Keep Calm and Carry On

More than a month into social isolation, and the growing consensus from people I have been talking to is that everyone is really “feeling” the weight of this crisis now. Let’s not mince words: living through this right now is a trauma, and many cancer survivors and patients are either being retraumatized and/or more excessively burdened with this experience. It’s ok if you aren’t “okay” right now. Now that we are on our way to accepting that (or trying to), how do we feel our “okayest” and make it through this? Some of our board members (who are also breast cancer survivors) and staff shared with me some techniques that they are using to be productive and take care of themselves mentally and emotionally, as best they can, during these odd times.

Rethink your day

The idea of constructing a routine is so important to remain grounded and find some comfort right now. One of our board members, Kim, starts her day with a walk. Since she, like many of us, is now working from home, this mimics her morning commute and helps her get ready for her workday. A daily walk is a common strategy among our board members and staff for how they are spending some time in isolation. This is not only a great idea for preparing yourself for the day, but regular exercise, even walking, helps to keep you healthy and can reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence

Kirsta, our Policy & Development Manager, has also tried to keep a similar pattern to her week, by continuing to focus family and leisure time on the weekends to help maintain focus during the weekdays. Another board member, Tara, has two young kids and has completely restructured their days with a focus on necessary tasks in the morning, but playtime in the afternoons. She also emphasized the importance of time for herself every day, and as a mom myself, I couldn’t agree more!

Rethink your strategies

With everything so different now, it is ok to just throw something at the wall and see what sticks. You might be surprised at what works for you. Kirsta is connecting with her teenage children through one-on-one drives to “visit” locations around town and take the time to talk to each other about what is going on in the world, and their world, right now. Our former Board President Susan has started taking her usual yoga class through Zoom. Many yoga studios are doing this, so if this is a usual workout for you, check in with your studio or gym and see what they are offering virtually. If you are looking for something active to do, Yoga4Cancer is offering a yoga class specifically tailored for cancer patients and survivors through Zoom every Monday, and you can also take a look at their archived classes. If yoga just isn’t your speed, there are so many other exercise classes being offered online, many for free!

Nikki, our Operations Manager, has set up a home office to maintain focus. Marylinn, another Board member, has continued a practice she began in January of keeping a daily gratitude journal. Katy, our Executive Director, has recreated the feel of a music festival at home with live music through YouTube, complete with dancing and a hula hoop! Kim said that she is “reinventing [her]self daily”, and that’s ok, too. I’ve found myself having to do some reinventing as well because all of my previous organizational strategies for work just don’t apply, especially with an almost potty-trained, almost-three-year-old at home. Instead of continuing to force a square peg in a round hole, I combined all of my “to-dos” for work and home into one list, and I have it displayed prominently so I can more easily decide what to do with my next break from active parenting. 

Stay Connected

Tara spends some of her time making masks, not only to do some crafting self-care but to contribute to the community. Marylinn is supporting one of her favorite small business owners by donating fabric and buying masks from the person who owns the nail salon she would normally frequent. Susan and Marylinn use Zoom to have virtual happy hours with their friends. Kirsta has been doing that too, but expressed a love/hate relationship with the technology, which I am sure many of us feel! 

Susan is also continuing to review breast cancer research grants for the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program, because we all know that breast cancer won’t stop even when another disease is taking up all of the headlines. Katy is making an effort to reach out to people she knows who live alone, who might need a social lifeline more than ever right now. I’ve been playing games with my friends through Skype, and it’s provided all of us with some much-needed laughter!

What strategies are you implementing to “keep calm and carry on”? How can VBCF be of help to you now? What resources do you think you might need from us as we come out of this? Please share your thoughts with me at

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