“The great error in the treatment of the human body is that physicians are ignorant of the whole. for the part can never be well unless the whole is well” Plato
There are many factors involved in making a full recovery, some of which we cannot control, including a bit of luck.
We can also do a great deal to maximise our chances of getting well and staying well. This is a list that I’ve taken from various sources. Please let me know if you have any others to add.
I found an excellent article by Dr. Peter Harvey called After the Treatment Finishes - Then What? He talks about our need for recuperation, convalescence and rehabilitation in order to fully heal body and mind. It really helped to validate my feelings of anxiety after treatment ended and to increase my determination to give myself 3 moths to recover before going back to work. You can find it on The Cancer Counselling trust website at www.cctrust.org.uk email them at email@example.com they also provide face to face, email and phone counselling.
Major Components to help Recovery
- Good medical care.
- Support systems - family, friends, work, counselling, complementary therapies.
- Taking personal responsibility for wellness - developing a holistic plan to maximise health (mind, body and spirit).
- A sense of spirituality, connection to nature or wider universe.
- Developing love, acceptance and compassion for self and others.
if I had to pick just one then it would be the last one as it really encompasses most of the others. Although the quality of medical care is pretty important too.
Exceptional Cancer Patients (ECaP)
Bernie Siegel (Love, Medicine and Miracles) describes exceptional cancer patients as people who want to share responsibility for life and treatment and who participate fully in the process. basically doing all the things that are listed above.
Dr. Kenneth Pelletier has made a psychological study of many patients who recovered despite great odds. He discovered 5 characteristics in common:
1. Profound intrapsychic change through meditation, prayer or other spiritual practice.
2. Profound interpersonal changes, as a result their relations with other people had been placed on amore solid footing.
3. Alterations in diet. These people chose their food carefully for optimum nutrition.
4. A deep sense of the spiritual as well as the material aspects of life.
5. A feeling that their recovery was not a gift but rather a long, hard struggle that they had won for themselves.
The Will to Live
Siegel asks his patients 4 questions to learn about their attitudes towards themselves and their disease.
1. Do you want to live to be a hundred?
2. What happened to you in the year or two before your illness?
3. What does the illness mean to you?
4. Why did you need the illness?
These are not intended to make people feel bad or to blame themselves for their illness but to gain insight that could help in their recovery.
For instance I know that I was working too hard and juggling being a mum, partner, friend, therapist, trainer and supervisor as well as studying for my final exams during the last year. I often got stressed and wished I could stop and just have more time for myself. I was not good at asking for support or making demands and so would take too much on and then get anxious and resentful.
Cancer has given me a break, permission to be cared for, ask for support, go to yoga and tai chi, have lots of time to myself, enjoy cooking and baking good wholesome food and see more of my friends and family. I wish I could have got it another way but there it is.
Now the trick is how to make sure I continue taking care of myself as well as I am now when I am well again!
The road to recovery is tough at times and only you can decide if you’re worth it.
Having Purpose in Life
There’s nothing like being told you’ve got a life threatening disease to make you think about what is important in life and give you the chance to consider what it all means to you now.
I am summarising the chapter on Setting Goals from Getting Well Again by the Simontons. I really do recommend this book as a must have.
There is no doubt that it takes courage to live in a way that makes life worthwhile after being diagnosed with cancer. It takes courage because, if life is worth living, then there is so much to lose. We might think that if we were told we had a life threatening disease we would do all the things we really wanted to do but had been putting off while we built up our careers or families, etc.
In fact many people do just the opposite and settle into neutral gear, admirably wanting to leave provision for their loved ones or too scared to take the chance of really enjoying life now the shadow of cancer hangs over them.
According to the Simontons, other writers and my own experiences, the people who are around longer are those who make plans and goals and generally make life worthwhile no matter what their diagnosis.
The Benefits of Setting goals
Good health is the result of paying attention to your needs - physical, emotional and spiritual and then translating that awareness into action.
The most effective way to take positive, specific action is to set new life goals. It is vital to focus on your reasons for living, what you want to give and receive from life now.
Setting goals has many significant benefits in:
- Preparing you mentally and emotionally to act out your commitment to regain full health. You expect to recover.
- Expressing confidence in your ability to meet your goals.
- Giving you the sense of being in charge of your life and builds a positive image.
- Providing a focus for your energy, establishing priorities.
Goal Setting Techniques
1. Make them balanced in terms of personal meaning and pleasure for you.
2. Make them concrete and specific.
3. Make them measurable.
4. Make them realistic.
5. Make them within your power to happen.
6. It’s OK to dream and then work out the practicalities!
Setting Your Goals and Developing specific Action Steps to Meet Them.
Write down 3 goals for each of these time frames :-
3 Months; 6 months and 1 year.
Remember the guidelines and to allow yourself pleasure and fun in the process.
List specific action steps that you will need to take in order to achieve your goals, especially the longer term goals.
Drawings and Visualisations really help to focus your mind on achieving your goals. I suggest that you go back and check your progress every week and give yourself a big pat on the back every time you move towards or achieve a goal.
The Art of Healing - Having cancer led artist Michele Angelo Petrone to paint his experiences. He also runs workshops for patients, carers and healthcare professionals. for more information visit the MAP foundation website at www.mapfoundation.org
Once Upon a Doodle - Carol Ross Edmonston has had breast cancer twice and found that doodling helped her relax, and “in the midst of a great challenge Carol Edmonston connected with her life purpose, discovered the ancient art of scared geometry and found peace of mind.” she also runs workshops and has written a book about her work, Connections ... the Sacred Journey Between Two Points. find out more by visiting her website at www.SacredDoodles.com email firstname.lastname@example.org
Creativity and Fun
Now I have finished my chemotherapy, had a clear scan and normal CA 125 blood test I feel as if I have a second chance at life in my 50th year. I cannot deny that I still feel scared that it will return but I imagine that feeling will gradually take a back seat. What I realise now is that having this illness has given me space to really reflect on my life and get to know myself better.
I am being much more creative in deciding how I want to live my life from now on. It will involve more time with horses (of course!) and my family and friends. I can also have fun more easily at times now I am not rushing around from one job to another and trying to juggle friends, family, hobbies, time for me in ever decreasing time slots! I hope that you can also give yourself time to reflect and take something back for yourself.