CANCER – THE JOURNEY*
TRANSFORMING THE WHOLE PERSON
You have cancer, or a member of your family has such a diagnosis, or a friend or an acquaintance.
A cancer diagnosis, despite the aggressive approach to cancer care and treatment, is still so frightening that the very word ‘cancer’ provokes a strong, negative response.
Once diagnosed, patients enter a world that is no longer their own. They worry and they are concerned about their future. ‘Cancer’ equates with death and dying. The horrors of the orthodox treatments surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy, and their side effects, are well known.
It should be recognised that cancer affects all dimensions of a person; not just the physical body, but the mind, ‘heart’ and spirit as well.
Having a diagnosis of cancer is a journey. Caring for the ‘whole’ person - body, mind and spirit - can enhance every aspect of the cancer journey and may lead to a profoundly meaningful healing and transformation. With a diagnosis of cancer, one will never be the same again. A positive transformation of the whole person must be the goal of management.
In Australia, as in other Western countries, the orthodox management of cancer involves one or more of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. What will be or should be agreed to be done in the form of therapy? What else in the way of complementary therapies and ‘mind-body’ approaches to healing and wellness should be embraced?
It is necessary for those with a diagnosis of cancer to understand themselves, their lives, their relationships and indeed their goals. Equally important, is for their loved ones to do likewise.
You have been diagnosed: ‘Cancer’. What should you do?
Be Informed – Become Educated
You should, at the outset, educate yourself about the specific type of cancer you have. You should explore and understand the treatment options, both the orthodox and the alternate or complimentary, as fully as possible. Knowledge and understanding can help you make the right decisions for yourself, and achieve maximum results from your medical care.
‘Cancer’ causes fear and anxiety, and it is important to make decisions based on reliable information, rather then fear. Many oncologists (specialists in cancer) pressurise you to have this, that or the other treatment, saying that if you don’t go down the pathway of extensive surgery, poisoning by chemotherapy and/or ‘burning’ by radiation therapy, then you will die. This pressure is not only on you, but on your family as well.
Love Your Body
You must regard your body not just as a machine, but as a precious, living organism. How have you cared for it, how should you care for it?
I have been told “Aren’t you lucky to have such a beautiful garden”. Am I? The garden was planned. If was laid out in a specific way, it didn’t just happen. The garden beds were formed then filled with quality soil, the plants were planted then watered, pruned as necessary, fertilised and generally cared for as they grew. No, it was not ‘luck’ – the beautiful garden was the result of hard work and appropriate care and nurture. People who love their plants have healthier ones.
Your body, as a living organism, needs to be cultivated and tended like a garden. Care for your body tenderly and consciously - you are your own gardener.In my book ‘How to Stop Feeling So Awful’ (see homepage), seven laws for health were set out. The first five of these are relevant here:
- Good nutrition. This is described in detail in my book ‘How to Live to 100+ Years without Disease and Symptoms – the Dietary Guidelines’ (see homepage). The importance of a dominantly alkali diet, rather than an acid-forming diet, is an essential in both the prevention and the management of cancer. Cancer cells do well in an acid environment. Refer to my September 2005 newsletter ‘Acid/Alkaline Balance’.
- Clean water, bottled or filtered or purified in some way. Drink lots of water.
- Pure, fresh, clean air. This is increasingly difficult in our polluted cities.
- Exercise. Even with cancer, this is extremely beneficial, especially aerobic activity. Walking is the ‘best’ exercise. It improves circulation, promotes deep breathing and brings oxygen into the cells (cancer cells do not like oxygen) and stimulates the lymphatic system.
- Sunlight is also important. The reasons for this are described in detail in my November 2007 newsletter ‘Sunlight and Health’. Sunlight is protective against cancer.
In addition to the above 5 essentials for health, studies have shown that incorporating complementatry practices like massage, relaxation-hypnotherapy, yoga or acupuncture into your treatment program is beneficial.
Appropriate guidance on the above, such as from a clued-in dietician, personal trainger etc, can help you be successful and assist in continued conformity to this positive life-style.
Health and wellness are intimately connected to our emotions. Feelings and emotions affect every aspect of our physiology.
The cancer journey is often an emotional roller coaster. Understanding and expressing emotions can promote health and vitality. An interesting book published in 1967, ‘Proceedings of the First International Congress of the Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine’, linked certain types of cancers to particular emotions.
One easy way to open yourself to your feelings is to write a daily journal, indicating how you feel about your disease, how it is affecting your life and what you can do to feel better ‘today’.
Personal counselling or therapy may be beneficial in working through the emotional demands generated by the cancer disease. Beyond just helping you cope better, emotional healing can be transformational and positively impact all areas of your life.
The Power of Positive Thinking
The classic book ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’, written by Norman Vincent Peale some 50 years ago, illustrated the powerful effects that the mind can have on the body. The beneficial effects of Guided Visual Imagery, as employed in hypnotherapy for cancer, are well documented in multiple publications.
There are many aspects to the complexity of the mind. Three are particularly relevant to the healing process and to all aspects of our life experience:
· Thoughts, which include the stream of chatter that constantly fills our head
· Beliefs, which are thoughts that we have elevated to the level of truth
· The meanings that we attach to events.
All three of these are subjective. To heal at the deepest level requires understanding of our thoughts, beliefs and the meanings we give to what is occurring in our lives …. releasing those that are negative and choosing others that are supportive, empowering and life-offering. For example, it is possible to reject all complementary therapies as ‘hocus-pocus’ and thus miss out on receiving their many documented benefits.
Being willing to question and reconsider previously held thoughts, beliefs and meanings can open up worlds of new possibilities- physically, mentally and emotionally.
The Purpose of Life
Knowing your deepest purpose in life, and living it as fully as possible each day, even in the face of cancer, is very powerful.
It is a worthwhile exercise for you to explore and identify your purpose in life, to determine your most important goals and to encourage your loved ones and friends perhaps to do the same.
A potential benefit of cancer is an increased clarity about your priorities in life.
Connect with Others
Social isolation can put patients at higher risk for morbidity and mortality from just about every disease, including cancer.
It has been shown that loneliness can be a factor in weakening the immune system. A healthy immune system is essential in the fight against cancer. (See my June 2007 newsletter ‘The Immune System and Immunity’).
Why me? Depression, anger, frustration and other emotions are the result of the ‘unfairness’ of having the “Big C”. Under these circumstances, it can be difficult, and a challenge, to maintain connectivity with others. However it is important to do so, and can be very comforting. There are many formats: a support group, an education program, even an on-line chat room, although anonymous, can be helpful. Just sitting and sharing your thoughts with a sympathetic listener, a loved one or a trusted friend is a simple and often very effective way to connect. Likewise, making connection with those who are going through the same experience as you can be very helpful and reassuring and may frequently give you new insights into how to cope.
Rest, Relaxation and Spirituality
This is another of the laws of health. When you feel that life is shortened due to the cancer process, focus and action and even hyperactivity may result - all the things that ‘have’ to be done and so little time to do them.
There has to be a balance, and it is important to take time for rest and relaxation and for looking to the deeper part of the self, which is essentially your spirit care.
There are many ways to get in touch with your spiritual essence: spending time in nature, or with loved ones, going to church (…..but it is essential to find the right one and avoid the trap of the “magic” cure “God” will give if ……..), meditation, or a physical activity like bush walking. Whatever you choose, the aim is to embrace the nature of spirit and this involves letting go of the outer world and taking a break from striving and effort.
Above all, do not miss out on the opportunity to fulfil the purpose of your life, and use the journey through cancer to discover who you really are.
As you approach this journey, as briefly outlined, with knowledge and the known outcomes of specific therapies, you may, for example, elect to forgo a treatment like chemotherapy. As a specialist, the oncologist has to do something. The only three acceptable orthodox treatments for cancer are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy and, in the oncologist’s wisdom, he/she will recommend one or more of these treatments. The oncologist believes, as do family and friends, that everything possible must be done, hopefully to “cure” or at least prolong life. And who are we to say ‘No’?
The reality is that chemotherapy often does not prolong life or increase life expectancy, but it frequently leads to horrific side effects and loss of time due to hospitalisation and the recovery phase after each treatment. Deciding not to expose your body to such poisoning, and to embrace the alternate or complimentary approaches as detailed above, can give quality in what life remains and the opportunity to fulfil the purpose of your life.
Finally, the 10th recommendation of the report ‘Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer’, as set out in my March 2008 newsletter ‘Prevention of Cancer’, encourages those who have survived cancer to embrace the recommendations of the report which are aimed at the prevention of cancer. You are encouraged to read the full report.
* Copyright 2008: The Huntly Centre.
Disclaimer: All material on the huntlycentre.com.au website is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Consult a health professional regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations expressed herein, with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.
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