A Real Treat for YOU!
This post is my treat to you on this Halloween! I am so pleased to introduce you to my friend from the UK (so I will refer to her as UK). I asked her to do a guest post for us today because I have been so inspired by her blog, “After Cancer Cooking.” I have struggled with researching and determining what foods I need to be eating to fight off recurrences of cancer and continued to do so. I really like the fact that UK has figured out what works for her and gives practical, specific advice on this. She’s also learned that what she eats is, in fact, linked directly to cancer emotions! Check out her blog and you’ll see how the hen below helped her with this. So, here’s UK, a person that has taken charge of her life and had found much happiness living in the mist of cancer emotions.
“When I was diagnosed with stage 3c, grade 3 ovarian cancer 3.5 years ago I was horrified by the statistics. There was no escaping it; I had contracted one of the worst female cancers in terms of survival and reoccurrence. I was assured (I think the surgeon thought it reassuring) that there was nothing I could have done to prevent it; why this happens is not understood.
Now; I’m grateful for this surgeon’s care (he saved my life), but a lifetime in the provision of services to the UK health service had made me very aware of how skewed such statistics are, and only a little hunting on the web showed me just how much I could do to help myself through and hopefully attain lasting remission. I did not; and do not, believe that there is nothing we can do to defend against reoccurrence.
I am a psychotherapist by profession, and I wanted to understand why this had happened to me, but not simplistically. 30 years of working with individuals, families and groups of people had done nothing if not demonstrate again and again how complex reasons for human’s actions and situations actually are. Throughout, I had worked on my own experiences of professional and personal relationships with a series of other therapists, and tried to remain healthy. I had demonstrably failed.
So, when I came across the well-written and delightfully readable work of Dr David Servan-Schreiber,(‘Anticancer a new Way of Life’ )I felt that a door had opened into a room I had been looking for, but that had been obstructed by piles of differing documents about diet, lifestyle, mental health, physical health, meditations, etc, etc. Here was someone who was a cancer subject, a medic, a psychiatrist, and a wonderful communicator. I must say at the outset that he has also now succumbed to his cancer, and died last year on 24th July. His death was a huge blow to me. I had hopes of meeting with him, and discussing his work. His continued health supported his work; his death seemed to undermine it. The truth is that he lived much longer (20 years, I think) than he would have without treatment and lifestyle change, and the book he wrote as he contended with his final illness recognises that he had allowed his anticancer work to overtake his own needs. He was traveling extensively, and working hard, and his own health suffered.
As cancer subjects I firmly believe that we need to try to understand what we can do to protect ourselves. Your intuition will probably be one of the best tools you can use to identify why this has happened. The reasons are likely to be complex, but will probably have a physical, environmental and mental component. Your emotional health has repercussions for your wellbeing and immune response. Servan-Schreiber approaches the complexities with information, intelligence, courage and enthusiasm.
We are all individual, and here is an approach that takes this into account. What we are aiming for is to boost and support our immune system to support the treatment we have. There are personal decisions to be made about that treatment too, but it is important to identify the ways in which we can give ourselves the very best chance of getting the desired results from that treatment.
I started to think a great deal more about food and lifestyle than ever before. I had always tended to buy organic produce, and had been vegetarian for many years, but food had often been grabbed during the working day, or hurriedly on the way home, and I had fallen into bad habits, drinking far too much coffee and processed ginger beer (which I loved), and cheap wine in the evenings to help me sleep. Running around an ‘exercise wheel’ of work (which was unsatisfying and frustrating), moderately poor diet, and always trying to keep up running the home and our menagerie of animals had become a spiral of suppression to my well-being and happiness. My immune system – also under assault from the added changes of peri-menopause- could no longer cope.
I have no doubt that contributing to my becoming diseased (I was never ‘ill’ before I started treatment) was my lack of care for my diet – despite the fact that, even before cancer, my diet would have been accepted as a ‘healthy’ one in most people’s eyes. Underlying this, and contributing much more profoundly was a growing professional frustration. My working life had always been very important to me, and the agency which employed me had been created by me, reflected my beliefs and ethics, and was (I felt) worth fighting for. Time and funding conditions had corrupted the ways we worked into shapes which seemed to me expensive and more and more ineffective, and I had been fighting the tide for a decade. The emotion I would most equate with and characterise the growth of my ovarian cancer with is frustration. My professional frustration became a cancerous process in reality. I wonder how many of us can identify a similar factor.
So; my advice to anyone finding themselves coping with the mind-numbingly devastating experience of being told they have cancer is ‘rage’! Let me explain: rage against the statistical lies you will be told; rage against the sheer injustice of finding yourself in this situation; rage against those people who are not helping you with your life, but frustrating your aims and beliefs; rage – yes rage against the dying of the light! Use that rage to express your love of life, your right to be you, your rights to find your way through treatment and self-protection. Gravitate toward those people who nurture your rights and support your decisions, and jettison those who dictate and patronise. Let your motivation be to support and enhance your immune system by eating, expressing, exercising and being in healthy ways. Do things you’ve always wanted to do – but don’t overlook that those can be simple mundane day to day things – they don’t have to involve foreign travel and mountain climbing. Sometimes we work ourselves to the bone in the hope that one day we will just be able to ‘be’. The motto of the University I went to was ‘Be still and know’. I used to think that this was bizarre; now I am seriously middle-aged and have stared down cancer I finally know what that motto means!
Good luck with your path through – I hope you enjoy it as much as I find I do mine.”
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