Background: Breast cancer survivors often report depression, anxiety, and stress before and after a breast cancer diagnosis. The median age is 62 years for breast cancer. The impact financially, socially, and emotionally of these aging “baby boomers” is critical for healthcare delivery today. These survivors are at a higher risk for cancer-related treatment side effects and functional decline, with physical inactivity threatening their independence.
Purpose: Integrative, holistic care combining mind, body, and spirit healing was developed in our ZEN Connection Program. Exploring the impact this 6-week program may have on mindfulness, self-efficacy, and symptom management for panic (pain, anxiety, nausea, insomnia, constipation, and fatigue) became the objective of our program. Combining the 5 core healing modalities would be offered, including yoga therapy, Reiki, essential oils, nutrition, and contemplative care.
Interventions: Financial support was obtained through our hospital women’s board to offer our free ZEN Connection Program. Six-week sessions (1 class/week) were held March-December 2018. Class size averaged 12 participants, sessions were 90 minutes, offered either Monday or Thursday. A certified Urban Zen instructor conducted the classes. The program was advertised to the local community, and all breast cancer survivors were invited to participate. Accommodations were made using chairs/tables for restorative yoga poses. Participants needed a medical waiver to participate and to complete a demographic survey, Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), Self-efficacy for Exercise Scale (SEE), and weekly managing treatment-related symptoms logs. Survivors were instructed on restorative poses, relaxation, breath awareness, and mindfulness. Classes used essential oils (lemon, lavender, and peppermint). Reiki was administered during restorative poses. Weekly symptom management was discussed. Instructional handouts were developed and provided for continued practice.
Evaluation: Qualitative data collected weekly demonstrated improvement in symptom self-management. Quantitative data reported pre and post MAAS and SEE scores. Participants overwhelmingly reported program impact and continued self-practice of integrative therapies for symptom management and coping strategies.
Discussion: Empowering survivors to be active participants in their holistic care was accomplished combining Eastern complementary healing therapies with the Western medical model for cancer treatment.
Survivors have adopted integrative modalities for self-management of treatment-related symptoms and learned coping strategies.
Innovation: Participants enjoyed shared lived experiences of breast cancer survivorship, and weekly story telling validated social survivorship connectedness.
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