One of the biggest lessons learned going through the cancer healing journey was the value of taking time for myself. Life moves on too fast sometimes, and before you know it, every minute is jammed. This is life in North America. A sad commentary on our lifestyle.
However, when cancer is diagnosed, there is motivation to rethink how one lives life. Suddenly what appears so important before cancer becomes insignificant. It is then time to re-evaluate. Questions pop up. What am I doing? Where am I going? Who is with me on this journey?
This requires quiet time – time to just be still and hear your own thoughts. For me, walk time became a space in time just for me. Meditation helped quiet my mind which had become a rabbit warren of worrying thoughts vying for space. Music transported me to magical places. Reading books for cancer patients, especially by survivors to learn how they coped with cancer.
In time, calm, peace and energy returned in a more manageable manner.
In the cancer journey, there can be peace, calm and strength as you move through treatment and beyond. Most of this comes from the realization that healing comes from within. It is the work of joining body, mind and spirit – pulling together all of our resources – not just one.
To the general public, cancer often looks like a physical disease. One that once you have undergone surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation, you are better and ready to resume your life as before. Well, NO. Yes, there is the physical healing, but just as important or even more important, is the internal work one does.
I found this part of the cancer healing journey both daunting and exciting. It called me to learn, reshape my priorities, embrace my authentic self, and heal many aspects of my life that were not working.
During that time, I focused on inspirational poems and stories by people who had gone through tough times and survived. I absorbed the life lessons they shared and gained insight into the work I needed to do for myself in order to be whole again. It has been and still is an amazing journey.
Hope is one of the many words that come to mind when one is diagnosed with cancer. Cancer does strike fear into the heart and for a time, can immobilize thought and action. I remember well.
Finding programs, resources, people, organizations, etc. that will guide you on a healing journey through this difficult time is critical to inspire hope – the will to live – and the evidence that it is possible. There are many of us who have moved beyond cancer – myself included, living well and healthy after a Stage 3, Breast Cancer diagnosis in the Fall of 1990.
One such resource is the Healing and Cancer Foundation, created and led by Drs. Rob Rutledge and Timothy Walker. Having attended as a facilitator at their workshops here in Calgary, Alberta, I know firsthand what a wonderful job they do in walking a person hand in hand through the healing process. They have made their work available online for all to access.
As a dancer, music was and is a huge part of my life.
Life was busy when I was young – dance classes, singing lessons, school & homework, teaching dance classes, being in productions – and when I had time, a social life. Overwhelm used to hit me often so to relax and de-stress, I used to head to our basement rec room, put on a stack of classical records and lie down. An hour later, the world looked right again.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, healing music and meditation once again became a key element of my healing journey. I’d don earphones and transport myself to another plane on the waves of healing music during chemotherapy. In the dark of night when my fears and uncertainties slipped out, I would put on my earphones and listen to calm my soul.
There is much research into the healing benefits of music and/or sound. Have you ever had chills run up your spine when you listened to music that you loved. That’s energy – healing energy. It is a physical reaction that will also stir emotional responses in your body which in turn facilitates healing.
Music for Healingand meditation make a wonderful addition to your books resources for cancer patients – and can be a special gift that will make someone’s day. When I was going through treatment, friends and family would frequently send me CD’s of music they knew would lift my spirit. They were special treasures!
I wanted to share a book with you that has made a significant difference to my life. And in sharing it with others, they have also noted positive changes in their lives. This book is The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health by T. Colin Campbell.
My main reason for making the change was to eliminate a nagging stomach problem that seemed to be escaping diagnosis by scoping and probing. Nothing showed up, but I knew I had a problem. Once I switched to this way of eating, the stomach issue cleared up and only returns if I slide off the suggested protocols.
It was a bit tricky at first to change the way I thought about food, especially what I would eat for a main meal. The rest I had pretty much figured out. I am purposely not sharing all the details because I really want you to read the book and decide for yourself whether it makes sense to you.
Other benefits, besides a happy stomach, are a return to my ideal weight, improved vision, more energy, less bloating, and an overall sense of well-being. Now that I have been eating this way for a bit, I really have come to enjoy the foods. It has become an adventure – a healthy adventure.
So, I invite you to check it out for yourself. Love to hear your thoughts and/or changes if you do decide to follow this path.
Once the initial shock of getting a cancer diagnosis has faded, finding ways to help oneself through the next phase starts. One of these ways, a very well researched option, is diet and nutrition. It is said that ‘we are what we eat’. In this day of fast food and hurried meals, far away from the made-from-scratch meals our mothers provided, this is quite alarmingly true.
Rethinking what you eat and how it does or does not nourish your body takes some research. Most would agree that getting rid of junk food, highly sugared foods, and wasted calories is a good start. Combined with exercise – exercise as simple as a half hour walk – can make a huge impact on your body’s ability to heal.
There are many nutrition/diet books for cancer patients available. One of the ones I read recently is The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell. The information has made a huge impact on me – even 20 years after my original cancer diagnosis. There were pieces of the puzzle learned prior that finally all came together. Hence, I am following his guidelines and noticing greatly improved health. Worth a read.
Do some research and find what makes a difference for you. We are all unique and what works for one does not necessarily work for another.
At first, a cancer diagnosis renders you stunned. Normal reaction. Eventually the information sinks in at about the same time you end up in a round of doctors appointments and treatments. Life takes on a new schedule, one not of your own making.
One of the best ways to help yourself during this process – the cancer journey – is to be informed. There are many excellent books, DVD’s, etc. about cancer, the newest research, survivor stories, cancer nutrition, etc. on the market to guide you.
Being informed will help you feel more in control, give you insight into the right questions to ask of health providers, point the way to how you can help yourself, and provide inspiration from those who have travelled before you.
Not all of us have a support group or cancer center close by. However, most of us have access to a book store, library or the internet where books for cancer patients are available, also DVD’s and Kindle-type ebooks. There are even online discussion groups where you can ask members for their opinions, encouragement, etc.
If you are too fatigued or not feeling well enough to do the research yourself, a friend or family member may be more than happy to help you. They often don’t know what to do, feel helpless – this will give them a way to connect and support you. You may also choose book CD’s which you can listen to while resting or travelling.
Have you ever listened to a piece of music and felt tingles go up your spine? Or have you put on music to calm and soothe you during stressful times? Have you ever felt the beat of drums or the vibration of sound as it washes over you. These are telltale signs of the power that music has to heal and influence our very being.
I know when I was going through cancer treatment, I used music in a number of ways.
- During chemo, I listened to meditation music and transported myself to a different place.
- At night,when I was anxious and having problems sleeping, I’d play music that was relaxing.
- To soothe and feed my soul, I would sit quietly by myself and strum on my guitar.
- Singing or vocalizing sounds would release tension as I felt the vibrations resonate through my chakras
There are many ways to use the power of sound in healing. As you look through books for cancer patients, you will find several on sound wellness and how to incorporate sound and/or music into your healing journey.
Most people when diagnosed with cancer are inspired by stories of cancer survivors. They want to know that it is possible to survive cancer and gain insight into how these survivors managed their cancer. Was it what they did, how they thought, their support – what? People want to know.
There are many great inspirational resources and books coping with cancer where survivors have shared their journey. Their stories are different because each of us is unique and no one solution fits everyone. The lesson to learn is the thought process behind their healing. In truth, it is a journey to your soul, to who you really are, and how you can trigger and empower your own body to heal. It is more about healing your life than healing your cancer. Either way, the effort and courage it takes to embark on this journey is well worth starting.
As a New Year starts, it is always a great time to take stock of the past year. I like to pause between Christmas and New Years- take time to slow down, appreciate family and friends, express gratitude for life and health, and refresh my mind. This is one of the lessons I’ve learned from my cancer journey. Living life on the 24/7 treadmill is not healthy. Slowing down and learning to savour life instead of running through life is not only less stressful, but infinitely more fulfilling and definitely more healthy.
So I challenge each of you in the year ahead to have a good look at your lifestyle, especially if you have cancer or have had cancer. Certainly getting cancer makes a person re-evaluate life. I know I certainly did and still do.
There are a few books on the subject of slowing down. They aren’t always listed under books for cancer patients, but the wisdom in them sure applies. Definitely well worth a read.
a) Slowing Down to the Speed of Life: How to Create a More Peaceful, Simpler Life from the Inside Out,
b) In Praise of Slow: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed and
c) Time Shifting: A Revolutionary New Approach to Creating More Time for Your Life
May you find health, purpose, fulfillment and love moving forward into 2011 and beyond.