I’ve been on a cancer journey for 3 years and I can honestly say that my life has been enriched by the experience. I’d like to share five ways I’ve learned to consciously cope well with cancer. These tips can apply to any kind of life challenge:
1. Face and feel your feelings fully.
It’s only natural that when adversity strikes, we’re going to have feelings come up. I’ve learned that trying to rise above my feelings just positions me better for them to bite me in the butt!
I’ve learned instead to move towards my feelings, to befriend them and allow them to be here. I talk to my feelings compassionately, as if they were children. When I was receiving chemo I had to get a blood test once a week and it was not fun! One day when I was sitting in the waiting room, I heard a little girl about 5 years old in the next room, screaming “No, no, no!” They were trying to draw her blood and she didn’t want any part of it!
They kept telling her things like, “It won’t hurt much. Just get it over with.” I wanted to tell them, “Acknowledge and respect her fear.” When she finally came out I felt like giving her a big hug. Instead I gave my own inner child a hug, telling her, “I know this is scary. It’s okay to feel scared. Let yourself feel it. I’m here with you. I love you.” Feelings need to be heard and held and allowed and then they can relax a bit and naturally move through.
I’ve heard two acronyms for FEAR: one is Feel Everything And Recover. The other is F…k Everything And Run! That brings us to the next tip:
2. View the challenge as a growth opportunity.
Ego wants to avoid suffering at any cost. Spirit wants to learn and grow at any cost. Spirit sees all adversities as opportunities to learn and grow. Here’s what I wrote about this in my book, Oh No, Not Another ‘Growth’ Opportunity!:
“When challenges befall me, my ego wails in a Mr. Bill whine, “Oh Nooo. Not another learning opportunity!” My spirit says, “Oh Yeah! Another opportunity to grow! Bring it on!” My ego moans, “We are in deep doodoo!” My spirit exalts, “Rich compost, yay!”
Growth wants to happen one way or another. It could be a cancerous growth in our body, or personal growth in our life. I’m going for the personal growth!
3. Follow your bliss.
When I first found out I had uterine cancer I realized that I’d been stagnating – I’d done the same work for 27 years and was no longer inspired by it. It had always been my dream to do inspirational writing. Cancer shook me awake and compelled me to take a risk and live my dream.
The beauty part of doing what you love is that it can be healing. That’s what happened to a woman named Phoebe Snetsinger. When she was told that she had terminal cancer, instead of checking into hospice, she decided to fulfill her dream by traveling the world, spotting birds. Her cancer went into remission, and twenty years later she held the world record for spotting the most birds ever!
4. Use the tremendous power of suggestion.
I love this Deepak Chopra quote: “Our cells are constantly eavesdropping on our thoughts and being changed by them.” A perfect example of this is the amazing, true account of “Mr. Wright”, who in the mid 1950’s had terminal cancer with tumors the size of oranges; he was clearly on his way out. His doctors gave him an experimental drug called Krebiozen and in ten days his tumors were almost completely gone and he was restored to good health!
But then he heard a report that the drug was ineffective, and his tumors grew back! His doctors decided to tell him that the report was wrong, that the drug did work at a higher dose, but this time they gave him a placebo. Once again his tumors disappeared! Alas, a few months later the AMA came out with an official announcement that the drug was useless. Mr. Wright died shortly afterward. The moral of this story is: we must choose our thoughts wisely because they can cure us or kill us!
I do a morning practice of affirming how I want my day to go, saying and feeling it as if it is already so. When I completed my cancer treatment almost 2 years ago I was in pain and discomfort. Every day I verbally affirmed: “I am becoming pain free. I am comfortable in my body.” In a very short time the pain went away!
5. Be Here Now.
Whenever I have a twinge of fear about what might happen in the future, I remind myself, “I’m alright right now and right now is all there is.” Knowing that my time here may be limited has galvanized me into the present moment. I want to be fully alive while I am alive. My husband and I look into each other’s eyes, really seeing each other, feeling the eternity of the present moment. When I’m fully in the present, time actually expands. Being present has given me the gift of time.
I am hoping that you too may be empowered and enriched by your life challenges.
Author of the book ‘Oh No, Not Another ‘Growth’ Opportunity! An Inspirational Cancer Journey With Humor, Heart, and Healing’.