When the Cancer Diagnosis Comes
If you’re like me, you may be starting to feel like every time you turn around, you know of someone who has been diagnosed with cancer. And we’re talking about kids, teens, and adults in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, so this is not the older population we once associated this insidious disease with.
As many of you know, the diagnosis hit our own home 7 months ago when my husband, Frank, was diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer, with a large tumor in his throat, and one on a lymph node on the right side of his neck.
I have so much to say on this subject from so many angles, but since several close friends have been diagnosed recently as well, there are a few thoughts I wish to share if you or a loved one receive a cancer diagnosis.
You have time
I can only imagine how scary it must be to hear the words “You have cancer”. I only know how it feels to have my husband been told these words. I totally understand that fear kicks in and you feel like you need to act instantaneously. The truth is, unless you have a true immediate life-threatening tumor, you have time to read and research and do your due diligence to weigh all the treatment options available to you.
You only have one body and one life, and deciding what treatment plan you will pursue is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make. Don’t make a fear-based decision based on one set of recommendations by one group of people that only know that one thing. They mean well, but it’s all they know.
When Frank got diagnosed, I purchased Chris Wark’s “Square One Healing Cancer” program, which includes “20 Questions for your Oncologist Guide”. One of the questions is “Is my cancer fast-growing or slow-growing? Be sure to ask this question. Frank was diagnosed in July and he didn’t start chemo and radiation until September with the scheduling of second opinions and getting him into the rotation. Although he chose not to pursue the alternative and/or complementary options available to him, he still had time to consider them. You don’t need to schedule your first treatment for next week. You have time.
“Fear is a natural reaction that gets us closer to the truth” – Pema Chodron
You have choices
I know – easy for me to say. Interestingly, I have been interested in the subject of cancer healing and prevention for about 6 years now, long before Frank was diagnosed. I even wrote a post 4 years ago that I never published entitled, “If there were alternative treatments to chemo, would you want to know about them?” because I personally would want to know about them and couldn’t for the life of me figure out why many of these things are not “mainstream”. Now I understand both why I didn’t post it and why they are not mainstream. More on that in another post.
The truth is, I can *think* I know what I would do if I received a diagnosis and have spent years reading and watching documentaries on this subject. The one thing I know without a shadow of a doubt is that there many non-invasive and complementary options available for treating cancer that exist beyond the conventional chemotherapy, radiation, and/or surgery routes which I will cover in other posts. And they don’t make you feel sick or cause suffering. In most cases, they can only help, not hurt. As anyone who has gone through chemo and radiation personally or with a loved one can attest, they felt 100% fine even living with late stage cancer, and it wasn’t until the treatments started that they got so sick.
I’m not saying there is not a place for these treatment options. I am saying, however, that you owe it to yourself to do comprehensive research on Western, Eastern, and Integrative approaches so you can learn the pros and cons of all of them and then make an informed decision. Journal about them, pray about them, and trust yourself to make the decision that makes sense to you.
Doctors are valuable, however, they do not know everything about everything and are trained to treat symptoms vs. underlying root causes of disease. Don’t take anyone’s word for anything. Having letters follow their name does not make them all-knowing or infallible. Expose yourself to a wide range of options with regards to diet, lifestyle, environment, and alternative therapies that treat the whole body, talk to friends and family who have pursued different options, and feel empowered to put together a treatment plan that feels right and good to you. Your opinion very much matters.
There is no doubt you will be met with a ton of resistance even just exploring altnerative and complementary therapies. People are afraid of what they don’t know, but are often unwilling to expand on what they have been taught or told. And they are afraid of you doing something that is outside of the cultural norm. They love you and are concerned for you, and they mean well. They are going to be terrified and oppositional to anything that veers from the chemo/radiation/surgery route. That’s ok. Breathe deeply and stand your ground. It’s your body. Frank chose to follow this conventional path, so again, there is no opinion or judgement here on the right or best way to heal, because the answer is different for every person, I simply want you to know you have options. Let’s choose to honor and respect whatever choice someone makes as it relates to their own healing path. There is no right way to do anything, even as it relates to treating and healing cancer.
We spend so much of our lives doing things based on intangible, underlying influences of “the culture”, that it’s often not until much later in life that we start asking ourselves, “What do I think is right”, “What do I want to do?”, “What makes sense to me?”. This takes training and practice of going inward, and a life-threatening illness is as good a time as any to develop a close relationship with yourself and finally start listening to your own voice.
Your body can heal it.
We tend to think of cancer as this mysterious disease that “comes and gets us”. The truth is that there are a ton of factors, physical, emotional and spiritual that play into whether it manifests into a diagnosis or not. You are not a victim. As Chris Wark says, “Your body created it, your body can heal it”. When I look at my bookshelf, about a quarter of the books I own are about our body’s ability to heal, going back 15-20 years to Louise Hays’ “You Can Heal your Life”, to Carolyn Myss’ “Anatomy of the Spirit” and Dr. Bruce Lipton’s “The Biology of Belief”.
By now we have all heard epigenetics, which is a branch of science that studies how genes express themselves. We want to turn on the “good”, cancer-preventing genes and turn off the expression of cancer causing genes. Our diet, lifestyle, and environment all play huge roles in how your genes express themselves.
Nutrition, Lifestyle, & Environment Matter
I almost fell over when one of the top radiation oncologists at Memorial Sloan Kettering said “I don’t buy into any of that food stuff” when I asked her about a diet Frank should be following while he undergoes one of the most “brutal combinations of chemo and radiation you can undergo” according to his doctors. There were 5 interns in the room, and I was infuriated that even now, in 2018, with all the scientific evidence of how and why nutrition matters, that such nonsense is being stated at the top cancer hospitals in the country.
Frank ultimately chose to do his treatments at Yale’s Smilow Cancer Center where the advice was no better. Eat ice cream, burgers, fries, pizza – whatever you want. The team of oncologists’ paramount concern is the patient losing weight. There is little concern for the quality of the calories and discussion of nutrition taking place in the daily visits to the hospital, which is a shockingly narrow approach to “patient care”, and undoubtedly a massive disservice to people who are being blasted with high doses of toxicity. Step into my common sense corner, as Tony Robbins, would say. We can’t do any better this around nutritional advice for people’s immune systems who are already greatly compromised?
I have tons more to share on this subject, but I had to at least get some of this down on paper as we sit here at Yale and wait for Frank’s PT scan results this morning, now that has been 12 weeks since his treatments ended.
In the meantime, I come back to Pema Chodron’s advice “When Things Fall Apart – Heart Advice for Difficult Times” and remind myself, “If we’re willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be exterminated, then we can have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation”