In January we introduced you to our friend, Paul Bohannon. Eight years ago, Paul was diagnosed with prostate cancer and given 6 months to live. Yet here he is to tell his story, eight years later, cancer-free. How did he do it? What was his path? What did he learn? What can you or a loved one learn if you are going through a cancer diagnosis? We invite you to follow Paul’s story each month, although if you don’t want to wait, you can read more of his story at www.vitalmagonline.com/cancers-blessing-a-patients- perspective right now.
By Paul Bohannon
Last month we talked about establishing a treatment plan. This month we talk about organizing your affairs then getting down to healing.
Organize Your Affairs
While it sounds ominous, the goal of “putting everything in order” is to eliminate stress and worry. The last thing you need is to stress your mental facilities. Instead, simplify.
Plan for the worst; plan for the best. Set goals for the best outcome and do everything you can to achieve your goals. Follow your treatment plan as best you can and get the what-if scenarios under control.
Part of organizing your affairs is to have the hard conversations with your loved ones about a life without you. It is challenging, and while no one wants to do this, it’s important to all involved. Too often, people do not get a proper chance to say their goodbyes. Do it. If you live many more years, then guess what – you both got to realize how much you feel for the other.
Finalizing any outdated documents can also help to relieve the scary thoughts you may have to entertain down the road (regardless of cancer outcome). Only 32% of Americans have a will or estate plan in place. The tragedy here is that by the time the need becomes urgent, you may not be in the right state of mind to handle it. In addition to professionals, there are a lot of great online resources to help you.
You may also like: Cancer’s Blessing: A Patient’s Perspective (4th in a series)
Focus on Healing
At this point, your planning is done and you have an advocate to deal with the doctors and the research. It is now time to do your ONLY job.
You have ONE JOB – get better. Help your body overcome the cancer or adapt to living with the cancer. This means strip away as much “noise” in your life as possible, whether emotionally, mentally, physically, or financially. It’s a massive ask, so let’s break it down into some simple tasks.
Start thinking about your world, your problems, in a compartmentalized approach. In his book, “How to Win Friends and People Too,” Dale Carnegie introduces a concept called “Living in Day-Tight Compartments.” While I no longer work for the Dale Carnegie Organization, I would absolutely recommend a course like this for anyone suffering with cancer. Here’s why: you’ll learn to address your deep inner fears and build a better you. There is a lot of debate as to the cause of cancer or it’s catalysts. I’m a strong believer that causation is a factor, but the inner you – the part you can control – is a key contributor. These types of courses push you outside of your comfort zone and help you to learn about your inner self and what’s important to you.
If you don’t have the means, don’t worry. There are lots of forums for cancer patients where the focus isn’t on getting peer-review approaches to curing your cancer, but to give you the support you need.
Be Open to Broader Approaches
Our Western society’s approach to medicine was developed by Descartes’ reductionism/dualism theory. Without going down a rabbit hole, let’s just say that modern science and treatment are based on the theory that all pieces of the human body are separate parts of a “machine” that can be taken apart, studied independently, then reassembled.
In the 1920s, Walter Cannon revealed the connection of different functional systems to one another, such as stress and our adrenal systems. Modern society is constantly in fight or flight mode, “draining
the system” or causing it to “run hot.” The most important relationship we have is with our brain. Studies have shown the enormous ability our brain has to help us repair, rebuild, and heal.
While learning more about my disease, I discovered the ancient medical practice of Ayurveda and consider it a critical part of my recovery. It has been called the original medicine and espouses three basic principles: movement, transformation and structure. Two aspects, meditation and yoga, promote moving, relaxing and focusing on the inner parts of yourself in order to unleash the power of the brain. To be clear: By no means am I suggesting someone move to India or give up on traditional medicine, or stating that it is even a viable option, because everyone is different. However, I believe focusing my brain on healing is why I’m alive today.
As an example, I used to spend twenty minutes in the parking lot of my oncologist’s office with my eyes closed and I thanked the universe for the opportunity to undergo my treatment. I told myself that my treatment was medicine, and my body would allow the treatment to do its work. I told myself that this was going to be an amazing experience and that the people I would meet were saving me.
Whether you’re religious or not, it’s important that you make peace with your possible outcome – death. For many, prayer and meditation provide the moments to go inside yourself to discover and understand your fears and concerns.
At night when you lay your head on the pillow and the emotional rollercoaster starts to kick in, it’s imperative that you distract the mind. Meditation was immensely important for me. Meditation and/or
prayer are amazingly helpful to your brain’s and body’s healing. First, you put a pause on the stress button. Second, you achieve a state of calm and focus. Third, and possibly most important, you’ll find a
path to connect with hope, faith, and belief in yourself.
I found keeping a journal by my bed to help. When your mind wanders to random to-do items, write them down. Then start over. Start your prayer/meditation over. Keep doing this until you feel relaxed. Reducing your stress is the most important part of your treatment you can control. You’ll give your body the chance to heal and calm down the phytochemicals your brain is producing.
Control Your Variables
The goal of this article is to open you to the notion of approaching treatment from a variety of angles. Be open to innovative approaches or combine them with your treatments. There are some basic variables you can control without causing any harm or interruption to your treatments. Learn to relax and connect with the inner You. Do this daily, often multiple times a day. Make this time sacred. Let your brain do its work.