When I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in April, 2011, I immediately hit the panic button. Not only was my body under attack, but I was an emotional and spiritual train wreck! Once I gathered my wits, I made a plan; a plan which I referred to as my Survival Plan.
A very important part of this plan addressed the needs of my physical body. Since the body is better able to heal and recover in a relaxed state, though, an equally important part of my Survival Plan involved creating a sense of peace and harmony in my life. I did this through a series of practices known to foster emotional, mental and spiritual well-being.
Here are five of the practices I used to help me through the difficult process of battling cancer:
When you experience a loss in your life, such as the loss of your health, you'll likely go through what's referred to as the stages of grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While I was blogging “100 Perks of Having Cancer,” I received numerous comments such as, “I was diagnosed two weeks ago. I wish I could be as positive as you, but I just feel so angry!”
I was quick to remind these people that anger is good! In fact, as a psychologist, I would say that allowing yourself to feel and process these “healing feelings” is an important part of recovery. There is no “right” amount of time to grieve, but while the grieving process is normal and healthy, getting stuck in one of these emotional states is not. The ultimate goal is to come to acceptance of your diagnosis. If you find yourself stuck in one of the other emotional states for several months, you may want to consider getting help from a counselor.
Meditation is the practice of stilling the mind from the busy-ness of the many thoughts it must process each day. The research around meditation clearly supports the positive effect that it has on many types of mental and physical ailments, such as: anxiety, pain, depression, stress and insomnia. Meditation allows the body to relax, and a relaxed body is better able to do the work of healing itself. While there are many types of meditation, I found great comfort in listening to the guided meditation c.d.s of Bernie Siegel, M.D.
Is it possible to visualize away cancer? According to Oscar winner David Seidler, that is exactly how he cured himself of bladder cancer! While there are few studies to prove the scientific effectiveness of visualization, there are many cases of patients, such as Seidler, who claim miraculous results from this technique. When I was receiving radiation treatments, I would visualize a golden healing light entering my body and filling every healthy cell in my body with a healing vibration, while the cancer cells withered and died. Not only did this give me a sense of control in my healing, it also helped me to relax through my treatments.
4. Positive affirmations.
There's a growing school of thought that affirmations can be used to train your mind to help your body become healthy. Even when you aren't feeling well, repeating a daily affirmation such as “I'm living a long and healthy life,” can help you to set the intent to heal. During the year that I was undergoing treatments for cancer, I would repeat every day, “I give thanks for my full recovery and perfect health.” Even though it often seemed like full recovery and perfect health were way beyond my reach, I spoke those words each day as if they were already true at that time. Now I truly can give thanks for my full recovery and perfect health!
As more and more books about the mind-body connection are being written, the life affirming and healing power of hope can no longer be denied. In the recent best-seller, Mind Over Medicine, Dr. Lissa Rankin says, “When our beliefs are hopeful and optimistic, the mind releases chemicals that put the body in a state of physiological rest … and in this state of rest, the body’s natural self-repair mechanisms are free to get to work fixing what is broken in the body.” In other words, hope heals.
While I am currently cancer-free, my Survival Plan remains an integral part of my life. No matter where you are in your cancer journey, it's never too early, and never too late, to make YOUR Survival Plan!