Where to start? If you receive a positive diagnosis for cancer, or any other serious chronic illness, most likely you will feel overwhelmed, not knowing where to head towards. The days surrounding a diagnosis are days of torturous waiting: doctors appointments for more studies or images, get authorizations from the medical insurance, organize help around the house, etc.
The other day, I checked the journal I wrote during my treatment. It called my attention the title of my first entry: “The Deep Breath before the Plunge.” Wow! This was the exact description of how I felt at that moment, right after I received the news that I had cancer.”
Only the fans of Tolkien will recognize this phrase. In the extended version of “The Return of the King,” Gandalf and Pipping talked while waiting for the big trial, the final one, the one with no escape. It is imminent. There is total silence. Contained. You can smell fear. And there’s no other road but to jump, to go, the overcome the hurdle. In the scene, Pipping doesn’t want the “test” and says “ to be aboard of one -trial- which I can’t avoid, is even worse.”
Just before starting the treatment, sometimes, I imagined myself in front of a dark, horrible tunnel. Of course, I didn’t want to go in. However, another part of me was eager to start walking and going through it, to exit as soon as I could. That was always the best motivation I had to begin my road of superliving: a hasty road, with rhythm, moving forward; exiting ASAP.
Where to start? Here I will share some practical recommendations I hope are useful:
- First, recognize, accept and be patient with your initial emotions. From there, aim to build.
- Do whatever is in your hands to find doctors that you like. One that you “click” with, someone you can trust and can focus on you as a human being. You will walk your life with them for a long time. You will cry, argue and laugh with them. They will be your teachers and your friends. Of course make sure they are competent doctors.
- Buy a notebook to write all the information that you will receive on the first days after diagnosis. Here is an article that I wrote awhile back in regards to this simple but powerful tool: http://www.rosaesrojo.com/rer/a-powerful-notebook/
- In your journal, iPhone, or whatever you have, write 3 positive things daily that happen to you during the day. Open your eyes! They do happen. Even if they are trivial, write them down. This will help you to generate a habit of positive thinking, which is the key to superliving, this way, your brain will help generate those substances that strengthen the immune system.
- Keep a journal. However you want to do it. As deep you would like. Writing heals. Writing helps to organize thoughts, emotions and feelings Writing helps to make decisions and learn. Writing helps to remember without the pain.
- Find a nutritionist or a professional in trophology to help you make changes in the way you eat. This is key. A good example to this type of help is the Gerson Institute www.gersontherapy.org They have a totally natural therapy model that allows your body to activate the ability to cure itself, based on a mainly vegan diet, with juices, enemas and supplements.
- Find a Holistic/Naturopathic professional to advise you on alternative health or complementary practices. I mention only a few here: integration of supplements, vitamins, enzymes, minerals, acupuncture, hydrotherapies of the colon and enemas, juice therapy, detoxifications, salt baths, essential oils, kinesiology applied, biomagnetism, healing massages, among others.
- Walk or exercise. My recommendation is “Don’t stop moving.” Of course, as long as your doctor authorizes it, and your body allows it. Even if it is walking for only 10 minutes, this will help you reduce stress, oxygenate and strengthen your immune system.
- Stress Management: go to a professional or find support with friends who can help you with some simple practices to relieve stress caused by treatment, information, etc. Exercise helps. Deep and slow breathing helps too. Meditation and prayer are also good practices to manage stress.
- Spiritual Direction. Whichever religion you profess or practice, spirituality is an important dimension from which to view this trial of health. Studies show that prayer and meditation help the brain to activate mechanisms to help heal and strengthen your body. Search for a Spiritual Director to accompany and strengthen you. During these difficult times, the supernatural help and graces received are beautiful gifts.
- Organization without being a control freak. Define simple parameters of how you want your house and family life to be organized in the next few months. Communicate them clearly.
- Be practical. You house might not be spotless, however, it is important that these details don’t generate extra stress. Communicate which things you want to continue doing and which ones you want to delegate.
- Ask for help. Accept the help. Forget about being bashful. It’s no use. I’m sure that there will be many that will like to help. For you, it will mean a lot as well as for them too.
- In the next few months, choose things that make you feel pampered. Comfortable clothes and shoes that you like, a blanket or shawl, favorite books or movies, delicious teas, a massage. A gift for yourself. What more? I must confess that I gave myself a present after each chemo. LOL! After my first round of chemo, I remember I bought my new, all natural and organic make up kit.
- Do not keep a record of unpleasant symptoms. Yes, you will have to tell them to the doctor. Yet, don’t keep a binnacle of them. It is better to focus on the achievements you will soon be making. I remember that a couple of days before my second appointment with my oncologist I proudly presented a colorful graph with bars and percentages of the “new symptoms” caused by the new medications: cough, bumps on the skin, nausea, dizziness, thrush, etc. According to me, everything was under control and on a graph, to know when it had started and finished. This time I got a good reprimand! I can laugh now, nonetheless, that day, it was very hard for me to understand. “Focus on the positive things you are achieving, and let us fix those unpleasant symptoms;” was my doctor’s answer.
From the bottom of my heart, I would like NO ONE, ever to receive a positive diagnosis of cancer or any other serious illness. If you do, I accompany you from the bottom of my heart. You can COUNT on us! The worse trials prepare the best supervivors. You are already one of them!