Her profession: medical oncologist. A specialty whose purpose is the study, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Her leitmotif: to improve the quality of life of the people she takes care of medically. How? Thanks to mindfulness meditation, a method in which she chose to train at the University of Massachusetts (USA) where MBSR (Mindfulness based stress reduction) was created in 1979. MBSR instructor, Dr Kenza Bouredji has been offering since September 2020 and under the aegis of Pr Jean-Marc Ferrero, an MBSR program to patients at the Antoine Lacassagne Center (CAL) in Nice. A first in the Paca region. Encounter.
Who are these sessions for?
All people who are going through – or have gone through – the ordeal of cancer, whatever it may be, can benefit from it: breast, colon, thyroid cancer, lymphoma, leukemia… But, in fact, these are now mostly women with breast cancer who participate in the program. This is partly explained: the effects of mindfulness meditation on this disease have been the subject of hundreds of scientific studies. American oncologists have been particularly interested in the impact of mindfulness on the risk of depression, known to be high among young mothers with breast cancer.
Besides depression, what other symptoms are targeted?
Sleep disorders, fatigue, hot flashes (in the event of hormone therapy)… Of all these signs, mindfulness appears in studies to be the most effective non-drug approach.
At what time of illness is this practice recommended?
At all stages of the disease: during the acute phase, when patients are still on treatment, after treatment, even months or years later if the need is felt.
Who, in concrete terms, has turned to this practice since you implemented it?
They are mainly women, aged 50 to 60 and affected by localized or metastatic breast cancer, at all stages of the disease. Some were treated years earlier, but are still on hormone therapy, others are undergoing chemotherapy. One might have feared that the latter were too exhausted by the treatments to participate; in fact, they describe significant benefits, in particular thanks to the support of the group during these sessions.
Have you scientifically evaluated the effects of your program?
It is a work in progress; the first results are nevertheless very promising. Testimonials (read below) are extremely positive: patients describe a real improvement in their quality of life after following the program: more restorative sleep, better pain management, less apprehension about key and anxiety-provoking steps such as appointments with the oncologist or waiting for the results of a scan…
No, we can’t say that. It is not a question of suppressing the symptoms, but of alleviating them, by acting on what tends to aggravate them. The best example is that of pain. The psychic component adds pain by dramatizing it. Thanks to the MBSR, we seek that the unpleasant feeling is attenuated and therefore that the symptom is better “lived”.
A help to fight the disease in some way?
I don’t like this term “fight”. It is rather a question of “dealing with”, “accepting”. What you can change is resilience and connection with the resources you have. Our mind can sometimes tell us horror scenarios (laughs).
While the “well-being” offer is flourishing, especially for people facing serious illness, how do you explain the success of your program?
When a person is faced with a diagnosis of cancer, they often want to try everything: magnetiser, bonesetter… Sometimes at the risk of falling into the hands of charlatans. I think that being accompanied by an oncologist, who knows their disease, the treatments, reassures and promotes adherence.
Testimonials: “I was able to find inner peace”
“This program brought me a lot, says Nathalie. I was able to find inner peace, learn to accept, to understand the body/mind relationship, I have better self-esteem, I control my emotions better.
I solved a big problem of anxiety attacks and claustrophobia that had lasted for more than ten years and which was a real ordeal for me on a daily basis and during my care at the center. I am much calmer, more relaxed and serene thanks to meditation. Meditation has really had an effect on my stress. I think that this program should be offered as part of the care protocol or at least during or after care to support patients who wish to do so.
Because if I hadn’t read the billboard in the center by chance, I might not have been able to participate in this program, and I would have missed out on a rich experience for me.”
“I was very afraid of the “alcoholics anonymous” style, with its great unpacking for these group sessions, but that has nothing to do, says Géraldine for her part. Dr. Bouredji created a cohesion in the team which allows for heart-to-heart conversations where we realize we all have exactly the same issues and we support each other.”
“Initially, I accepted this trial because I wanted to encourage a method that, for once, did not rely on drugs.
I had never really practiced meditation, but Kenza was able to immerse us in it gently, with extreme kindness. I greatly appreciated his mastery of the practice and his management of the group so that it did not turn into a meeting of anonymous cancer patients. This systematic refocusing on mindfulness ended up becoming anchored, developing a reassuring and soothing habit when we are confronted with moments of anxiety or stress of any kind.
For my part, I realized at the end of the program how serene I had felt for many weeks. Little by little, I opened up to my illness, I saw it with another look full of curiosity, and that made me feel calm. I dreaded the Petscan check-up, and now I see it as a formality.”
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