Rochester, Minnesota - Waiting. You practice it during seasons of the year and seasons of your life. Holidays, pregnancies, home purchases all include a period of anticipatory waiting that somehow just increases the eventual joy of the event.

But you also have situations when waiting may be a time of increased anxiety and worry rather than joy. Usually this happens when waiting is joined with the fear of the unknown.

Being a patient is filled with opportunities to practice your waiting skills. You might find yourself waiting for a biopsy to be done after suspicious results from a screening exam, waiting for treatment to start after hearing the biopsy results, waiting to see if the cancer cells are responding to treatment, waiting to see if the cancer has returned during a follow-up appointment. Time seems to move agonizingly slow. Sound familiar?

"Managing Stress" is one of the most highly attended educational sessions offered in our Cancer Education Center. Everyone encounters stressors in life, but how you respond to those stressors may be very different.

During the class, we talk about those aspects of your stressors that you have control over and those you don't. You may not be in control of the amount of time waiting for the next step of your healthcare journey, but you can control how you're going to spend that time.

I grew up in a home filled with worry. We were always preparing for or trying to avoid potential disasters, living by the "what if" philosophy. We missed many opportunities and experiences because of fear that something bad could possibly happen.

Of course, many of our friends and relatives didn't live with that same fear of perpetual problems. As you may imagine, those bad things rarely happened and our friends just happily enjoyed the event. I wonder how many days we failed to enjoy over the years because we were waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Sometimes it may seem that you're sacrificing the possible joys of today while waiting for the next step in your cancer journey. I thought I'd share one of the techniques that I've been practicing over the years that helps me in stressful situations.

When I begin to feel my heart start beating a little faster and my thoughts moving to my old what if mode, I consciously say, "Is there anything I can do about this today?" If the answer is no, then the next question I ask is, "What am I grateful for at this moment in time?"

Being mindful of the joy of today frees my mind from focusing on possible threats that may never become a reality. I'm tired of sacrificing a good day today because of a possible struggle tomorrow. I would love to know how you've dealt with anxiety and stress during times of waiting in your life.