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                                   THE CANCER COMBAT

The Cancer Journey

If, unfortunately, you or you loved ones are in the throes of combating cancer, simply “surviving” the disease is not adequate to prevent a relapse; you must learn how to thrive on the cancer journey. Take cancer as a blessing in disguise, as an opportunity for achieving a deep awareness of the mind to take you from surviving to thriving with cancer on that journey.

Life is tough, and living is never easy, especially living with cancer. To be diagnosed with cancer is a potentially tragic trauma in life. But on that cancer journey you can transform your trauma into a triumph of self-discovery and personal recovery from cancer; you can even reach for higher levels of wellbeing in all areas of your life through the mind by asking thought-provoking questions. In the Bible, Jesus said: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find . . .” (Matthew 7:7)

In real life, you must ask yourself many questions at all times, especially when you have got cancer. Asking questions is introspection, which is a process of self-reflection, without which there is no self-awareness and hence no personal growth and no recovery from the disease. The kind of questions you ask determines the kind of life you are going to lead, and the direction of the cancer journey you are going to embark on. Your questions trigger a set of mental answers, which lead to actions or inactions, based on the choices you are going to make from the answers you have obtained. On your cancer journey, always ask thought-provoking questions, although you may not always get all the answers.

Asking questions is all about the mind. A thinking mind helps to debunk the favorite statement of the medical community: “Your cancer is terminal.” There is no such thing as hopeless. Only God knows how long a person is going to live. Make the most important decision in your life: the profound decision to live. This is not indulging in false hope. There is no such thing as false hope -- hope itself is medicine of the mind.

The cancer journey is made up of decisions: decisions to take certain treatment options, and decisions to make certain lifestyle changes. A decision ignites an action; without a decision, nothing happens in life. If you do not like what and where you are right now, then now is the time to change. Make that first and most important decision to live -- today! Your decision will lead to not only greater quality but also greater quantity of the days ahead of you.

The Devastating Mental Shock

If, unfortunately, you or you loved ones are diagnosed with cancer, the traumatic experience often comes with a devastating mental shock. The initial feelings are usually disbelief (Are you kidding me?), followed by anger or injustice (Why me?), and then self-pity or self-blame (It's all my fault!). The traumatic mental experience is unspeakable and indescribable.

If being diagnosed with cancer is a big deal, then why is it such a big deal? For decades, the medical community and the pharmaceutical industry have knowingly or unknowingly instilled fear in the minds of the general public. Cancer spells “death,” and cancer is “incurable.” To be diagnosed with cancer is a big deal because it is all in the mind -- your mind.

Cancer and Heart Disease

Cancer is only the second greatest killer of human diseases in the world, after heart disease. If a person is diagnosed with a heart disease, the news may not come as shocking and traumatic as that of being diagnosed with cancer. One reason is that the individual may well be aware of the presence of the heart problem, as indicated by the body weight or some other tale-telling symptoms of heart disease. Perhaps the more obvious reason why being diagnosed with heart disease is less frightening is in the mental self-delusion that “it may not happen to me right away.” In reality, heart disease is more fatal than cancer, and can strike suddenly without any warning in the form of strokes and heart attacks. However, in the mind's eye, having diagnosed with cancer is tantamount to having a death sentence pronounced on one, and the date of execution is only a matter of time.

The Reality Check

Like all other life experiences, having cancer is just a fact of life --which, at best, is a bed of roses with many prickly thorns. Everybody has some health problems sooner or later: some have more serious ones than others; some get them sooner than others. Mortality is built into our genes to ensure human frailty and eventual demise.

After the initial denial, the reality of cancer begins to sink in. On the one hand, a patient may fall into an abyss of despair; on the other hand, the patient may brace himself or herself to confront and combat the enemy. It all depends on the mind of the individual. Yes, getting the disease of cancer is a big deal! But you have to deal with it one way or another.

Accepting the reality of your health condition will, surprisingly, free you from negative thoughts. In the Bible, when Jesus said: “The truth will make you free.” (John 8:32), He meant not only freeing from sins, but also freedom from negative thoughts of despair and hopelessness that may only further damage health. The only reality check is to muster your courage and willpower to change some life habits, including your diet, exercise routine, and relaxation techniques -- more specifically, changing your beliefs, attitudes, and thought patterns. In other words, help your mind help your cancer.

The Right Mindset

No matter what, you need the right mindset to take the right action to begin the right process toward healing and recovery from cancer. Whether you like it or not, you need to see your doctor to discuss your conditions and treatment plans. Again, your mind plays a pivotal role in gathering information in order to ask the appropriate questions to determine if the physician is right for you, or to help you choose the right treatment plan for your cancer.

Help Your Doctor Help You

Many patients are reluctant to disclose everything about their health problems, in particular, their mental conditions, because of the stigma attached to them. But the information you provide your doctor is vital to his or her making the proper diagnosis and recommending the right treatment plan. Honest disclosure may help the doctor’s interpretation of your symptoms and the decision to make certain tests or procedures. The doctor must have the facts before deciding whether or not surgery is necessary. Do not be concerned with encumbering your doctor with “unnecessary” details or “almost forgotten” past medical history. If your doctor does not seem concerned about a detail, most probably, the doctor is satisfied that it is not relevant to your conditions. Does your doctor take the time to talk with you and listen to your concerns, especially your emotional problems? Anyway, do not hesitate to tell your doctor everything, and do not be programmed into “not taking up too much of the doctor’s time.” If the doctor doesn’t have much time for you, most probably he or she is not the right doctor for you.

Remember the following: a good physician will not betray your confidence; a reputable physician will not express judgment or lack of respect for you because of what you have revealed about yourself; a competent physician must have all the facts available. The more information is provided, the more accurate is the diagnosis.

Questions to ask the doctor may include: the qualifications and experience of the doctor, including board certification, the number of surgeries performed; the expertise and specialty of the doctor; the philosophy on educating patients about their treatment options.

Questions to ask and information to gather about the cancer before the visit to the doctor may include: the type of cancer; the tests used to determine the diagnosis; the information on your medical reports, including the biopsy, the imaging, the CAT scan; the clinical staging of the cancer; the grade of the cancer, i.e. the cell growth and aggressiveness of the cancer; the genetics of the cancer; the treatment options available; the recommendation for second opinion or a second pathology report.

Empower your mind with knowledge to ask the doctor the appropriate questions. Find out if your doctor is likely to prescribe a drug for every complaint of yours. Find out information about your oncology team, which may include the following: medical oncologist
-- a cancer doctor who specializes in the medical treatment of cancers; radiation oncologist -- a doctor who specializes in the treatment and the recommendations for radiation therapies; radiologist -- a doctor who reads the scans, X-rays, and other images to stage and follow your cancer; pathologist -- a doctor who examines your tissues, the characteristics of your tumor to provide accurate prognostic information to determine your treatment plan.

Are you working with your doctor, or simply taking orders? If you decide to go for integrative cancer treatment, that is, using both conventional and unconventional cancer therapies, you may have a different set of questions to ask your physicians and practitioners.

Questions to ask physicians practicing complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) or any unconventional medicine may include: the qualifications and credentials of these physicians and practitioners; the different types of complementary and alternative treatments, e.g. mind-body interventions, biological-based therapies (oral and injected substances), and their specific roles in conventional cancer treatment; the effectiveness and safety of these therapies, as well as their side effects and negative interactions with conventional therapies; the cost and length of these treatments; the ways of monitoring the progress of these treatments and their impact on the prognosis of your cancer.

Mind Over Matter

Emotion is a double-edge sword: it can do wonders to a cancer patient, but it can also harm or even kill a patient. “Dying of a broken heart” is a reality, not just an old cliché. The bad news is that negative emotions, such as anger, fear, and shock, are health destructive, often leading to severe abdominal pain, bloating, heartburn, indigestion, and insomnia, among other psychosomatic ailments frequently associated with cancer. When diagnosed with cancer, it is critical that you do not do the following:

Do not lose your temper, which can ultimately damage your health further down the road. Instead, employ other ways of channeling your negative energy to distract you when you are overwhelmed by attacks of rage. 

Do not lock yourself into a situation in which you simply cannot see any solution to your own problems, however hard you may try. This is particularly true if you find yourself diagnosed with cancer: you think your dire situation cannot be changed, and, therefore, you subconsciously refuse to look in that direction for a solution.

Do not blame yourself, others or, even God for yur cancer. Guilt distorts your thinking and prevents you from making the right decision regarding your cancer treatment options.

The good news is that positive emotion, in the form of faith and hope can heal. The mind, when empowered with trust and confidence, can do wonders to make you well again. Life is always mind over matter. Use your mind to help your doctor to help you along your cancer journey.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau