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Current estimates indicate that 1 in 3 people will develop cancer at some point in their lives. It’s frighteningly likely, therefore, that a friend or family member that you hold dear will enter a battle with cancer.
My own father was diagnosed with cancer in November 2012. At the time of his admittance into the hospital, the prevalence of cancerous tumors in his body was in the 97th percentile, and the cancer had reached stage four. It was the beginning of a very long journey through an uncharted wilderness.
Then, slowly, I discovered and began practicing these simple, easy-to-apply tips to help me maintain my spiritual fitness in the midst of my most challenging season.
1. Mind your words.
Realize that you don’t always have to talk about it. I remember at the time of my father’s diagnosis, so many concerned individuals would ask for details and updates about him constantly. They were only acting out of compassion, but the more I explained the situation, the more I felt that I was affirming it. In other words, I was standing in agreement with the diagnosis and solidifying its place in reality. Worse, I was doing this without including an empowering follow-up.
Talking about it all the time didn’t necessarily make me feel any better about the situation. In fact, hitting replay on the facts only depressed me. So instead, I gave myself permission to steer my conversations in other directions when someone inquired into my father’s battle. If I didn’t have the emotional stamina to entertain their questions, I simply expressed that. It gave me the peace of mind I so desperately needed and the permission to experience joy from conversations about other subjects.
2. Stay away from the future’s sticky webs.
We’re only human, and it’s inevitable that your loved one’s struggle with cancer is going to cause recurring heartache for you. This is simply a testament to your bond with the person. It’s healthy to grieve, even it’s only grieving the loss of a normal routine with this individual.
However, be wary of grieving over things that have yet to occur. Before my father began chemotherapy, there were those who expressed sadness that he would lose his hair. After all 12 sessions of chemo, though, he hadn’t lost a single strand. If it’s not the loss of hair, it’s other things we worry about: will the chemo work, will my loved one be here this time next year, will they see my graduation/wedding/first child’s birth?
It’s natural for us to wrestle with these questions, but 9 out of 10 times the wrestling match is unnecessary. Learn to realize when you’re worrying over things you simply don’t need to worry about. This will declutter the debris in your mind and make more room for peace. It will also let you more fully enjoy your quality time with your loved one.
3. Surround yourself with support.
I found it extremely helpful during my father’s battle to surround myself with individuals who were regularly praying for, meditating on, and supporting my family. I sent weekly updates via email to these people, and I found strength in the replies they would send me. I shared both ups and downs, and throughout it all, they offered encouraging words that helped to lift my spirits.
It also helped to befriend others walking a similar broken road. Whether you go to a hospital’s cancer support group or find a cancer support forum online, it’s extremely beneficial to speak with others who understand exactly what you’re going through. You’ll find it operates like a steady stream of empowerment heading in your direction nonstop.
4. Pray and meditate regularly.
It was during my father’s battle with cancer that I discovered yoga. I’ve practiced it every day since. It brings me a sense of calmness, balance, and peace that I’ve never before felt in my life. I begin every morning now with yoga and meditation, as well as prayer.
When you’re dealing with a loved one’s battle with cancer, it’s easy to feel as if a hurricane is ransacking your emotions. Bringing yourself to a point of stillness and quietness before you begin your day not only grounds you, but equips you with an unshakeable sense of peace that’s hard to disrupt. Praying to a higher power — even getting angry with that higher power at times — is also incalculably beneficial. Be raw, real, and uncensored with your emotions in prayer. It’s through the fire that the gold is refined.