After 16 years and five rounds of lymphoma, I have some advice for people being diagnosed with cancer or a cancer relapse.
1. When you find out the bad news, let the emotions flow fast and furious. Fall to your knees in grief. Ask why and have that pity party. Cry until you can’t anymore. Lean hard on your inner circle. Hold hands with your loved ones, squeeze their hands. Take your shoes off outside and feel the earth literally under your feet because right now, you feel like it was ripped from you. Go fully to the dark places, just do not stay there for more than two weeks.
2. Find a mantra and say it endlessly. I have two: 1) Right action is taking place right now and 2) Every day in every way, I’m getting better and better. Ask everyone you know to say them with you and for you.
3. Identify your core purpose in life. Write it down. Hang it up where you can see it every day. Read it out loud to yourself as often as possible.
4. Delegate things immediately. You are overwhelmed with the loss of your health after you worked hard to regain it and thought you had secured it. This is a blow. This is not a time for you to do it all. Let people take over your volunteer commitments. Let people make you dinner. Let people take your kids for a playdate and bring them home from school. Let people do your grocery shopping and water your plants.
5. For a relapse: remember the wisdom you gained when you dealt with cancer in the past. For example, you can and MUST fire any doctor who does not ooze positivity, optimism and encouragement in your presence. Your doctors should, and I use that word rarely, first and foremost remind you that you are going to be okay. Then they can talk details. If your doctor is panicking, you do not have to follow suit. Breathe. If you have to stand barefoot on the grass all day and breathe till you feel better, do it. Then get a second opinion no matter what. Remember, these are all opinions and points of view. You don’t have to make a decision about what to do or how to proceed the day you get an opinion. Write yourself the following note: “This is an opinion. This is not a decision.” Hold your note in your hands during medical appointments. Look at it frequently. Let the tape recorder remember everything. If the opinion is negative, trash the recording.
6. Tune in to your mind, body and spirit. Remember in step one how you asked why your cancer came back? You got your huge, scary emotions out and possibly fired doctors so that your intuition can now guide you to the answers you need to hear. Do the work that you have identified that you need to do.
7. Be open minded. Try acupuncture. Try holding a crystal in your pocket or putting one under your pillow at night. (I recommend black tourmaline and smoky quartz). Try smudging. Try guided meditations. Try reading about non-Western cancer therapies. Try learning about alkaline vs acidic foods. Try quitting sugar. Try putting lavender essential oil on your wrists whenever you start feeling upset, and especially at bedtime. Try dry brushing. Try oil pulling. Try reading books about how your body is designed to work and what you can do to help it succeed.
8. For parents, be honest with your kids. Honesty means saying things like, “I found out there are some bad things happening in my body and I’m sad about that. I’m gathering information. I will decide what to do about it soon. There are also awesome things happening in my body. Meanwhile, I love you. Can I have a hug?” (Did you know we need 12 hugs a day for optimal health?) Set a tone of positivity without ignoring that a health crisis is stressful and causes sadness. Use age appropriate language of course.
9. Find something beautiful around you every single day. There is still magic all around you. You need to see it more than ever.
10. Trust yourself implicitly, even if it causes conflict with medical professionals. No one cares about you more than you.