Cancer

In Defense of Complacency. Turn off, tune out, drop everything | by Holy Sh*t I Have Cancer | Jan, 2024

Turn off, tune out, drop everything

Woman sitting on the floor of her office, meditating, with a cat.
AI Image of the author and her cat.

I know, I know! We are supposed to pay attention. We are supposed to care. We are supposed to Be the Change. And I do care, I do, way too much. But the fact is, the whole world is a shitshow and my news junkie, doomscrolling habits are detrimental to my health.

After two cancer diagnoses, multiple surgeries, three+ months of chemo, and countless scans and blood draws, I remain committed to surviving. My baseline lifestyle was already pretty healthy, and I’ve made significant strides on the exercise front. But there’s one area I’ve not been able to optimize or even improve since becoming a cancer patient/survivor.

Stress.

Stress is no joke, friends. Psych professor Mark J. Doolittle writes:

When the world around us becomes increasingly stressful, the tendency is for the fight-or-flight response to be chronically activated. If the body is unable to regularly let down, it tends not to swing back to its neutral non-stress point and it becomes pulled more and more toward a chronic stress response. The result is a slowly rising level of internal pressure.

This prolonged buildup of tension and excessive arousal can lead to a host of disorders. Many researchers have found that chronic stress can wear down our body’s defenses, lower our immune response, and make us more vulnerable to all sicknesses, including cancer.

Dr. Doolittle refers the reader to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, which is a list of stressful events you may or may not have experienced in the last year, along with the number of points associated with that event. If you score over 300 stress points, they suggest, you are at high risk of illness. If you land in the 150 to 299 range, your risk is moderate. Below 150 and you’re golden.

So I took this little test and scored in the moderate range, with my largest pile of points associated with my father’s death a few months ago. He can only die once, so I have hopes of reducing my point count this year.

Or so I thought until I started noticing all the things the scale doesn’t account for.

Like the shitshow that is the modern world.


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