Have you been diagnosed with cancer? Have you been frantically searching for the magic bullet? Have you been confused by claim after claim on the web about what can cure cancer? Are you finding it difficult to be clear in the face of uncertainty?
You are not alone. I spent weeks looking for that one thing that might heal me. And even more importantly, that might help me to avoid treatment.
But after some time, I came to see that cancer is a disorder, you could say a disruption, of the human body that generally takes years to develop. We all have cancer cells in our bodies from time to time, but for some reason, one day, our natural killer cells (yes, that’s a real term. You can find out more here) stop working or are simply unable to keep up. Our immune system fails to remove the cancer cells quickly enough.
This happens for all sorts of reasons – exposure to environmental toxins, immune suppression through diet (sugars and fats) and stress, and inflammation in the body, also caused by diet including dairy and meat, and sugar and again stress. And then as the system weakens, any genes that are predisposed to mutating begin to express themselves malignantly.
Of course, this is a very simplified explanation of cancer. It can be very random or highly predictable, depending on how you look at it. And if children get cancer, these factors may have been in play even before they were born. Genetic defects can be passed on as can any genetic weaknesses created by lifestyle.
But usually, it takes a very long time to create the conditions in which cancer can take hold. And once those cancer cells are multiplying, we now know for certain that stress acts like a fertiliser (links to this information are in this post here). It actually changes the structure of the lymphatic system so that the cancer cells can travel more effectively and create what we call secondaries. Or metastasis.
I might be wrong – I’m not a scientist or a medical professional. I’ve never studied anatomy but it seems to me that regardless of where the cancer first appears, it’s a sign that the whole system is broken.
So healing has to be of the whole system.
At the time I started this blog, I was preparing to embark on a programme of systemic healing. With the certainty that it is possible.
“Let me tell you this,
When something’s been done,
It proves it can be done,
Statistics for those that like,
But you cannot escape
This basic fact.”
Ainslie Meares, Cancer Another Way?
The blog was a way to let people know what I was doing (and am still doing) and to hold myself accountable to keep me on the path. Changing habits of a lifetime is no mean feat and while my meditation has given me confidence and clarity about the things I believe can work for me, there is no substitute for public accountability.
But probably deep down, the real reason for the blog was my need for external approval. I have spent my whole life “doing” stuff to justify my existence on the planet. I had the belief that if I did a whole lot of stuff, then I had a legitimate reason to take up space and to breathe in air. And that through the stuff I was doing – important stuff – I would get the approval of everyone I came into contact with. And just to make sure of this, every time someone asked me how I was, I said “Busy”. Because if I was busy, I was important.
And this is what I brought into this healing journey with me. Being the chronic doer and A-type personality I am, I was determined to be that women who managed to cure her cancer. No matter what. Despite being told that it’s “incurable” and despite assurances from other websites that the best I could hope for is management of the disease. Because if I cured myself, then again I would gain approval from everyone else. Including you.
I said I was essentially being. Spending time with my essential self, my spirit, in meditation.
I blogged about being.
I was practising meditation for 3 hours a day to reduce my stress and activate the relaxation response . I was changing my diet bit by bit to a plant-based whole foods diet with no sugar, salt or oil. I was making juices. I was devouring books on healing and diet and spirituality. In reality, I was doing a whole lot of doing.
That’s not to be critical of myself. There was a whole lot of doing to be done. There was no way I was going to get well if I did nothing. And I’m pleased that I have done everything that I thought I could do. And I continue to do much of it in order to keep healing or as maintenance. I’m not sure which.
3 years later and only 18 months since my immune system crash, I’ve been finding it difficult to describe where my health is at. I’ve been fudging it when people ask me how I am. Because I don’t want to lie. But I also don’t want to jinx my goal of perfect health.
Recently I went for one of my regular check ups with the oncologist. The report for the last few visits has been that there is no evidence of any disease. This is based on a physical examination. My blood tests were good but there are no real blood based markers for follicular lymphoma. And I refuse to have scans. There was a Taiwanese study not so long ago that found that each additional CT scan increases the risk of secondaries by 3%.
In my typical fashion, I posted the good news on Facebook that there was nothing to see. Calling in the approval rankings. I rang my Mum to share the news with her.
It was our conversation – she was terribly relieved while I was equivocal because I don’t know whether I’m healed or cured or not – that forced me to confront the reality that I will never know if I’m “healed” until something else kills me. There is actually no way of measuring my success against the goal of healing myself.
While I may be cancer-free right now – I assume I am but don’t really know – having been diagnosed with cancer means living with the possibility of relapse at any time. And I know that although I feel better than I have ever felt, I still have days that tell me my health hangs in the balance, and, if I wish to live, I must not waver from the path I’ve chosen.
This issue exercised my mind on retreat last week at the Gawler Cancer Foundation as Ian Gawler taught us about the power of the mind to accelerate healing. And how by setting goals, and backing them up with imagery and affirmations, and then of course, action, we can give ourselves the best chance of achieving them.
The reason for writing this post is that I need clarity. I need to be clear in the face of uncertainty about the current state of my health, as against the goal of healing myself. And writing (and sharing in the hope that it might help someone else) is a very cathartic way of sorting through this issue.
Also, I have been concerned that by telling people there is no evidence of cancer, they might have thought that I am cured. I am well, but whether I am cured or not, is a big question. And I don’t have the answer.
I still believe that cure is possible. But in some ways, it’s helpful that there is no way that I will ever know if it happens. Because if I were to know that I was cured, then I might just start to allow some old bad habits to creep back in, particularly DOing too much. So I continue to do all that I can each day to support my goal of complete healing. Of perfect health.
And it remains the case, that the best thing I can do is to be. Just be.
This I do know. Every day I am well, I am meeting my goal.
May you be happy. May you be well.
And so be it.
Love Jane x
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