October is breast cancer awareness month. There are very few of us reading this who haven’t been affected by cancer, either directly – having had that diagnosis yourself – or having a family member or close friend receive those fear-inducing words: “We’ve found cancerous cells.” You know, I even find those words difficult to write down, never mind come to terms with them as part of my life or the life of a close family member. So, if this scenario is forming part of your current experience, this month let’s try to gently break it down to make it a little bit more bearable.

A cancer diagnosis is frightening. That’s the first thing. Immediately, the storytelling part of the brain kicks in and we begin to think and live out our worst-case scenario. This is panic, which is a reaction to the news, not a response – but don’t berate yourself if this is your immediate reaction. Take time to come to terms with this diagnosis. I find, as I always do, that focusing on breathing helps enormously when faced with life-changing news, repeating silently to yourself: “I breathe deeply and slowly to relax my muscles and to calm my body.”