How To Build Awareness: A Cancer Patient Self-Care Tool

Awareness Self Care Tool.jpeg

“Awareness is empowering.” Rita Wilson

Good self-care requires that we build our intuitive ability to become more aware. Developing a keen sense of awareness makes us more vibrant and alive. At the beginning of your cancer journey, it may be helpful to take an inventory of your life before cancer and life now with the C word in your life.

Awareness From A Self-Care Perspective
It is common for most of us go through life on remote control or default, not paying attention to the small things in our lives. We often dismiss information as not important because we are moving at such rapid daily paces that we don’t notice that the headache has been hanging around for over a month or that we are feeling more tired than usual. However, from a self-care perspective, Awareness is the key to beginning to direct our lives toward a meaningful daily life.  So, prior to cancer how hectic, busy, and chaotic was your life?

  • What was your day in and day out activity?
  • How did you spend your time?
  • How did you spend your free time?
  • What do you regret about that now?
  • What do you wish you would have done differently?

Doing this inventory is the beginning of bringing to your attention that life was controlling you and you were not directing your life. Notice that I am using the word direct and directing.

How To Do The Best You Can
One lesson that you learned from having cancer, even if you have not put words to it, is that control is an illusion. We really have no control over anything, and everything we think we have control over is an illusion. As I said, In a Moment’s Notice, life changes in micro-seconds and the life we knew no longer exists. This lesson is one of the most important lessons that we can take away from our cancer diagnosis.

There are no guarantees and we have no control over the outcome. We have to do the best we can and let go of the outcome.

This is where AWARENESS becomes so important.

  1. It is important to pay attention to the small things in our day to day life.
  2. It is important to pay attention to what we are experiencing emotionally and use that information to tweak the direction our life is taking.

Develop Skills That Help Us Pay Attention
Building awareness means we need to develop skills that help us pay attention. One awareness exercise is as simple as sitting in your chair, gently closing your eyes, and when you open them name ten items within your vision. You are teaching yourself to be visually aware of your surroundings, noticing colors, sounds, and movement in your environment. This makes you more alert. The more alert you are the more you can concentrate on becoming aware. If we train ourselves to notice things around us, then we learn that we can observe more of the subtle signals in our life. Synchronicity and signals bring us messages that help us pay attention. Paying attention allows us to be more vibrant in our daily life because we see, hear, feel, and take better care of ourselves when we are aware. Better awareness means better self-care.

Train Yourself To Notice, With These Three Questions.

  1. Who did I smile at today and who smiled at me?
  2. What part of my day made me feel positive?
  3. What made me sad today?

Suggested Cancer Self-Care Healing BookS

Dr. Robin DilleyDr. Robin B. Dilley, author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer is a licensed psychologist in the State of Arizona. Her eclectic practice allows her to cross diagnostic barriers and meet clients in their need assisting them to respond to life in healthy and empowering ways rather than react to life’s circumstances.

New Self-Help Book For A Positive Future

“Writing Your Way to Healing and Wholeness” offers a map from one’s past to successful, fulfilled present!

Robin B. Dilley, PhD releases ‘Writing Your Way to Healing and Wholeness’ that explores one’s past to understand their actions and launch their way to a positive and fulfilled future with her new self-help book. “Writing Your Way to Healing and Wholeness” (published by Balboa Press) expounds on the power of journal writing in addressing issues and inspires readers to tell their own success story.

Writing Your Way to Healing and Wholeness” provides reflective questions and writing pages that help readers dig deeper into the themes in their life. It is a book for the curious; with a hands-on approach designed to take the reader into the heart of their childhood and lead them on the path out to a healthier lifestyle in the present.

“Everyone has a family with good and bad traits. Identifying those messages is the first key to integrating and resolving present day bad habits that you have been wanting to ditch for years,” Dilley points out. “I want readers to experience their own resilience and celebrate their strengths moving forward with hope and courage.”

Engaging and thought-provoking, this book discovers “more of who you are and freeing you to become who you want to be,” highlighting how change becomes essential to growth. “Writing Your Way to Healing and Wholeness” is a map from the past to the present.

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About the Author
Robin B. Dilley, PhD, the author of “In a Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer” and is currently working on “Breast Cancer: Emotional Support A-Z,” is a licensed clinical psychologist with 35 years’ experience. She studied and practiced psychotherapy for many years earning a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and proceeded to earn her doctoral degree from Union Institute in 1992. During her journey with breast cancer, she fell in love with the spiritual practice of walking the labyrinth and became an advanced Veriditas Labyrinth facilitator as recently as 2015. She also practices the importance of meditation to improve health, reduce stress and usher in happiness. In her free time, Dilley’s passion to write, whether it be as a professional blogger or author, has opened avenues for her to reach others searching for personal empowerment, healing and growth.

3 Steps To Develop Courage During Cancer Treatment

What is courage and how do you get courage now that you need it more than ever?

While choosing to create new COURAGEOUS plans moving forward, just remember to always look back to see where you’ve been. Remember in the Wizard of Oz that each character already had what they(he/she?) needed without realizing it? Recall how Scarecrow thinks and problem solves; the Tin-Man, an emotional connector to his core; and the Lion, leading the way to the witches’ castle. They needed the journey down the Yellow Brick Road to realize what was inside of them all along.

You have been dumped into an unfamiliar land, language you can barely interpret, and the idea of feeling optimistic or positive about seeing what you are made of is probably not on your radar. But the reality is, this cancer is here now, so you might as well learn all the things you can during your own journey down the yellow brick road.

In the Wizard of Oz, like the Lion – our representation of COURAGE – is introduced later in the movie while trying to intimidate the Tin Man and the Scarecrow. Again, Toto comes to the rescue. We watch the Lion chase after Toto until Dorothy has had enough and slaps the Lion to make him stop. You must decide to today to take control of your Lion. Taking control may take some very strong words, such as: “Stop talking about death. Stop saying this cancer is going to kill me. And for crying out loud quit wasting time on that false belief!” Others may think, “What did I do to deserve this?” This cancer is not your fault. If you want to keep up that under serving thought, just take a virtual walk through St. Jude’s hospital for children or Google children with cancer. After you have taken that virtual tour, you tell me which one of those young vulnerable children caused his/her cancer? So, why do you think you are any different than any one of those vulnerable children?

Cancer happens. Cancer happens to everyone all around the world. Statistics told us in 2011 that 12.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year, and 7.6 million die from the disease. You did not have a choice, nor did you cause your disease. Your choice now is, how do you plan to live with this cancer. And the answer so far is: ACTION, BREATH, and COURAGE. You are going to build a courageous heart and a disciplined mind. You are going to fight this with all your wisdom, strength, and courage. You are going to live your life now like you have never lived it before. When you are so tired that you can’t do anything but sit on the couch, you are going to turn off the T.V. and spend ten minutes meditating. Then you are going to read something positive. Then you are going to journal or color. Then you are going to drink some green tea or lemon water. Then you are going to take a nap. Next you are going to repeat the above until you have the strength to go for a walk for ten minutes. COURAGE is developed over a period of time. It is not a magic pill that you take and everything gets all better.


  1. Read someone else’s story that has been where you are. (Great book to start with –  In A Moment’s Notice:A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer)
  2. Make an appointment with a psychotherapist, health coach, or spiritual director.
  3. Watch movies where the heroine/hero win.

Photo source: Rose Medical Center

For more information and exercises for cancer patients read Breast Cancer: A-Z Mindful Practices: Self Care Tools For Treatment & Recovery

Dr. Robin Dilley

Dr. Robin B. Dilley, author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer is a licensed psychologist in the State of Arizona. Her eclectic practice allows her to cross diagnostic barriers and meet clients in their need assisting them to respond to life in healthy and empowering ways rather than react to life’s circumstances.

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Breast Cancer: A-Z Mindful Practices Book Review

This simple and colorful book is just what the doctor ordered for you during your treatment with breast cancer. Your oncologists and radiologists have given you hand-outs and booklets on what to expect during treatment. I would guess that some of you did not know what an oncologist was until you heard those words, “I am sorry, you have breast cancer.” You who live in rural areas are having to commute as much as four hours for treatment; a commute that makes you feel lonely, frightened, and hyper-vigilante. You have entered a foreign country of medical language and uncomfortable body procedures, driving into a big city that is so foreign to you to be treated by big city doctors who intimidate you. The loneliness and fear scale escalate, you might find yourself saying, “I can’t do this.” Breast Cancer: A-Z Mindful Practices: Self Care Tools For Treatment & Recovery is here to help you realize you can do this day by day. This strange journey into a strange land is here and you are going to face it head on (some-days); other days you are going to pull the covers up and scream, “NO!” There are going to be good days and bad days in this journey of yours. The truth is your life has been full of good days and bad days all along. That is the way of life.

Breast Cancer: A-Z Mindful Practices: Self Care Tools For Treatment & RecoveryThis book is here to help you change your focus by beginning to practice the art of mindfulness, which is staying present to yourself. You will learn to stay present to your emotions and needs during difficult times. You have entered a land where awareness of what is going on with your body is the biggest gift in this process. This book will help you change your focus from the medical maze to focusing on words; words like abundance, breath, music, and resilience. This book guides you towards an oasis of positive thought-provoking words with simple explanations that help you gear up for the medical battle you are facing.
Another unique feature about this book are the simple coloring exercises for you to do while you focus on the mindful words. The coloring is not complex and you can take as long as you like. The beautiful flowers and simple designs invite you to bring your worries, concerns, fears, and hopes right into the creative art to create your own hope for the future. This book invites you to participate in your healing process as a true human being who is just putting one foot in front of the other. Trying to make the best decisions possible for yourself and your family as you move through this often lonely and sometimes terrorizing battle.

If you or a friend have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer, this book is intended to be an oasis from the medical procedures, tough decisions, and daily chores of getting well. This book is here to give you a safe place in the middle of the storm, and to build your strength and courage along the way. Be hopeful, be safe, and be brave. Each day is a new adventure and the twenty-six words from the alphabet are here to be your ally.

Dawn Breast CancerAbout Dawn Bradford Lange:  Co-founder of Breast Cancer Yoga. Dawn is making a difference with Breast Cancer Yoga therapeutic products designed to support you emotionally and physically during breast cancer . We want to give you the attention and personal service you need so please email us at if you have questions.

21 Key Points To Make Your Life Meaningful Today

21 Key points to a meaningful lifeIt is hard to get into your home without a KEY. Your car will not start without a KEY. The KEY to your safe protects your valuables and as you get older (if you are like me) you spend a bit of time trying to locate your KEYS. The KEY to this post is to make sure you know the KEY points to making your life meaningful today.

It is KEY to your health that you take responsibility for it and do not pawn your body off on your doctor. Research and educating yourself is the KEY to you being in charge of your treatment and treatment team. Get all of the information you can about your cancer, its stage and grade, and its many treatment options. Ask a thousand questions. Don’t let the medical professional make you feel you are asking too many. Here are a couple of my favorite questions: What is my prognosis or what are the statistics if I do what you are suggesting? And if I don’t, what are my odds? How quickly does this progress? If this was your mother, wife, husband, what would you suggest? Sometimes it is hard to ask tough questions but the KEY to unlock your choices is through information and information and education is power.

You have other choices that are KEYS to take note of. Eating healthy and reading labels is KEY to you being in charge of what goes in your mouth. Exercise is a KEY to feeling good about your body and keeping it in top shape.

Another KEY to a meaningful daily life is realizing that you are enough. Quit trying to make yourself fit into someone else’s mold, be exquisitely all of who you are. Stop hiding. Open the door of your heart and walk into life. You are the KEY ingredient. No one else can be you and the painful truth is no one else can live your life for you. You are the KEY to your happiness and no one else. Life is made up of KEY ingredients but you are the master KEY. You unlock all the doors and you choose how to deal with what comes at you.

Organized religion is not the KEY to your spirituality. But it can be a KEY ingredient to feeling connected to your God. I found that cancer brought up some interesting questions about God, faith, hope, and prayer. Spirituality is the KEY to understanding those questions and finding peace in journey without concrete answers.

The KEY is to stand up and be responsible for your life and your choices. The KEY to your health, finances, relationships, connections, and life’s direction is in your heart. Open it and live on.

Dr. Robin DilleyDr. Robin B. Dilley, author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer is a licensed psychologist in the State of Arizona. Her eclectic practice allows her to cross diagnostic barriers and meet clients in their need assisting them to respond to life in healthy and empowering ways rather than react to life’s circumstances.

Exercise – Important For The Breast Cancer Recovery Process

Exercise for Breast Cancer RecoveryLack of exercise is not what caused your cancer, so relax. If that were the case, the cancer rates would be so much larger. However, EXERCISE is very important to the recovery process and is also helpful in bringing the best attitude forward for the healing process. Coming eyeball to eyeball with cancer changes the perspective of quality of life. Thus, most of us are willing to do things for our own good in ways that we were not willing to before. Some of us love to EXERCISE and can’t wait to get to the gym or on our mountain bike. Others of us hate EXERCISE and have to be forced into doing it. I would wager that those of us who hate EXERCISE are EXERCISING for the wrong reasons and doing particular EXERCISES that we hate. So there are two goals here. First, discover an exercise you like or can tolerate because you feel good afterward. Second, set up your goal for your success.

If you are still in treatment your energy is lower but sitting or staying in bed all day only causes the toxins to build up. Walk for 10 minutes, or try walking 5 minutes a few times a day. Stretch. Lie in bed and move your body gently. Breathe. Yes, breathing is a form of exercise and Breast Cancer Yoga has a wonderful breathing CD. As you begin feeling better try Breast Cancer Yoga’s exercises for Yoga that are designed just for you, gentle lymphatic stretching. Get out of the house if even to just sit on the porch. Being outside moves your cells and allows them to enjoy fresh air versus the stale air from your AC or furnace. Listen to music and imagine yourself dancing to it and then gently move your muscles as if your muscles are dancing.

Post-treatment allow yourself to build up to 30 minutes of exercise a day. Start by doing 15 minutes, five days a week, then increase to two days for 3O minutes and continue to build up from there. Even though the lack of EXERCISE did not cause your cancer, let me be clear, EXERCISE, whether you like it or not, is important to your health. Thus, establish an EXERCISE habit as soon as possible after treatment so that it becomes a part of your new healthy lifestyle. The only rule needed is to EXERCISE at least thirty minutes a day whether you like it or not. The simplest way is to walk. Other than a good pair of shoes, walking EXERCISE does not require anything else and almost everyone can do it. If you can’t walk, then you need to discover other ways to EXERCISE. Stretching is a good choice and it does not require any fancy equipment. Yoga is also a great choice because it allows your body to detox the lymph system allowing those mutant cells to keep moving out of your body rather than getting stagnant and begin to build new tumors. Learning to make EXERCISE a part of your daily routine is a very important part of self-care. The goal is to EXERCISE more days a week than not. EXERCISE will help you stay flexible and healthy as you age. It is simple. The only goal is to do it. Don’t do it to lose weight, do it because you love yourself and because you are important.

Family members, it is not only important that you support your family member in an EXERCISE routine but that you too stay healthy by finding an EXERCISE activity that you enjoy and get out there and do it. Making EXERCISE a family affair will make it something fun and something to look forward to.

Last, when you get bored, change it out. If you get sick and can’t for a few days, get right back out there. If you miss a day, dance inside for 15 minutes anyway. MOVE your body as much as you can everyday.

Featured Photo Source: St. Louis Dispatch

Dr. Robin DilleyDr. Robin B. Dilley, author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer is a licensed psychologist in the State of Arizona. Her eclectic practice allows her to cross diagnostic barriers and meet clients in their need assisting them to respond to life in healthy and empowering ways rather than react to life’s circumstances.

CONVERSATION: A Psychologist’s Guide To Meaningful Conversation During Cancer Treatments

Meaningful Conversation Bonderies During Cancer TreatmentsAs cancer survivors we all have something in common, but are we having meaningful conversations with each other, family, or friends about it? In my experience once treatment is finished the rest of the world declares us healed and cancer is no longer spoken about. It is also my experience that the thought of cancer is never far from my mind. I am inviting you to take a look inside and ask yourself, “What will it take to have a meaningful conversation about it, now?” (Regardless of whether you are 20 years out or two days into treatment)

Ah, but that brings up anxiety doesn’t it? What might I learn about you if we share in conversation? What is it that you don’t want me know your cancer and about you and you will go to any extreme not to share with me? What is it that you won’t ask me because you think I might be offended or have a less than positive reaction to? What would make our connection through the very limited English language be a meaningful conversation?

For me a meaningful conversation is about hearing and being heard. I want to tell you about my most difficult time this week and I want to hear about yours. I want to speak to you from my heart about my dreams and not be afraid that you will laugh at them. I want to share in your dreams and support you in them. Today, I want to know that you are safe enough to share with regardless of what I have to say. I want to be re-assured that even if you don’t agree that you will not go away. I want to know that there is room for us to disagree and stick together no matter what.

There are some things that are very important to me regardless of our differences.
For instance:

  • I cannot have a meaningful conversation with someone who does not respect me. I just don’t feel equal when I am disrespected. Thus, why would I bother to have a meaningful conversation? Respect creates respect. Disrespect creates disrespect.
  • I cannot have a meaningful conversation with someone who insists on being right. Conversations are an exchange of communication thus being right or wrong is not an exchange, someone wins or someone loses. If I want to win or lose I will go play a sport or to the casino. Otherwise there is no room for winning or losing.
  • I cannot have a meaningful conversation with someone who has an agenda. If you are invested in the outcome on how you want me to be at the end of the conversation, I have no interest in being controlled by your agenda. If you want to share your point of view then I am very open to hearing it and engaging in it.

What are your boundaries about a meaningful conversation? You might have more meaningful conversations if you become aware of your boundaries and stick to them. This can be scary so I invite you to start with a meaningful conversation in your journal and then find a safe person to read your journal entry to. It is one step at a time that we build a meaningful conversation. Start today and take one step at a time. First, choose the safest person to have a conversation.

One last thought; who would be the scariest person to have a conversation with? Maybe this is an excellent time to have a conversation with him or her in your journal that is just your private space to say whatever it is you need to say.

There are many ways to have meaningful conversations, but each one requires a certain level of risk. You get to decide how much risk you are willing to take.


Dr. Robin DilleyDr. Robin B. Dilley, author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer is a licensed psychologist in the State of Arizona. Her eclectic practice allows her to cross diagnostic barriers and meet clients in their need assisting them to respond to life in healthy and empowering ways rather than react to life’s circumstances.

BALANCE: A Gift of Mindfulness

Mindfulness, Balance & Waterfalls For Breast Cancer HealingMindfulness, Balance and Waterfalls

Come along with me as we visit the waterfalls of my memory. I have many memories of waterfalls and imagine you do as well. When I think about waterfalls, I think about the big falls like the wondrous Niagara to tiny falls in the middle of gardens, like the one at my favorite coffee shop or even the electric trickle of the one in my office. Each waterfall brings to me a sense of contentment and a peculiar sensation of being whole. When I stood and watched the falls of Niagara for the first time I experienced it radiating throughout my chest… calling forth the vibration of life within me. Just last month, in the illusion of a hot desert, Phoenix experienced the freezing of waterfalls in the front yards of many homes. For me, that was a magical experience, as magical as Christmas lights during the Holiday Season. I can never get enough of them.

A certain trip to a waterfall taught me about inner balance. Balance, personal core balance, has been an issue for me probably all of my life, even though I don’t remember being a klutzy kid, I am a klutzy adult. I walk into things that I did not notice or look one way and miss a step the other way. What does all of this nonsensical chatter have to do with the waterfall that is begging for a space within my mindfulness on waterfalls?

It was in March of 2001. My partner Pam and I took a trip to the tropics of St. Lucia. St. Lucia is a small island in the Eastern Caribbean, where the people are lovely, friendly, and have welcoming smiles. We mostly hung out at our all-inclusive but wanted to do some “adventure sightseeing”. After careful research, we took an all day jeep tour. The day included a banana plantation, sugar cane mill, an unpaved road where we bought some local coconut, and wrapped up the day with a trip to one of their many waterfalls. We arrived around three in the afternoon and the coolness of the tropical trees, emerald green vegetation, and beautiful flora accompanied us to a narrow path that led down to the rocky beach below. To our right, a magnificent waterfall bellowed out of the mountain above us. The path down to the beach below the waterfall was not treacherous, if I fell; I was not going to tumble down the side of a mountain and into the river. However, I did notice I was tense negotiating the wet rock along the way. At the bottom, our island guide told us the best view of the waterfall was across the shallow river. I was not particularly in the mood to get wet and assessed that the rock was slick, being that it was covered in green and brown moss. I began a very tentative plod across the water. I was carefully placing my feet, watchfully examining each step. I watched our guide. He was barefoot. He was perfectly balanced in his brown molten skin, shiny now with spray from the falls. He never looked down at his feet. He walked with a balance so perfect, as if he was walking on a grassy lawn in a beautiful park. Soon, he noticed my tentativeness. He watched me for a moment and I of course became even more tentative. He came back beside me. He gently took my hand and said, “Look ahead. You are going over there. Let your focus be on where you are going and let your body relax on to the rocks. Your feet, even in your tevas, will find their way on the rocks. Let them do what feet do, while you drive the bus to the other side. Your feet are your wheels. They will adjust to the rocks as you focus to that opening over there.” We started together, he let go, and coached me to keep focusing and allow my feet to work for me. I began to feel as if I was weightless. My body became upright. My posture perfect as I allowed my body to relax into my feet. I have practiced that exercise so many times since then. It is as if I gathered poise and strength from the sound of the waterfall that quieted my fears and heightened the compassion of a young island man that was one with the earth.

Finding our way in the treacherous path of cancer treatments and recovery means allowing ourselves to focus on the looking ahead and taking one meaningful step at a time.

Photo Source:

Dr. Robin DilleyDr. Robin B. Dilley, author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer is a licensed psychologist in the State of Arizona. Her eclectic practice allows her to cross diagnostic barriers and meet clients in their need assisting them to respond to life in healthy and empowering ways rather than react to life’s circumstances.

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