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'Just keep busy.'

From guest blogger Jane Bissell

You've been diagnosed with breast cancer and surgery is a few weeks away.

Those few weeks may feel like years. You want something to be done now, you don't want to hang about.

Many say this can be the most difficult time: The Waiting. The advice you may hear most often is, 'Just keep busy and the time will pass.'

Easy to say ... and you may wonder if those who tell you to 'keep busy' have ever faced a situation like yours. 

There's much to be said for that simple maxim, 'Structure and distraction.' Here are some tips that may help.

We are creatures of routine and habit and these behaviours can give structure to our days. Try to stay with what is usual for you: the time you get up, maybe getting kids off to school or yourself to work, having exercise (maybe you walk the dog around 6pm each day, or go the gym), preparing meals (even if you live alone, keep to your routine), and going to sleep. Life feels anything but normal after receiving a cancer diagnosis but having a structure to the day can help you focus, move from one activity to another, know what comes next in the day. Go from anchor to anchor.

Structure around meals, nutrition and exercise is important now too because maintaining your health can help you cope physically with upcoming surgery and any ongoing treatments that may be needed.  

Partnering with structure is distraction, those activities that can take us away from the day to routines and distract us with fun, relaxation, and interest.

Cancer sets us off on a railroad track of worry and if you can derail the train for a bit, you'll be giving your mind and emotions a break.

Do more of what you enjoy. More family time, read a book, take a walk, go for coffee with friends, watch two seasons of Downton Abbey all in a row in your pyjamas with the cat in your lap. Writing about it all a journal may be helpful because you're giving yourself a private space and time to let it all hang out. Some thoughts are better 'out' than 'in' and writing can be good therapy.

Keep up the communication - with your partner, family, kids, friends - and tell them what you need. If you want to go have dinner with the girls, rally the crew and have some fun. If chocolate ice cream sounds like the perfect accompaniment for another season of Downton, ask your partner to fetch some and gather everyone round the TV. That TV drama may not be to everyone's taste but you can bet the ice cream will be and it's the 'being together' that counts.

And waiting can be tiring when it's coupled with anxiety and worry. If you're tired, slip away for a nap and don't worry about taking the time out. You need it.

The Waiting can be hard and you're not alone. All of the volunteers of Breast Cancer Support have been there too and can help you through. Pick up the phone, give them a call, and talk it through.

Jane Bissell is an Auckland writer  (author of Welcome to the Amazon Club) and regular blogger.