‘Ripley’ has written to me about her fear that her cancer will recur. She needs to try to feel less helpless.

‘Ripley’ has written me a poignant note. "In October 2005 I developed breast cancer. It was a shock. I’ll spare you the details, but my treatment ended 18 months later… Everything should be perfectly fine for me now, and I’m looking good! But in reality I’m living in a constant state of worry that the cancer will recur. I’m not really living, I’m surviving. I’m a nurse anesthetist, so I see patients with recurring cancer every day. I envy your energy – I used to feel like that, but now I feel broken. I feel there’s a huge gap between the way I look and the way I really feel. People tell me to give it time, and I’m trying to, but time doesn’t seem to be helping.”

What happens when your treatment works, but the memory of being ill is enough to rob you of your vital energy? It’s often a signal that the disease has been psychologically traumatic, leaving behind intolerable feelings of helplessness and impotence.

Nine years ago, when I learned that my own cancer had recurred, I too suffered at first from terrible feelings of helplessness, and I know what helped me enormously in my struggle to leave that feeling behind. Firstly, I learned to cure my past traumas through EMDR therapy. Secondly, I did research into exactly what I could do to help myself, in addition to the conventional medical therapy I was undergoing. At times like these, everything that helps us to regain a little control over our bodies and emotions, will also help us free ourselves little by little from despair. It will also reinforce your body’s capacity to fight the illness, and it will encourage you to engage life, with positive energy.

My friendly regards to you on this Christmas Day!