This is my story, a story of how I reduced the dreaded C to a miniscule c, no better than a common cold.
I had heard about this and got to experience this first hand; what kills you is not the disease but the fear that arises from it. The situation I faced was daunting-I was diagnosed with the dreaded breast cancer, the name of which evokes fear. The type of disease I had was one for which there is no preventive medication. To my limited knowledge, there are three types into which breast cancer can be categorized: Estrogen receptor/Progesterone receptor positive, Her 2 neu positive and Triple Negative. I was categorized as Triple Negative, which meant that there was no preventive medication such as tamoxifen, etc. which I could take to manage my disease and prevent further recurrence.
From the beginning, call it intuition or otherwise, I realized that the only way I would come out of this alive would be to train my mind to do the following:
1) Stop my obsession with the disease.
2) Allot little or no mental space to worrying about the disease.
3) Stop over analyzing and deconstructing the disease and the treatment plan drawn up by my doctors.
4) Stop searching “cancer” in any form on the internet.
5) Think out of the box, think non mainstream to beat the disease.
Thanks to books like “The Secret” and “Law of Attraction”, I knew that thoughts become things and it is positivity that would attract positive results. I resolved to myself that I would not depend solely upon allopathy to cure me of my illness. Almost on cue, a friend introduced me to someone who was a “pranic healer”, one who would heal and balance the chakras in the human system in order to rid it of various imbalances and diseases. I brushed aside my logical mind which threw up several questions such as: “How do you know it works? How does it work? Will you not be wasting your time if it does not work?” My intuitive mind took over and I plunged into alternative healing without wasting any more time.
Alternative healing methods, be it yoga, acupressure, acupuncture, reiki, chakra healing or pranic healing focus on the fact that disease signifies an urgent cry for help by the entire human system as a whole, which includes the body and the mind. While allopathy targets the specific part of the human body that is diseased, alternative healing looks into the cause as to why the disease occurred in the first place and tries to remove the underlying cause. Alternative healing also equips the body and the mind to combat the disease. I could not help but compare this philosophy to that expounded by allopathy. The main cure offered by allopathy for cancer is chemotherapy, which is the brutal killing of malignant cells. In the process of killing malignant cells, chemotherapy also destroys healthy cells and suppresses the immunity system of the body, thus weakening its ability to fight diseases and infections.
Nevertheless I opted for mainstream allopathy as well, given the fact that it was touted as the “only” method of treating the disease. I had also heard horror stories of people who were diagnosed with cancer, did not opt for chemotherapy and finally ended up succumbing to the disease. I tried to achieve a balance between allopathy and alternative healing, so that I could end up with the best of both worlds.
The first step was to banish the fear psychosis. My doctors who were treating me had warned me about the side effects of chemotherapy. I made a complete list of any and every possible side effect. The list looked like this:
2) Reduced immunity and increased susceptibility to infections
3) Weight loss or weight gain
4) Intolerance to certain types of food
5) Death/loss of gut bacteria
6) Mouth ulcers
7) Temporary menopause
8) Permanent menopause
9) Heart disease
11) Extreme nausea and intolerance to all types of food
12) Hair loss
13) Bone and muscular pain
14) Hormonal imbalances
15) Dry skin
16) Issues with kidney and liver functioning
Chances were that I would end up suffering all, none or some of (1) to (15). My greatest fear was permanent menopause.
I looked at my list, which I had handwritten and read it in great detail. Then I burnt the list! As I burnt the list and watched the writing turn to ash, I slowly felt my fears dissolve. I advocate this as a strong method of banishing all kinds of fears. Just write them down and burn it up.
The fears did not stop here. The very thought of chemotherapy which conjures scary images, was indeed daunting. I listened to my inner voice which advised me to explore all possible means of alternative healing. All would be well.
I started Baba Ramdev’s Pranayama classes. I found a healer who would heal my chakras and balance them. This, I was told, would not only heal the disease, but also ensure that my body breezes through the rigors of chemotherapy. As I discovered later, alternative healing did all this and more. It ensured that I was mentally at peace.
Cancer, as I read and as many people told me, is a disease of resentment. Resentment, jealousy and suppressed anger-these are chief among the poisons of the mind that ultimately cause disease in the physical body. I could identify with this easily as resentment is an emotion I was harbouring from a very long time; resentment towards people, situations, life. Resentment arose from my perception of people’s conduct; the ways in which they wronged me and did not make amends. All this was only my perception. Whether I was really wronged or not is a debatable question. But the actions of people in my life did provoke a lot of resentment in me.
There is a term in Tamil called நெஞ்சழுத்தம், pronounced as Nen-jazhu-ttam, which loosely translates as hard hearted, a term used for people who are unwilling to forgive. It did happen that each time I recalled the actions of people who supposedly wronged me I would feel an involuntary tightening in my breast, which made it difficult for me to objectively view their actions. Small wonder, then, that this involuntary reaction which was almost constantly occurring, led to a cancerous growth in my breast!
I realized that I would have to let go of resentment if I had to get well. I meditated and prayed daily and my prayers to God were not to get well, but to learn the art of forgiving everyone for everything, banish resentment from my life and attain peace of mind. This was another path to cure myself of the disease. I did not obsess over the disease or spend sleepless nights worrying about it. I knew instinctively that the disease was a symptom of something bigger and more problematic. I prayed and meditated to cure my mental state.
What I talk about may sound overly simplistic, but believe me it is not. Research has proved that diseases like hypertension, diabetes, gastric trouble-the list is endless-are all caused by a troubled state of mind. Remember when you get a sudden spurt of stress? Your stomach literally quivers, you can feel it shake. A constant state of a quivering stomach will only lead to issues with digestion and other problems.
Books like The Secret, Law of Attraction, etc. are based on one premise-you become what you think most about. It doesn’t matter if it is a positive thought or a negative thought. What happens with a disease like cancer is that it conjures up various thought processes-the treatment, the ability to withstand the treatment, the consequence of not being able to withstand the treatment, the fear of the disease not being cured, the fear of recurrence….the thought process can run into pages. The end result is that you end up thinking all the time about the disease. Such thoughts can only result in a diseased body! The fact that you are outwardly cheerful is of no consequence. Your innermost thoughts must be disease free too.
Aided by the meditation I did everyday and alternate healing that was administered to me, I succeeded in giving as much attention to the disease as I would to a cold or a cough. Briefly, here’s a history of my reaction to the disease:
➢ My healer assured me that she would heal me before, during and after my surgery. I recovered from surgery within no time and even went shopping for new clothes after I reached home from the hospital. After surgery, I went to meet a fellow patient whose recovery from surgery was a little slow. The day after surgery was an orientation programme in my son’s school. I did not miss it.
➢ After my first chemotherapy, I went shopping, visited my son’s school and basically lived a normal life. I even commenced work the day after each chemotherapy.
➢ I went for my radiotherapy sessions on my way to work. I once skipped radiotherapy in the morning (much to the consternation of my colleagues) as I had a meeting and went to the hospital in the evening for the session.
➢ I worked from home on the day of the chemotherapy session and went to office the day after.
In short, my life did not revolve around my hospital routine. It was the hospital routine that revolved around my life.
BANISH FEAR, WELCOME GRATITUDE
Many patients I have spoken to in the past and who I continue to speak with even today are all stricken by the mortal fear of chemotherapy. The fear seems too deep for words. If you approach chemotherapy with this attitude of fear and dislike, chances are that it will just not work for your body.
I started my chemotherapy sessions with the mindset that medication would only help cure me of my disease. My attitude towards medication was that of gratitude and thankfulness. The medication that was prescribed was a combination of three drugs, namely 5 fluorouracil, epirubicin and cyclophosphamide (FEC for short). I carried a note book where I would constantly write “I thank FEC for entering my body and curing me of my illness and making me well again. I welcome FEC wholeheartedly into my body. I thank FEC for curing me of my illness without any adverse effects on my body”. I would continue writing this throughout the chemotherapy session. As I was constantly writing down positive thoughts, it became difficult for the mind to shift towards negative or fearful thoughts. My feelings throughout the session would be those of positivity and well being. The reaction of my body had to be seen to be believed. Apart from mild nausea (which occurred as I missed taking my anti-nausea medicines), there was a total absence of any of the reactions I had anticipated. There was zero fatigue (except when I had nausea for a couple of days), zero indigestion, no lack of taste, etc. I continued eating the same foods that I had been eating before my illness. I was constantly cheerful. I lost all my hair but I took this to mean a sign that the medication was working. My skin continued to glow. My periods had stopped but they resumed a month after the chemotherapy sessions ended.
I am quite sure that the positive thoughts occurring in my brain were transmitted throughout my body and they made it difficult for the medication to do anything but positive things for the body.
DO NOT OBSESS ABOUT WHAT IS BOTHERING YOU AND IT WILL CEASE TO BE A BOTHER
If I considered my entire life during my illness, the thought process allotted to each part of my life was as follows:
• Family: 30%
• Work: 30%
• Miscellaneous issues such as my home loan, moving to my new house, etc.: 10%
• My illness: 30%
I had issues other than my illness to occupy 70% of my mind space. My thoughts about my illness mainly consisted of issues such as scheduling hospital visits, scheduling my chemotherapy timings, my healing sessions with my healer, etc., rather than the actual illness itself. Did this make a difference? I would like to believe that it did. The extent of negative thoughts centered on my illness was minimal as my illness occupied only 30% of my thoughts. The thoughts triggered by my illness were more centered on mundane activities such as time management and scheduling. In fact, during my radiotherapy, substantial time and mental energy was spent on the right kind of formal sleeveless clothes to wear as there was some skin peeling and sleeveless clothes would make the process more comfortable.
STOP WORRYING ABOUT THE FUTURE
One of the many flaws of us humans is that we tend to worry way too much about the future and thus end up spoiling our present. Even if I were not afflicted by cancer, there were several other ways by which I might have met my end, be it an accident, cardiac arrest, a plane crash or a train accident. When life is never certain for even the most powerful and influential among the human beings, what was the point of worrying about this disease? My thought process only took me as far as the next chemotherapy cycle and no further. This in turn further minimized any negative and frightening thoughts.
My long term plan is to write a book on how I beat cancer. This blog is a small step in that direction. I hope this offers a small ray of hope to patients battling the disease. Cancer is curable. Just don’t let it take over your entire life.
Remember, it’s not C, it’s just c.