared? Do I want to feel curious? I wanted to feel curious, right? So how do I think differently in order to feel curious? We think about a scan. And I think you can all relate to this. That's why I'm using this as an example. When we think about a scan. Do we want to feel fearful? I'm gonna say 100% of the time the answer is no, we don't want to feel fearful. Is it natural to feel fearful? Yes. Because if we go with the hard wiring of our brain, the hard wiring of our brain has to say protect us from danger, cancer equals Danger. Danger equals a fear response. So it's totally natural and normal. There's nothing wrong with feeling fear. There's nothing wrong with noticing that you're in fear. But because that fear, especially when we're dealing with cancer, and that doesn't mean just like me, maybe living with the stage four diagnosis, or receiving a dude new diagnosis, or being years out and constantly having that worry on your mind. This is something I hear all the time. I think about it all the time. I worry about it all the time. And that is totally normal again, because the hard wiring of your brain is telling you this is something to be afraid of because it's dangerous and that is true.

Laura Lummer 14:57
But does that hardwiring serve you Okay? Do you have the ability to change? And choose differently so that you feel better? Maybe not? Do you have the capacity to do that? Yes. Have you gotten the tools and done the training and had the practice so that you have the ability to do it? Maybe not. But what's important about this podcast this show is that I want to help you open your mind to the understanding that that is possible that the negative emotions you live with, because of the way your brain is hardwired, don't have to stay that way. They'll still be there, they'll still come up. But you can develop the skills to change that, so that you can feel better. Right? So I didn't spend when did I schedule this maybe a week and a half ago, I scheduled it, I didn't spend that week and a half in nervousness and anxiety working up to this PET scan, I probably won't have the results for another week. But I won't spend that week in nervousness and anxiety because of the results. Because part two, I know what is is fact. Right, we can embrace what is and what is true and say this is the circumstance I'm in. This is the fact right? How do I want to feel about this fact, this applies across the board in anything you do in your life. Do I like this job, nice job makes me miserable. Oh, I shouldn't feel miserable, I should be grateful and lucky to have a job, don't feel miserable. Stop, back it up, hold on. The truth is, I feel miserable. And until I can admit that to myself. And until I can just sit in that and say I feel freakin miserable. I'm never going to take the steps to address it. Either. Once I realize I'm unhappy with a situation, whether that situation is my health, relationship, business work, anything at all finances, until I can say to myself, this is true, and I don't like it. Instead of this is true, and I don't want it you see this very subtle, but big difference. I don't want it I don't want it is creating this gap between you and what is real in your life. Right. And so this is again, the brain is hardwired, don't look at it, put your head in the sand. But it doesn't serve you to not look at these things, when we don't look at them when we're not willing to accept what is because sometimes what is is uncomfortable, miserable, like I just said, scary said might make you angry. And we tend to think that somehow, we're not good people, if we have negative emotions. And it's simply not true. Like our emotions are so valuable. And if we can start paying better attention to them, and noticing how we feel in certain situations in life, we step into so much power to create more peace and happier lives. Because once we can accept what is. And once we can look at the way our brain works and decide to override that hardwiring, when it doesn't serve us. Once we can bring those two things together, you will be amazed at what you can create for yourself, you will be amazed at how much better you can feel about the circumstances that come up in life. And I don't mean to say that you're kidding yourself, or it's toxic positivity. Sometimes, you're not going to be happy about things and you just need to be in that and look at is there anything I can do about this or not? Right? I think I shared just recently on the show about the hand and foot syndrome that I have because of my chemotherapy. That's just a fact. I have hand and foot syndrome. Are there certain things that I can do about it? There are and then it gives me a little bit of relief to uh, like those things that I have to do. I really don't, I really don't like walking around wearing gloves and looking like a germaphobe about everything. I really don't like it right. But then I recognize that's just my brain judging myself. And this brings me some relief from pain and allows me to have a better quality of life. So I need to deal with the judgment that my hardwired brain goes into. Because seeing something right what is something that's out of the norm out of the expected someone walking around wearing gloves all the time, I can get away with it now because it's wintertime during the summer looks a little weird, right? But that's all my own story. So I can choose to go with that story, which makes me feel like an oddball and feeling like an oddball doesn't feel good. Or I can recognize that's just a hardwired thought. And I don't like the way that hardwired thought makes me feel. So I can choose another thought and say, I have this attended foot syndrome. It's a side effect of the chemotherapy I'm on and that's just true. Do I like it? No. Do I want it I know if I didn't know I have it, I'd pick that in a heartbeat, right? But if I stay in the I don't want it, then I stay in resistance. And that doesn't feel good either. Right? So I have to stay here and say, Yes, this is what it is. Is there anything I can do about it? Yes? Do I like my options? Or what I can I do about it, not 100%? How can I make them better? So that I can feel better about it? I can get cue clubs, which I have, I can get colorful gloves, I can make it fun. Because how do I want it to feel? How do I want to feel about the fact that I have to manage the side effect, I want to feel good, I want to feel fun, you know, I don't want to worry about it, I don't want to be self conscious about it, I want to feel at ease with it. So when we can lock into that when we can notice what is and what is true. And we can look at how our brain and its hardwiring reacts to what is true, then we can override the heart wiring. And we can choose to change our approach and our thoughts about what is will it change what is know that it will change how you feel about what is so that you can live a happier life. Oh, that makes sense. So as I was sitting in that chair for my PET scan, this is this is how I think so I was just sitting there thinking about this and thinking about how many women I see who just stay in this spot of misery for these two reasons. One, thinking that the way their brain works, it's just the way it is. And that they just have to feel the way they feel because that's the way their brain works. And that's not true. And then the second staying in misery, because they think I don't want what is to be. And so I'm gonna fight it, I'm gonna fight I'm gonna fight it as if it's going to change, right? It's not going to change. So we can bring these two things together and realize, I have the capacity, the capacity, meaning I can open my mind to learning, I can open my mind to a different way of being, I can open my mind to looking at other people who might be experiencing similar things to what you're experiencing, and see, are they managing it in a different way? Would you like to manage it in that way? And then how do you do that? What are the steps, because you have the capacity to learn to change and to grow. But in order to develop that ability, we have to override what's just happening naturally, in between our ears. When we can do that, my friends, we have so much more power, right? Tonight, it's date night, Thursday nights, I go out with my husband estate night, I'm not going to give a second thought to that PET scan, I'm going to just give thoughts to what I want to order at the restaurant, right. And that's a conscious choice in over the years, because I've practiced that choice so much, because I've worked through those thoughts so much and I've developed the ability is become more automatic, I really don't have to put that much intention into it. Somebody once commented on something that I posted on Facebook, and they said anybody who says that they don't fear they don't live in fear of cancer is lying. Okay, that's someone's opinion. Right? But it's not necessarily true. I definitely don't live in fear of cancer. When I think about what cancer could do to me, can I that fear come up? If I allow my thoughts to be rooted in the worst case scenarios? Can that fear come up? Absolutely. In times when pain has increased in my body or tumor markers have increased has fear come up 100%. But because I don't want to live in fear, because I can choose other things that are also true that give me hope, or encouragement, or helped me to feel more positive or more curious, I now have the ability to choose that into practice that and to feel better, and enjoy my life more. And isn't that what this is about? It's really about how do I bring more joy in my life, because none of us know when that tickets getting punched. But the trick isn't to live as long as possible, is to live as well as you possibly can. And hopefully long too, because that's kind of nice, right? But while we're here and in this moment, we want to be happy. We want to feel good. It's not going to happen all the time. But there's a lot more happiness we can invite into our life when we develop the ability to manage our mind and accept what is in the moment so that we can actually take some action on these things, right because it's action that creates change. is changing the way you think that allows you to take that action? And is that action that's going to create more change. So it starts with the thought ends up with the result. And in between is a bunch of action. So as you listen to this, as you are in your life today, ask yourself, Am I seeing my life for what it actually is? Am I willing to accept what is in my life, the good, the bad, the maybe the indifferent? All of it, this is what it is, right? And am I willing to see what is for the truth of it, and then willing to expand my mind, and develop the ability to feel the way I want to feel about the things that are happening in my life is an interesting thing to contemplate. So as you look at that, and you consider it for yourself, notice how quickly your brain will try to talk you out of it. A lot of times when we first start to say, I want to recognize what is right, and might say, You know what, to have a lot of anger towards my spouse, your brain will immediately start saying, You shouldn't be angry, that person is a good person, they're not all bad, you're not perfect either. And we talk ourselves out of it, that's gonna stop you from processing that emotion. That is somewhere stuff deep inside of you. That is not creating the result you want in your health, in your emotional mental health, and even in that relationship. So it's in stopping and saying, Yeah, I've actually got some angry here. I've actually got some resentment here. Now you can say, Okay, do I want to feel resentful towards myself? I really don't. Okay, how do you process that? Sometimes not sure. I mean, there's a lot of years where I was like, I'm mad, I think I deserve to be mad. I have no idea how to change that. And so we've got to do some exploration and learn the tools to develop the ability to work through those negative emotions, and create the life we want to have. Friends if you have questions about that, please reach out to me. You can find me on Facebook and Instagram and DM me and Laura Lummer, the breast cancer recovery coach, or you can come and join me work with me coach through these things and develop your ability to have even more capacity for joy in your life. You can work with me through my better than before breast cancer membership, or one on one coaching and you can find all the information on my website the breast cancer recovery coach.com Just click on the links you find here below. Alright friends, I'll talk to you again soon and until then, take care be good to yourself.



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