Breathing and Your Recovery From Breast Cancer

After having surgery for breast cancer, I remember the first time I picked up an incentive spirometer, and the challenges I had to inhale, and exhale with any significant force. As easy as it may look, it took some time to build up my strength and endurance to use the device effectively.  Little did I realize, those spirometry exercises started to clear the path for my continued healing. 

I dreaded those exercises at first, but as I gained strength, I felt and understood the impact of how the spirometer aided my recovery. The purpose of the spirometer is to prevent pulmonary embolisms, and pneumonia after surgery. It measures how much air we inhale, and exhale, and it helps our lungs regain strength and elasticity. Overall, it aids our recovery, and instantly brings our breathing quality to the forefront of our awareness.  

We all know how important our breath is, but because it is a function of the autonomic system, it happens automatically and without us ever really thinking about it unless it is jeopardized in some way.  With the spirometer, and breath work, we are more aware of our inhalations and exhalations. We are actually conscious of what is occurring, and we realize how our breaths can be more controlled. 

Our breath is so powerful. It sustains our life, and as you have seen, it also has a huge impact on the quality of our life, if we choose to tap into this power. Breathwork is the key to living pain free, stress free, and unhampered by the trauma of the breast cancer treatment processes. 

One of the most fascinating capabilities of our breath is it's ability to transform our inner state of being. Have you notice how your feel, and how your body responds when you experience stress of some sort? . Take a moment and focus on your breath. Is it shallow and fast, or is it slow and deep? If you are under pressure, you may notice the rapid breath, perspiration, and your heart racing. Stop for a moment, sit up straight, and simply inhale slowly and deeply, hold for a few seconds, and exhale slowly and evenly. Do this a few times, and notice the difference in how you feel. 

When we are breathing shallow, and rapidly we are typically heightened, and triggering our "fight of flight" response mechanism.  Unfortunately some of us may not even realize that we exist, and live our day-to-day in the "fight of flight" response, and have been doing so for quite some time.  This is why it is so important to periodically check in with ourselves as we did with the previous exercise, and recalibrate our breath.  

The beauty of all of this is that we have the ability shift the way we are breathing at our disposal anytime we want. It's an innate resource the has health benefits beyond measure. We just have to have the wherewithal to realize that we are in a stressed state, and tap into our ability to heal ourselves. 

As you can see, that little blue device, known as a spirometer, preempted our ability to tune in, and focus on how we breath. It laid the foundation for a valuable skill set that enables us to reduce our stress levels, boost our immune systems, and improve the quality of our lives.   

Edna Campbell, Program Director

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