Monday, September 27, 2010

Chapter 11: Fighting Breast Cancer

When dealing with people that have been through something as emotional draining as fighting cancer, it is important to keep in mind their mental state as much as their physical one.  It is not in our power to reverse what the cancer has done physically, but we do have the ability to help them with their emotions through various wellness programs.

Keinginna and Kleinginna’s (1981) definition of emotion states that; “Emotion is a complex set of interactions among subjective and objective factors, mediated by neural/hormonal systems, which can give rise to affective experiences such as feelings of arousal, pleasure/displeasure; generate cognitive processes; activate widespread physiological adjustments to the arousing conditions; and lead to behavior that is often, but not always, expressive, goal-directed, and adaptive.

“Quality of life is a broad, integrative construct, comprising the person’s perceived physical, social and psychological well-being.” (Gill & Williams, 2008, p.177)  With that said I believe quality of life and emotion are obviously intertwined.  Emotion is a complex set of interactions among subjective and objective factors; these factors contribute to the perceived physical, social and psychological well-being of a particular person.  Therefore as the director of the wellness program I believe it’s important to balance mental exercises as well as physical one’s when dealing with breast cancer patients that are looking to improve their quality of life.

First priority for myself as the director of the program is to make sure everyone is comfortable.  Being a class of all cancer survivors, I believe it’s important to let them know they’re not alone.  Everyone in this class has been through a similar situation and with all of them having that unique bond; the class itself may act as their personal support group. Taking part in group activities will increase enjoyment because of interactions and feedback from their peers. (Gill & Williams, 2008)  The next step would be to improve physical and emotional well-being through physical activity.  Since not all of the participants would be at the same level physically, it is difficult to determine the level of intensity that would be best for everyone.  Experiencing flow is the ideal state in sports and exercise.  “Flow occurs when the performer is totally connected to the performance in a situation in which skills equal the challenge.“  (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990)  Yoga and Tai Chi are unique programs that both beginners and experts can experience flow.  Flow is about matching skills to equal the challenge and Yoga provides various positions ranging from beginners to advanced.  This allows for the participants to be challenged according to their skill set.  If a challenge is too difficult for someone, they will feel overwhelmed and become even more stressed out or give up all together.  Same can be said if the challenge is too easy; someone may get bored with the exercise and become frustrated that they aren’t being adequately challenged.  That is why it is our job as program directors to help put the participants in a position to be able to experience flow. 

Cognitive development is also vital when dealing with a healing process.  These cancer survivors’ are healing from the long battle with cancer physically and mentally.  Positive self talk and positive reinforcement can be used to improve their self esteems.  You could also use goal setting as a motivation tool.  Some of these cancer survivors may not have been concerned with their physical health before and therefore need something to motivate them to stick with the program; and setting goals is the perfect way to motivate them and have them aim towards something specific.

Since improving their quality of life is the ultimate goal, we must provide the participants with attainable goals that when completed will give them a sense of pride and accomplishment.  They have already been through a difficult situation and as the program director if I make the activities too demanding, I will have done more harm than good psychologically.  And that is not what we’re striving for in our field of work.


Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York:
Harper and Row.

    Gill, D.L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd
Ed.)  Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.


  1. Dylan -

    I like your discussion about flow and its importance for each individual due to differences in physical ability. Tai Chi and Yoga are great ways to help people focus and very possibly have an experience with flow. I don't think I included goal setting in my program, but I do believe that is a good idea for the physical activity component. What are some examples of goals you would give and are they short-term focused or more long-term? Perhaps one goal would be "I will regain my strength so that I can hold my infant again without experiencing pain." One suggestion I had for the quality of life component was to create group discussion where the cancer survivors share their quality of life issues and concerns felt after their recovery from chemo or surgical procedures. Relating to others is one way to cope and hopefully improve QoL in a group setting. I'm very interested in social support for physical activity, so I definitely believe the physical activity sessions should at least be with a partner or the whole group for motivational purposes.

  2. I agree with your first priority of making sure sure all the individuals are comfortable and that since it's a class of cancer survivors they understand they've all been through a similar situation, which bonds them uniquely. The should be able to lean on one another throughout the exercise program. Having someone there to help through the ups and downs can be a very effective way of improving quality of life. I also agree with you that Yoga and Tai Chi are effective physical activities that both beginner and experienced individuals can take part in. Knowing ones physical abilitiy, they can control their level of involvement with these two activities so they do not overdue it. Great response!