“You have cancer.” When spoken, these three words seem to linger in the air and then slowly begin to permeate every cell of your being. It can leave you speechless, unable to breathe or move – some might call this “shock.” Before the proclamation, you were many things…a husband, wife, daughter, sister, engineer, runner…now, instantly, you are a CANCER PATIENT and your identity revolves squarely around this fact. No one wants to be a cancer patient, especially since it trumps every other role we play and seemingly dominates our life’s meaning. As the panic, fear and denial set in, you instantly envision a future filled with horrible treatments, spreading disease, loss of control and a life completely foreign to you. Your anxiety quickly rises and depression is looking at your door.
Dr. Keith Block, founder of the Block Cancer Center, paints a different scenario. He says in the face of these three horrifying words, you do not have to succumb to the terror, in fact, you DO have the option to choose a different path, a path of discovery, action and self-advocacy. Indeed, you can choose LIFE over cancer.
Dr. Donald Abrams, who straddles conventional oncology (as chief of oncology at San Francisco General Hospital) and integrative oncology (as a practitioner at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco) likens the treatment of cancer to trying to get rid of a nasty weed. Typically, your Oncologist will take care of the weed by dousing it with chemotherapy, surgery, radiation. Integrative Oncology Professionals view their jobs as working in conjunction traditional medicine by tending to the garden to make the soil inhospitable to growth and spread of the weed. He encourages you, the cancer patient, to take a look at how you are fertilizing your soil – what do you eat and what supplements are you taking? He asks you to look at how you are nurturing your lifestyle, including weight reduction, exercise, massage, nutrition. He states the support of an Psycho-Oncology Therapist is essential in managing anxiety, depression and overwhelm as well as administering useful interventions such as guided imagery, mindfulness and the development of a positive self-image. All of this enables you to choose LIFE over cancer.
I speak on behalf of the many cancer and other disease patients I have worked with… this path is not easy. In fact, it requires a great deal of strength, self-advocacy and accountability, courage and an independent spirit. It requires every bit you can muster. It’s important to understand what brings you joy, what are your hopes and where your strength come from. . It demands a conscious decision to choose life and reject disease in every part of you.
When it feels as if you have lost all control in your life, its critical to know you still have control over these most powerful personal tools. Combining them with your spiritual side will serve you well as you continue on your journey of healing and recovery. So…the journey begins now.
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