Caring for yourself and your emotions as a Black woman with breast cancer

Breast Cancer News
July 17, 2020

The stress of breast cancer affects every aspect of your life, and it’s important that you find care not only for the cancer itself but also for your overall wellness, including your emotional health. Black women often don’t receive the emotional support they need. Many barriers stand in the way, from the cost of therapy to doctors who don’t recognize your needs to therapists who don’t look like you or understand your community and concerns.

LBBC Young Advocate Chawnte Randall spoke with women's health educator and licensed advanced social worker Jacci Thompson-Dodd, MA, MSSS, LASW, about the challenges that Black women face in getting support to cope with breast cancer and treatment. They discuss how narratives about what it means to be strong can keep Black women from seeking help when they need it, and suggest tools to help you find that help. They also share many ways to care for yourself in everyday life, including meditation, exercise, and taking time for yourself.

We are here to help you face the challenges of breast cancer. Find more resources for your emotional support or get matched with a volunteer through our Breast Cancer Helpline.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd, MA, MSSS, LASW
Ms. Thompson-Dodd is a women’s health educator and licensed advanced social worker with over a decade serving the cancer community. She created Thrivorship, a multi-platform curriculum to help women heal from the life-altering effects of cancer. Read more.

 

 

Chawnte Randall
Chawnte, 42, is a mother and Army veteran who works for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. In October 2017, during a routine OB/GYN appointment, Chawnte’s doctor found a lump in her right breast. Chawnte was diagnosed with stage II, triple-negative breast cancer. She had a double mastectomy and began chemotherapy in January 2018. After completing nine cycles of chemotherapy, Chawnte showed no evidence of disease for 11 months before being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in April 2019. Read more.

Chawnte Randall:

This is Chawnte Randall and I want to introduce you to Jacci Thompson-Dodd who is joining me today for this conversation. Jacci how are you doing today?

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

I'm wonderful. Thanks for this opportunity to talk with you.

Chawnte Randall:

I'm excited to have this discussion. It's much needed. But to tell you a little bit about myself, I was diagnosed in October of 2017 with early-stage, triple-negative breast cancer. I had a double mastectomy followed by chemotherapy after which I was NED, no evidence of disease, for about 11 months and then in April of 2019 I started to experience some chest pain, burning, and actually lost the use of my arms, and at this time my plastic surgeon ordered a CT scan and that's where we found metastatic lesions in my sternum.

This was an opportune moment for me to have the diagnosis because I was diagnosed on a Tuesday and then I learned that LBBC was having the metastatic breast cancer conference that same weekend. So it was the perfect time for me to go and educate myself and educate my friends and my family and it just opened my eyes and revolutionized how I looked at my stage IV diagnosis. It gave me so much hope and so much knowledge about the things that are available treatment-wise and integrate medicine and so forth and so on. Ever since then I've been deeply connected with LBBC and supporting the things that they're doing in the community for young women and also for women of color.

Today what we're going to talk about is the importance of therapy for Black women. There is a stigma that exists in our community and what we need to do about it, and then to provide others with tips and strategies and resources that will help, whether it's therapy, whether it's meditation, whether it's painting, whether it's working out, because I like to work out and that sort of helps me out. But that's what we have Jacci for. We're going to have this discussion and she's going to discuss with me great ways for us to tackle the topic of mental health services for women of color.

Jacci is a women's health educator and licensed advanced social worker with over a decade serving the cancer community. Please go to LBBC.ORG to read Jacci's full bio. And again, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. I know you're way on the other side of the country from me. I'm on the East Coast. So please tell me what the weather is like in Seattle because every time I think Seattle I think rain.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

It does rain a lot, but today the sun is shining and it's about 78 degrees. So it's beautiful here.

Chawnte Randall:

Oh, that's really nice. That's a pretty optimal temperature because we're kind of hot and steamy right now on the East Coast.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

It doesn't get humid here.

Chawnte Randall:

Definitely good. All right. Let us dive in. We want to talk about firstly, the stigma that exists in the Black community surrounding mental health issues and therapy. I know just in general my experiences have been, when I was growing up that we don't need to tell other people our business.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Yeah, girl, “don't put your business in the street.”

Chawnte Randall:

Don't put your business in the street. What goes on in this house stays in this house and don't you go outside and tell anything. If the sky is purple in your house, you say it's blue when you get outside.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Exactly. Exactly.

Chawnte Randall:

Otherwise it's punishable. You get in trouble for saying something that could be so simple as somebody's depressed and don't want to get out of bed. That has been passed down from generations. It's not even really spoken. It's just the behaviors. So what are some of the stigmas and reasons?

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Well, that's cultural but it's protective. It was intended for us to be able to make sure that nobody has any kind of entry into you or your house or your being. It was a way to shelter yourself, to put armor up, to be able to hold everything at bay.

Now there's a real cost to that because what it does is it requires a stoicism, it requires you to hold it in, and so many Black women, if you look at our pictures, what are we doing? We're holding our lip. We're holding it in. Right? We're told to do that, but it's at great, great cost to us.

Chawnte Randall:

You're absolutely correct, because when I was first diagnosed and people were reaching out like: Don't you want to vent? Don't you want to talk? And it's hard for me because I watched my mother be a teenage mother and a single mother and I've just watched her push forward no matter what has gone on, so I've adopted that personality and those mannerisms. Even when I'm hurting on the inside or I need to vent, I am often not wanting to share those things because like you said, we're protective. I don't want someone to see me vulnerable because so many people either stab you in the back or pick apart your vulnerability until you're in pieces.

And then also, us being caregivers for everyone in the world, everyone in the family, I'm carrying the burden of everyone else. So it's like when I need to break down it's kind of hard for me to lean on someone else because I don't think they're going to be able to shoulder the burden that I'm going to lay on them.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Right, exactly. You've got it. You certainly are understanding that. And the issue is, it's not just you. It is us. Culturally it's kind of a ... What can I say? A legacy of the strong Black women. We're strong Black women. That's not exactly good. We wound ourselves and each other by trying to hold up to that standard. It's a burden that's very, very difficult.

In my work I really try to first of all, provide a safe enough space so that women feel like they can peel off those layers a little bit and show themselves. But we don't have the skills to be able to truly wade into all of our feelings either. That's where therapy comes in. That's why we need help with that. I'm jumping ahead but it's like. ... No, this is our conversation.

I'm so happy that you are so open to allow this kind of stuff to come to the surface because we need to be able to model something different for Black women. So you and me, let's start that.

Chawnte Randall:

What are some of the signs and symptoms of anxiety or starting to have depression or what other — I don't want to get into exact diagnosis —mental health issues that people should be aware of that they wouldn't normally think? I know I grind my teeth in my sleep and I would wake up with my jaws hurting and having headaches. I had a lack of concentration. I love to read. I can sit and read and that's my getaway, more than TV. I couldn't concentrate. And then I also noticed, I call it, when I told my therapist, it is like a shirking of normal responsibilities. I wouldn't be on top of my household duties. I wouldn't wash the dishes every night or I'd let my laundry pile up for 3 weeks because I had lack of motivation. What are some other signs and symptoms that people may display?

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Yeah. Headaches and blurred vision, shortness of breath. Because so often to try to hold it in, you just hold your breath.

Yeah, shortness of breath is really there. Digestive upset is a real big thing, where you're gassy or you might have diarrhea or constipation. It could be-

Chawnte Randall:

The opposite.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Either extreme. But gastric upset is a real big one. Your eating habits. Emotional eating is a real big thing. So that comfort foods, rather or not it's potato, a lot of times it's starches.

Chawnte Randall:

Oreo cookies. I'll just say that.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Yeah. It could be salty, crunchy, it could be sweet. Even if you're eating the same things, just either eating more or not eating at all. Watching those kinds of things are signals.

Also just kind of mindlessness. Often you can be in your house, because we're stuck in the house right now, be in the house and you get up to do something and you're halfway there and it's kind of like, what am I doing.

Chawnte Randall:

You're on autopilot.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Yeah, on autopilot. And if you go out you just kind of roaming around or if you're driving in your car and not being aware of how did I end up here. So mindlessness is another symptom.

And I hate to call them symptoms. It's signals. A signal that let's clue in.

Chawnte Randall:

Like hey, something is going on.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Yeah, something is really going on.

Chawnte Randall:

The only thing is that in the breast cancer community, for those of us that are in active treatment, those GI symptoms are also side effects of the chemo or the meds we're on. Oftentimes I'm always trying to figure out what's going on with my stomach. Is it from the meds, is it from the chemo? So I wouldn't necessarily clue into that until you said it. But I did notice the eating habits, eating more or all the sudden craving sweets when I don't really eat them like that. So those are very good signals actually for others to notice as well.

Now that we have some of the signals, what are some of the strategies? Like I said, I exercise. I don't know, I've just been a gym buff since 20 years ago, starting in college. I like being able to push my body to its maximum. It helps me feel better and all those good endorphins and hormones that are from that. And I also like to listen to music.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

That's good. Now, let's go back to the exercise piece because not every sister is a gym rat kind.

Chawnte Randall:

Very true. Very true.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

I happen to be as well but the issue is we put roadblocks in front of ourselves around exercise. Oh, I don't want to sweat out my hair. Even though both of us, we have very short hair. Swimming is another thing. But there's so many things that we say to ourselves, “Well, I can't do that.”

Just walking is something that in and of itself, the rhythm of taking a stride — and you don't have to be power walking, just leisurely be walking — but the rhythm of your walking can kind of calm you down, help you to breathe, which is a really important thing. Meditation, yoga. You don't have to do these kind of activities to be able to center yourself. Sometimes just meditation and breathing.

Chawnte Randall:

Okay. So when you say that, now let's get into this in our community. We're very faith-based in our community. And oftentimes when you say meditate or yoga, some who are extremely devout take that as you're practicing some form of alternative religion or something or they view it as bad. So meditation is breathing. You don't have to chant.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Yeah, you don't have to chant and do all sorts of other. You don't have to grab on crystals. You don't have to do any of that. When I say meditation I mean tune into your body and the way that you can do that is through your breath. Really be still. Even the scriptures talk about being still. And let the spirit take you where you need to go. It doesn't matter what your religious affiliation is. If you believe, if you don't believe, we all have a body that's our temple. So let's crawl into the temple, slow down, be still, and breathe.

Chawnte Randall:

So for me, my mind is always moving a mile a minute and what my therapist had me do, it's a form of mindful meditation. I couldn't picture an ocean scene or something because my mind is doing calculations on bills and stuff in the back of my mind. So she had me lay still and be quiet and it's basically taking an inventory of each muscle or bone in my body. I start from my baby toe on the left foot and then I try to relax my toenails and then I move successively up my body so that I'm actually relaxed. And that is one of the things that helps with my anxiety, is doing that. Just 5 minutes.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Yeah. And it's so on point to start with your feet because that's where you're grounded and you need to get that grounding once again and then if you're moving up your body and then you are releasing, just release your thoughts, release that energy. Let's call it exhale. It's exhale. It's kind of, once you're kind of centered in your body, you're breathing and you can settle. You can settle.

Chawnte Randall:

And that's definitely helpful, especially for those of us who are going through all these 50 million scans, a whole bunch of scans all the time and being poked and prodded. I know that it's enabled me to actually fall asleep when I'm getting a bone scan. I've fallen asleep even with the loud machine going.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Yeah, yeah. So another thing that you can actively do — because your mind, like you say, it's going going going — you have to give a place for those thoughts and those energies to go. So I'm also big on journaling. I'm not saying blogging. I'm not saying get on your computer and do this. I'm saying pick up a pen and some paper and actually write, doodle. It's not like writing an essay. It does not have to make sense. It doesn't have to be on the line. It doesn't have to be any of those things, but there is a kinesthetic way of taking that energy and releasing it and giving it a place to go by journaling, by putting it on a piece of paper.

Or even having a journal, you never have to go back and read that stuff if you don't want to. But it's also a wonderful tool that if you want to remember things and chemo brain is real. So if there's certain things, treasured moments that you want to remember, you have a place to go back to it. And use your own stillness to re-engage with yourself by your own words.

Chawnte Randall:

I like the idea of journaling that's unscripted because normally I'm not a pen and paper person anymore and just the thought of someone saying journal, write it down, I'm like: Who writes anymore on paper? But the fact that you can do it freehand, whether you're doodling or just writing words or whatever flows out of you, that is intriguing. That's almost like there's others that use coloring. Adult coloring is a big deal. It has come back. It is soothing.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Yeah. Yeah, it is a wonderful, self-soothing mechanism. Yeah, so I'm really, really big on that. So we've talked about stillness and meditation and journaling.

Chawnte Randall:

I've got acupuncture. What are your thoughts on acupuncture?

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Hey, if you have access to it, that's really great. That's really wonderful. For some women, especially because you have to have so many needles in the middle of your treatment, that the thought of putting more needles into your body isn't appealing.

Chawnte Randall:

It might not be. Sometimes I'm somewhat on the fringe of the group just because I have lots of tattoos and I just know it helps me a lot so I was doing it before.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Yeah, but you know what? There are some wonderful activities. I'm big in tea. Herbal tea. We're in the summertime right now so make it cold. Make it cold or make it warm, but it's very soothing to be able to have those herbs, like a chamomile tea, which is really, really calming. A peppermint tea, which is soothing to your stomach. If your stomach is not right, then it helps you to be able to relax more.

Soaking. Soaking in the tub is another thing where you can just relax, have those candles, doing the aromatherapy.

Chawnte Randall:

Aromatherapy.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

It's really, really, really effective. So with all of these things, these are tuning into your body. One thing for women who are in treatment or metastatic, one of the kind of coping mechanisms to all of what's being done to your body is to check out, just present your body for treatment, but your spirit and your soul, you're kind of detached. You have to be. That's protective. Sometimes, to even not feel the pain, you separate yourself from your body. What I'm saying with this is, it's very restorative to reclaim your body.

Be present. Be centered. To crawl back into your body. Your senses are a way for you to heal yourself mentally by what you smell, what you taste, what you're touching, how you're actual feeling. Your senses are a way to reclaim your body and if you're fully living within your body and integrating your mind and your body then that's also a way to be able to release the trauma of what you're going through in treatment and to also release the trauma of what's going on out in the world. You can kind of close the door.

Chawnte Randall:

That really resonates with me because I do almost physically separate myself from my body when I'm going in to chemo and all the way up to even this week, because the first 6 days after chemo is very rough. I'm very lethargic, very tired. And instead of it worrying me, I just kind of shut down. But I do need to remember how to reclaim myself and to center myself and set time back to myself to actually be present within my body so that I can recalibrate and maybe it probably will help my recovery a lot faster, a lot better.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

If you literally embrace your body it's very restorative. So the first kind of therapy is not just about mental, being with a therapist. The first therapy is reclaiming your own body through self-care.

Chawnte Randall:

That's very profound. I’m scribbling little notes.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Well yes, self-care is one of the best therapies. And what's so wonderful about it, you can make it exactly what you need it to be. No matter what scent, some people like lilac, some people hate it. You can personalize your self-care regimen in such a way that you're totally embracing yourself in the way that's most effective for you.

And you have to give yourself permission to do this because most women while they're in treatment they're still having to take care of other people, they're worried about am I going to be able to pay this bill. There's so many things that can pull you away from giving yourself permission to take the time for yourself. But you have to do that because if you're not right nobody else can be right.

You can't give your best to someone else if you're not at your best. But be kind to yourself. Don't say, “Well, I should be able to do this.” No, accept yourself where you are at this moment and recognize that where you were at the beginning of the day might not be where you are now. You have to calibrate throughout the day to make sure that you're being kind to yourself and not pushing yourself because you don't have the same kind of physical, emotional, mental, spiritual resilience. You're being beat down by this treatment. You're being beaten down by what you're seeing on the news. You're being beaten down by so much that it's hard to say enough, we're going to stop right there. I'm going to take my 5 minutes, my 10 minutes, my half-hour. And don't talk to me. Just don't talk to me.

Chawnte Randall:

So it's basically about being selfish with yourself.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Yeah, but it's not. Being selfish has a negative connotation. So you know, self-care is not selfish. It's self affirming. So we even have to look at the language.

Chawnte Randall:

Of how we're using. Right.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Exactly. You know what? You have to be OK with not being OK. You have to give yourself permission to acknowledge I am not OK right now. And it is healthy to acknowledge where you're at.

Chawnte Randall:

That's very good.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

That's where you open the portal for healing, when you can acknowledge that you need to be healed. And I'm not just talking about your body, I'm talking about your spirit. What's so hard, especially during this pandemic is our typical coping mechanisms, being able to be-

Chawnte Randall:

Embraced. Yes.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Physically be with other people, to have that healing touch, to go to our houses of worship, all of those things, the typical coping mechanisms that we have, many of them are-

Chawnte Randall:

Are not available.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

They're not available to us. So all the more reason why in our isolation, make that a healing space and not a space of woe, of feeling even more isolated and separated because you're separated from other people. You can't be separated from yourself.

Chawnte Randall:

That's awesome advice. So what would let someone know while they're practicing self-care maybe it's not taking care of the issue? What would be some signals to know that maybe I should seek professional help?

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

It is natural to feel down. But to be laid flat and not be able to move out of your bed or not being able to engage with your daily life activities, that's where it's like I better check on this, I need help. I need help. And it's so difficult for us to even acknowledge we need help because most Black women, when we think of therapy, it's kind of like, white folks talk about their feelings, we don't talk about our feelings.

Chawnte Randall:

We just get stuff done.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Exactly. That's white folk stuff. We don't do that. And I just have to be real because that's how we talk.

Chawnte Randall:

Yeah it is. It is.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

But there are so many different kinds of therapy that there are ways to seek out help in a way that's most healing for you.

Chawnte Randall:

Well, I can speak to how I've gone about finding a therapist and what has helped me. I am currently in therapy. I speak with my therapist, who I love. She is a woman of color. She is a Cubana. She's Cuban and she's a breast cancer survivor, which I know is rare.

I'm saying that for a specific reason that I reached out to one of my other girlfriends in my breast cancer support group and we were talking about our feelings and we have newcomers and the faithful that have been around for a while and we were all discussing while you're in active treatment it's go go go go go, fight, defeat, and then there's a sharp drop off and a large emotional toll after it's over. So I was like, I find myself not being able to relate or I'm angry or I don't have compassion like I used to. My one girlfriend said I'm talking to this therapist, she's amazing, this is her number. So that's how I found a lot of the information that I needed in the breast cancer community, was from support groups and asking other breast cancer survivors or metastatic breast cancer patients. So for those who may not be in groups or forums or are not so comfortable, what would be a way for someone to check? Do you just search on Yelp? It's not like you're looking at the rating of a restaurant.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

No. No, no. But there is a site called Therapy for Black Girls.

Chawnte Randall:

Oh. Therapy for Black Girls.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Therapy for Black Girls.

Chawnte Randall:

I'm going to take notes while you're talking. Keep talking.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

OK. Because there's a registry of black, female therapists nationwide. Oh yeah. Not Yelp, because who knows who's writing those.

Chawnte Randall:

Exactly. That's why I'm saying you can't, it's not like a restaurant deal.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Yeah, yeah. There's also the Association of Black Social Workers, Association of Black Therapists, the professional associations also. The American Psychological Association has a whole section dedicated to therapists of color, which is a registry. And what's good about that is with all of these there are reviews and there's peer reviews also. And what's really great is many of these therapists take insurance. If they don't take insurance, many of them do sliding scale.

Chawnte Randall:

OK, because that is another issue as well.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Yeah.

Chawnte Randall:

Getting to it, but being able to afford it amongst everything else that we're already paying for, what's going on in our lives as well. Someone asked me: What if I don't like him or her? I'm like, make an appointment with another one.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Yeah. Before you just kind of open up and dump your life to somebody, the first step is interview them. Understand yourself enough to know what is it that I need to feel safe in having a conversation with someone else. Maybe it is I want a Black woman or woman of color, which I think is important as opposed to there are male therapists also. So know as far as your gender preference. If you are gender non-conforming for example, there are therapists that identify themselves to you in that way. There are Christian therapists.

Understand what your baseline need is, and then when you engage with them, most of them give you the opportunity to just have a short conversation where you get the vibe, you see if you have chemistry. It doesn't have to be where you have a mental checklist or discernment. It can just be a chemical kind of thing. I don't like how her mouth looks when she talks. It’s as silly as that. But the point of it is, if it's going to be a barrier for you to be able to engage with this person, then be real about it and go to somebody else.

Chawnte Randall:

Right. And one of the things now that we are dealing with in the pandemic is that they've moved a lot of services to telehealth or televisits, and that's how I've actually had mine over a secured webcam. It's almost like FaceTime, it's just secured. It does have its pros and its cons because I already have an established rapport with her, so it's just like us talking on the phone or in person.

But maybe for someone who is searching, that's where some of that disconnect or you may feel uneasy, may come through. And I know depending on the region that you're in in this country, sometimes virtual appointments aren't the best thing. Maybe the cell phone tower doesn't have the strongest signal. I've had a girlfriend who's going through it in rural North Carolina having really bad issues connecting with her oncologist.

It depends on where you're at, what your insurance will allow, but it's definitely worth a try. And it should open it up to more people who normally wouldn't have the time to actually make time for the appointment on their busy schedule if it is a virtual appointment.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Yeah. And also recognize that you're using this time with your therapist. That's one part of it. But sometimes it depends on like if you're dealing with somebody who has a background in cognitive behavioral therapy, you get assignments. They might give you questions so in the intervening time you can kind of muse yourself, you can kind of center yourself in a structured way so that the face-to-face time, the value of it is extended because after your appointment you have an assignment, you can think about some more things, work some things out, and then bring that information back to your next face-to-face visit so that you are physically engaged between your visits in a way that amplifies the value of those visits.

Chawnte Randall:

That's, yeah... I've heard some folks have homework. My homework has been learning to say no because I like to be everywhere doing everything for every advocacy event, to the detriment of my own body. So she has tasked me with learning self-care and start saying no to everything and to keep a calendar. So yeah, I do have homework.

Getting to another topic. It's the same, but being Black in America in 2020 and for the past 400 years, since we are having these things happen, we're seeing to men and women of color and then we're digging up the racial disparities in healthcare, systemic racism when it comes to education where we live, all of these things that are affecting our lives on the day-to-day, compounded to a diagnosis of cancer, it sort of even triggers everything-

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

That's the word.

Chawnte Randall:

Yeah, trigger.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

That's the word, triggers. There are trip wires out there with so much stuff. And so the awareness that there are times when you just have to shut it down. What do I mean by that? Get off of social media. Just walk away because it is a constant assault. I'm using that word on purpose.

Chawnte Randall:

It is.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

That just the waves of that information coming at you is an assault that you have to interrupt those signals. So we're on Twitter and FaceTime and Instagram and Facebook.

Chawnte Randall:

And then it's on the news. And then we're talking to each other in the hair salon and nail salon, telephone calls.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Yes. Go on a news blackout. Even some movies are triggering.

Chawnte Randall:

Oh yeah. “Twelve Years a Slave” because how they've had all of these movies, “Django Unchained.” They've had all these movies because they're popular. It's too much.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Yeah, Xfinity even has a new subcategory that's Black Lives Matter. It's all of those. “The Help”! I mean, come on. That's about the last-

Chawnte Randall:

It's great that we're subsectioning and people can go. But like you said, it's an assault and an overload.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Here's what I would substitute for that. Keep off the television. Keep off the social media. But like you said, music is very, very healing. Soothing music. Aromatherapy. Build a healing circle around yourself where you can push that stuff away because we have to stop allowing the input of this stuff and to do, like you said, you have to say no. But not just no to people. You have to say no to stimuli, no to certain books. My book club was reading a book where it's kind of like, oh hell no, I can't read this right now.

Chawnte Randall:

It's like never mind, it's not for me.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

No, I can't read this right now.

Chawnte Randall:

I did watch the video and I do fast from the news. I read the news because some things you need to know. And then when I do do the news, if I watch news on TV, I actually watch foreign news because they report without the sensationalism of what's going on not only in the United States, but around the whole world because we get so focused on ourselves.

I take the breaks from social media. You're absolutely correct. And just try to remember to be joyful and that I am alive. And while I did participate in a march, I actually had to miss a LBBC planning meeting because I felt like in my community it was important for me to partake in the peaceful protest. I was there for an hour and a half and then I came right on home. I put the sign on my door and I try to find other ways to be constructive. I try not to stay into the rage or the anger, or at least I try to channel it into something positive that can effect and move change. Because it does affect us.

Chawnte Randall:

It seems in your mind, like you said. It's a constant assault and it does seep in your brain. I've actually spoken to my therapist about it as well just because it's sad. It's hard to be hopeful. It's hard to fight for my life and I'm thinking I could be stopped at a traffic sign or my daughter's away at college and because she's brown and she's very militant now that she's gone to college. She's Assata Shakur. She's not going to let anybody treat her just any old kind of way.

So you know, [take] that fear and try to blend it in with everyday living being metastatic and so forth and so on, just everyday life, it was just very hard for me for 2 weeks to get it together and I had to talk to her and she said those very same things. Sometimes yes, it is sad, but you have to learn how to disconnect and find something good in the day, even if it's just one small thing.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Yeah, for sure. I'm totally there. And yeah, fear can either shut you down or it can open you up. And what I mean by that in a positive way, is that if you're afraid of the future or have fear from things in the past what you can do is center on the present. What can you do in this moment to open up the parts of me that's shutting down? Because in the present this is the only place where you truly live. So live. Live in the present. That's where you reclaim your hope. Because by attending to yourself and making causes in the present, that's what's going to make you strong enough to be able to place whatever eventuality happens in the future.

Chawnte Randall:

Down the road.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Right.

Chawnte Randall:

That's awesome. Awesome.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Keep coming right back to right now. What can I do in this moment to relieve some of this tension? Is it getting up from this chair and walking outside? Is it instead of picking up that glass of wine or that Hennessy, getting that chamomile tea? So it's like in the moment you can make choices that are going to be restorative, that are going to buy you some space, some time to reclaim some energy so that you can bring it down and take ahold of your life again.

Chawnte Randall:

That was awesome. That is definitely awesome advice. Definitely be prepared for what will happen in the future. So We've talked for a whole hour.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Really?

Chawnte Randall:

Yes. This was a wonderful conversation. You've helped me so much and I've learned so much. Was there anything last that you'd like to share in regards to seeking therapy and so forth?

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Yeah. Well, I said it earlier but I want to restate it, that it truly is OK to say you're not OK and to seek help. It is not a sign of weakness to seek help, it's a sign of strength.

Chawnte Randall:

I'm going to have to put that on a sticky. This video myself. I need to put it on a sticky that it is not a sign of weakness to realize and to seek help. That is definitely something that I need to remember all of the time and probably visually looking at it is the only thing that is going to stick in my brain.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Exactly.

Chawnte Randall:

I appreciate all your words. Thank you for having this important discussion with me today and sharing your helpful strategies and resources. Remember, LBBC has a helpline at LBBC.ORG where you can be matched with someone who has similar diagnosis and please check our closed Facebook groups for support. The Breast Cancer Support: All Ages, All Stages and Breast Cancer Support For Young Women. Thank you again for being here and remember we will get through this together. Stay safe and we will talk with you again.

Jacci Thompson-Dodd:

Wonderful. Thanks.