Published on February 25, 2019
“We’ve known for a long time that an individual’s frame of mind is crucial for overcoming a difficult circumstance, whether that be disease or another difficult circumstance,” says leading myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) expert Dr. Ruben Mesa, from UT Health San Antonio Cancer Center. Can mindfulness-based practices help myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) patients cope? Dr. Mesa explains how mindfulness techniques can be used by patients facing a chronic disease to help with stress reduction, managing uncertain circumstances and resilience when overcoming challenges. MPN patients Samantha and Julia also share what they do daily to feel empowered. Watch now to find out more from the expert panel.
This program is sponsored by Incyte Corporation
Transcript | What Is the Role of Mindfulness in Cancer Care?
Let’s start with Dr. Mesa. When we talk about mindfulness, Ruben, what are we talking about? What comes under mindfulness, and what role does it play for those of us living with MPNs?
Well, at least my interpretation of mindfulness, it is a concept of which we’re hearing much more about. And this is really an individual’s awareness of life, of the things that they’re going through, really living each day. As it relates to individuals facing a disease, a chronic disease or other difficult circumstances, the tools of mindfulness have been studied and identified by both psychiatrists and psychologists as potentially being very helpful in alleviating stress, in better adapting to difficult circumstances.
So, that difficult circumstance can be facing a chronic disease, but that difficult circumstance might be something else. Recovering from a hurricane or a natural disaster; a loss in someone’s life of losing a job or a loved one. So, it’s almost a series of different potential resources, techniques for trying to alleviate stress and challenges when dealing with difficult circumstances.
Right. And does the medical evidence—and I know you’ve been involved in studies. Do you see patients do better when they’re following some of these practices that we’ll discuss during the program?
Well, I think we’ve known for a long time that an individual’s frame of mind is crucial for overcoming a difficult circumstance, whether that be disease or another difficult circumstance. I think around the focus on mindfulness is trying to identify what aspects of how people deal and cope with difficult circumstances are helpful.
Are there things in there can be taught, or utilized, or shared to help individuals be able to deal and manage with those circumstances? Sometimes that great difficulty as it relates to MPNs is difficulties that they’re facing, either symptoms or complications. But another big component is dealing with uncertainty, right?
And the stress that comes with the uncertainty of what the future holds, and will or will your disease not have a big impact on your life further downstream?
So, what would you say then, when we talk about this mindfulness thing, you continue to do research with other colleagues around the world. Maybe it’s not specifically quantified just yet, though, and we’re all on this long cancer—hopefully very long cancer journey. What would you say to people watching just about, if they can, making this part of their life?
Well, I’d say that mindfulness, in a broader way, is saying that in addition to medicines, there is a lot more that can be done that you can do to really try to help yourself feel better and to have a better quality of life in a range of us. So, working with your doctors or others to try to find what is helpful for you. I think there a whole variety of different safe options out there. We hope to study them better, but I think to some degree, there’s even some trial and error. But clearly, it involves your engagement. And as I tell people, there is no thing from a prescription pad that is going to completely make you feel the way you want to feel.
Mm-hmm. Julia, final comment from you for people watching who maybe have never done any of this before?
I’m listening to Dr. Mesa and just sort of shaking my head internally and externally, because I think that’s—it’s taken me a while to realize that I can—there are other things that I can do. Even though I’ve talked about eating and exercise, thinking about other ways of making yourself feel better outside of medication has been scary because I’m, like Samantha, off medication right now, except for aspirin. But it’s also—there’s something actually empowering about that. There’s something that I didn’t realize is a sort of good thing, and now I’m starting to embrace that.
Well, we wish you well...
…on your journey. And Samantha, you’re not old, but you’re sort of the old-timer, in that you’ve been living with these MPNs for quite a while. So, what would be a final comment to our viewers as far as considering some of these practices to try them out?
Yeah. I would say to remember that taking care of yourself is important. And it’s not selfish to set aside time for yourself to try some of these things. It’s much more than just taking whatever medication is prescribed to you, and then filling your busy life with all sorts of other things that you’re doing. Set aside time. Make a list of these other activities and try them out, whether that is taking an hour in the morning and trying out yoga, meditation—go see a therapist, a counselor, integrative medicine, exercise, research different diets and see what might suit you. But be kind to yourself and know that you are important, and your overall health is important, and be—and take that time for yourself, and just—and try it.