The two weeks following my original scans were challenging. This is the period that a lot of people who have undergone a cancer diagnosis speak about. For a period of time, you know that you have something inside of you, that is not supposed to be there, and it could be a variety of different tumors, from a benign cyst to a highly malignant, metastasized cancer.
As I previously mentioned, the day after sitting down with he pulmonologist I had to prepare to lead a workshop in Denver – I have never welcomed the stress more! Preparing to teach, to lead exercises and to hold space has always been such a blessing for me since my early days of teaching yoga and meditation. Pouring my energy into this was MUCH more beneficial than googling anything about the many possibilities of my upcoming diagnosis. The first morning of the workshop, I shared with the other facilitators and staff about my situation. I expressed that I didn’t need them to act any differently towards me or treat me in any special way, that simply listening to me and allowing me to not hide my situation (one of the course practices in this authentic relating community) was enough. I think I did ask for some additional touch and hugs and luckily for me most of my friends in this community are of the cuddly variety! Teaching that weekend was a beautiful experience – it was my first time teaching this material and it gave me a lot of reassurance and confidence that this the type of work in want to be offering and participating in. I also noticed more than ever how human connection is a powerful form of medicine and I already understood that it will play an important role in my healing journey.
Due to insurance approvals, I knew I had a couple weeks before enough tests were done to determine, diagnose and stage my situation. I sought a balance of distraction, social support and practice in this time. It felt good to speak about my situation with friends. I have read of many stories of people isolating themselves and their situation and the thought of this was unbearable for me. I was a little apprehensive about taking this next step towards blogging, but after beginning this process I see how helpful it is to me, a good reminder of what many people keep saying to me: “You are not alone in this”. I became aware of how much impact my situation was having on those in my life. Everyone has a different relationship to health and disease, but cancer strikes at the heart of many of our fears and insecurities. Our own body, intentionally destroying itself is a cruel and confusing mystery that medicine and science still lack a lot of understanding in.
I sought out different books, blogs, movies and websites, seeing what I could do to physically, emotionally and mentally do to heal. Two in particular caught my attention this week that I would like to share. The first is the documentary Heal that is available on Netflix. It focuses on the power of the individual to have the defining role in their own healing. You will watch some stories of near miracles where people on their death bed somehow mysteriously pull through and are cured of cancer. AND you will also see other stories of individuals who cannot seem to find that relationship to their illness and remain stuck in a treatment/illness cycle. A few quotes resonated strongly with me in that film – one from Marianne Williamson (spiritual teacher/author and recent presidential candidate) where she says:
We have more faith in the power of cancer to kills us than in the power of the divine to interrupt the disease.
Dr. Joe Dispenza, a famous alternative healer, on the power of gratitude:
When a person shows up in the doctors office and gets the diagnosis of arthritis or diabetes or cancer, once they hear that diagnosis, the most common emotions they will feel are sadness or fear. They can think positively all they want, they can say I’m going to overcome this condition. But if they are feeling fear, that thought never makes it past the brainstem into the body because its not in alignment with the bodies emotional state. You need to get that person to change their emotional state and get them into a state of gratitude. Why gratitude? We normally give thanks when we get something. But if you’re giving thanks in a state of gratitude, your body believes it is receiving something because the emotional signature of gratitude means its already happened.
Therefore the more we can feel the feeling as if our healing has already occurred, giving thanks for that healing already being present, can be the trigger for our bodies to grow the nerve cells to make the connections to trigger the brains chemistry to reflect that healing. We have this advanced nervous system that we regulate through the choices we make in our lives. What we think, what we feel, what we believe. Specifically the emotions that we choose to respond with to what life brings to our doorstep. All of this is an incredible reminder that the outlook, the approach to any dis-ease or condition is of critical and paramount importance.
The second recommendation is a book called Radical Remission by Kelly Turner. In her book, she summarizes her research as she goes around the world interviewing cancer survivors and their stories. She tabulates a long list of factors that played a role in people healing themselves, and ultimately finds 9 key factors that apply to most of the stories of radical remission:
1. Radically changing your diet.
2. Taking control of your health.
3. Following your intuition.
4. Using herbs and supplements.
5. Releasing suppressed emotions.
6. Increasing positive emotions.
7. Embracing social support.
8. Deepening your spiritual connection.
9. Having strong reasons for living.
Well this looks good! I have a head start on pretty much all of these. #5 may be an area of work for me. I highly recommend this book to anyone diagnosed or near a loved-one who is diagnosed with cancer. Its very inspirational reading about the stories of amazing people who pulled themselves through almost impossible odds…
Thursday, January 16th arrives quickly and I prepare for two doctor consultations. First with a thoracic surgeon and second with an interventional pulmonologist. I meet the surgeon first and he explains that they have been meeting as a team and discussing my case – first they have decided that a CT guided needle biopsy is a better approach to a biopsy than the bronchoscopy and that that can happen as early as next Tuesday. They are also able to move the PET-CT scan up to next Wednesday so some progress is being made. This means by the end of the next week, I should have a clear diagnosis/prognosis and know what I have… and no need to meet the additional pulmonologist, as the biopsy will be performed by a radiologist.
And here is where I want to make my first highlight about the Nocebo effect. I don’t remember if I asked or it was volunteered, but the surgeon at some point said “I think its a Thymoma” and for the next week I spent much of my time considering (and Googling – I told you it was impossible for me) Thymoma. Since then, I have read a number of stories of the power of this effect – the subtle trust that we place in those white lab coats and the power of the mind to create side effects from their mere suggestion. Better to trust the DATA and the test results, remembering the doctors opinions are exactly that, opinions. I had a second experience of this a week later which I will get to in the next post.