James, a 38-year old retail manager, attended my online MindBody practice at the urging of his wife to deal with the emotional stress of his ongoing journey with testicular cancer.
In the two years before his cancer diagnosis, James and his wife had to endure an emotional roller coaster ride due to James’ inability to father a child. They were eventually able to conceive with fertility treatment. At the time of his son’s birth, James was still experiencing considerable stress due to an imminent redundancy in his workplace.
When James came to see me, his diseased testis had been removed and he’d been undergoing several rounds of chemotherapy to destroy the remaining cancer cells that had spread to the local lymph nodes. James looked pale, sad and was troubled by the weight he’d put on due to the chemotherapy drugs.
But his chief complaint was of fatigue, which he was concerned would prevent him from completing his course of chemotherapy and getting the all-clear from his oncologist.
I was immediately intrigued by his story of male factor infertility, and the workplace redundancy around the time of his IVF son’s birth. There appeared to me to be echoes between what he was telling me and what his body was saying.
However, we needed to focus on his fatigue, which is a common cause of missed and reduced doses in someone receiving chemotherapy. James’ fear was that if he couldn’t complete his course, then he wouldn’t achieve the remission he needed for survival.
I encouraged James to talk more about his experience of fatigue and was intrigued when he used battle metaphors to describe what he was feeling. He used expressions such as “this cancer is my life” and “I’m dreading the outcome.” Again, the words James used appeared to echo what his body was saying.
We used energy psychology techniques and emotional freedom techniques (EFT) in particular to allow James to rapidly process his fear regarding the outcome of his cancer treatment. Over the course of our single session together, James’ fatigue was completely eliminated.
James left our session looking visibly relaxed and without any feeling of the physical fatigue that had left him listless, inactive and battle weary. His feeling was that the rest of his chemotherapy would be a breeze and he was confident of a positive outcome.
When I followed up with James some months later, he had indeed got the remission he wanted and his health had grown from strength to strength. Intriguingly, James also told me he had become a house Dad looking after his young son while his wife worked.
When I asked him how he found that, he responded that he loved it. James appeared to me as someone who had resolved his issues around masculinity and his experiences of infertility (virility) and redundancy (male provider), and was instead fostering other masculine qualities of patience, reliability and resourcefulness.
Overcoming fatigue is important for people with cancer both in terms of improved quality of life and also to ensure the greatest chance of success of chemotherapy. Helping a person to overcome their cancer-related fatigue requires a relational approach that involves aggressive listening and an openness to the meaning in the person’s story. Given that cancer-related fatigue is a physical issue much like the cancer itself is a physical issue, do you think a similar relational approach could be applied as treatment of James’ tumor before taking the radical step of removing his testis?
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