It all begins in the mind. I’ve learned that from Dr Ian Gawler. To heal ourselves, we have to believe that healing is possible. Without the belief, without our mind on board, any efforts at healing the body will be difficult. In her book, Mind Over Medicine, Lissa Rankin MD analysed thousands of incidents of what is known as ‘spontaneous remission’ from chronic illness and found that the most common denominator is that people believed in what they were doing.
So 6 months ago I put myself on a healing programme to see if I can heal my body despite the doctors telling me that follicular lymphoma is incurable, it will come back and I should be travelling the world. Why did I do this? Because I believe that it is possible. I believe that with the help of a positive mind, a relaxed stress-free body, nutritious food and extreme self care, my body can heal itself. Others have done it. Why shouldn’t I?
And it’s working. My oncologist told me the other day that I look well and I am well. My GP said she thinks I’m healing very quickly. So onwards and upwards I say. I believe it’s working and it is.
It’s a rigorous programme. I am essentially following what Ian Gawler calls the healing programme in You Can Conquer Cancer. After a week of the Gerson therapy (which I talked about here), I dropped back to 7 juices a day but continued on the all organic, plant-based whole foods diet. There is no sugar, no processed food (except the occasional noodles or pasta) and no cooking with oil. Any oils, usually flaxseed or olive, are added after cooking.
My days are full. In effect it’s a home retreat. It looks something like this:
6.30 – 7 am: I get up and have warm lemon juice in water. I don’t have a fixed wake up time because I need sleep. A healing body needs sleep. But once I’m up I’ll spend the hour walking the dogs and doing some yoga and/or meditation. If I meditate it’s for 30 to 40 minutes.
8 am: I prepare breakfast and my coffee (see this blog about coffee. No need to go there again). Breakfast varies between green smoothies or rolled oats, made with water, with some fruit and flaxseed oil. I have put the green smoothies on hold for a while as I think my diet was too high in fibre and I need some cooked foods to ease my digestion.
8.15 am: I eat breakfast and make and post the daily affirmations that appear on my Instagram and Twitter accounts, the daily affirmation page on this blog and the Facebook page, Essentially Being. I then check emails, Facebook more generally and work out what I MUST do that day. I will then either meditate or do some chores.
9.30 am: time to prepare and drink green juice and then clean juicer. Green juices have to be drunk fresh so this is non-negotiable. The enzymes are apparently fragile and will die off in about 15 minutes. I take my supplements with my juice.
9.45 am: I head to the bathroom for coffee and shower. While the coffee does its thing, I read A Course in Miracles. I do whichever exercise in the workbook that I’m up to – I usually do each exercise for a few days – and then read a chapter or so of the text a couple of times.
10.30 am: more chores or yoga.
11.00 am: carrot juice. If they are in season I have a granny smith apple in it too. And a bit of ginger or turmeric. A snack of a few nuts, usually almonds or brazil nuts. After I’ve drunk the juice and cleaned up, I sit and meditate for 30-40 minutes if I haven’t already done it. If it’s not too hot, I sit on the front verandah and get my daily dose of vitamin D at the same time. If I’ve already meditated, I might make some phone calls or write.
12.30 pm: time for another green juice and preparing lunch. Lunch is usually some Hippocrates soup (see here for details on that), salad and a cold baked potato from the night before. I read or check Facebook while I eat. Sometimes I have a friend over for lunch or go out to one of the three places in Melbourne who do organic vegan food (Shoku Iku, Yong Green Food and Friends of the Earth). I try not to do that too often because they still use ingredients that are “off the programme” so to speak.
2.00 pm: carrot juice. After that, if I haven’t been feeling well, I have another coffee. Otherwise I do chores or write or read. I’ve read a mountain of books about spirituality, health, medicine and psychotherapy which help me to understand the journey I’m on and to put it into perspective. Of course, some have been instrumental in setting my course, like Dr Gawler’s book.
3.00 pm: until recently I would rest at this time every day unless for some reason I had to go out (such as to buy further produce or to see the doctor etc). I would lie down for an hour and listen to a guided meditation or just do reiki on myself. Since my energy levels have started to rise, I don’t need to rest so often so I use this time to write or read or go for a walk. There is always something to do. Soon I will be studying so this will be the time when I do that. Once a month on a Saturday I hold a meditation group at home, something I really love doing. On the other hand, I recently had to use this time each day for a week to pack up my office.
4.00 pm: I meditate again if I’m not caught up in something else.
5.30 pm: green juice and start preparing dinner. Again, if I have been having a healing reaction and am not feeling so great, I might slip another coffee in at this time so to speak.
7.00 pm: carrot juice and then dinner and clean up. Monday nights I go to my meditation course at Rigpa. That’s pretty much my only evening outing in the week.
In the evenings I might speak to friends on the phone, read, watch a little bit of TV although that holds less and less interest for me. And then at about 9 I go to meditate again before bed.
Between 9.30 and 10 pm: bed time. They say the sleep we get before midnight is the best sleep. And I’ve been sleep deprived for years. So my body needs good quality sleep and an early bedtime.
I would be lying if I said that this was all smooth sailing. Of course it’s not. I’m human. Sometimes I really resent having to make the juices and clean up so often in the day, but only if I’m feeling fatigued. The healing or detox reactions are full on but that’s for another day. If I have to go out in the morning (which sometimes I do) I have to get up earlier and get ahead of the schedule and make a thermos of juice. Other days I love it. I use it as an opportunity to practise my meditation by trying to be fully present in the day. And there are days when I feel healing happening at a profoundly deep and cellular level. It’s just awe inspiring how the body works.
My main challenge at the moment is setting boundaries. Learning to say no. Managing relationships with other people. I look well. Most of the time I feel well so why can’t I do normal stuff and catch up with people or go out for a dinner with friends? The reality is there is not a lot of time. I can only really manage one thing off the programme a day and even then, only a couple of times a week. And besides, this is about healing. My health has been seriously compromised. It’s going to take time to undo that.
I have committed to this programme and I’ve committed to doing it for 2 years. The whole programme. Not just bits of it. This is what has to come first. It would be easy to throw it off or to chip away at the corners but this is my investment in being able to live a healthy and fulfilling life. If I don’t take control of my health in this way, the reality is that I probably won’t be able to do that. But the idea of saying ‘no’ to people sends me straight into the stress vortex. That place I am working really hard to avoid just sucks me in regularly when I’m confronted with having to say ‘no’.
It’s partly a lack of boundaries that has probably brought me to this place. A complete inability to care for myself and to put my physical, emotional and spiritual needs first. Forever saying ‘yes’ when I really wanted to say ‘no’ because I believe it’s selfish of me to put myself first. I would feel guilty and anxious. Because people will be disappointed in me if I don’t accept the invitation. That people will think I don’t care if I don’t agree to help out. And then in my work, in the last few years, there were no boundaries at all. Responding to emails at 10 pm or later so there was less to do the following day. Because it just needed to be done. Writing submissions at 2 am. And personally taking on board the failure of cases, when the cases could just as well have failed no matter what I did.
A couple of weeks ago, I found a diary entry I’d written in 2008 when I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I had made a list of things I needed to do to take care of myself. Within a month of that entry I’d said yes to a massive pro bono (as in non-paying) brief and worked around the clock for 6 weeks on it. As for the list? I’d completely forgotten it even existed. That was my only diary entry that year.
The latest book I’m reading is When the Body Says No by Gabor Maté. It is about the relationship between stress and disease. And in particular, the stress that people who cannot say ‘no’ experience because they feel constantly under siege and encroached upon. I will be writing more, no doubt, about this topic. It’s brought up an enormous amount of anxiety for me and brought home what my healing programme is really about. Putting my needs first. And communicating them. Ouch!
So for now, I’m reminding myself of my commitment to this programme. My commitment to my health and well-being. That it has to come first no matter what at the moment. Because I believe it will work but it won’t work if I’m not committed to it. So I have the belief, even the conviction, and I’m committed.
Be happy. Be well.
And so be it.
PS. If I say ‘no’ to you over the next little while, you’ll know it’s about me and not you. I’ll be practising x