My friend Joy was a professional outdoors woman who took people on whitewater raft trips all around the world. She even took me on a trip to Zambia with 7 other women on a river exploratory. Joy was unstoppable. When she came home from getting married atop Mt. Kilimanjaro she had her usual medical checkup to make sure she hadn’t picked up any parasites. No, there were no parasites, instead she was informed that she had colorectal cancer and had to deal with it right away. This was a total shock to someone who had always been so strong and so healthy.
Joy had a very aggressive cancer that was difficult to arrest but she did something that was amazing. No matter what her current status, she continued to engage in life and plan for the future.
I remember being so inspired by this because, even though there was no remission, she would engage in camping trips with friends and took up water color painting. I never knew what new plan or idea she would come up with.
She just kept going much longer than any prognosis.
I love the stories on 60 Minutes and recently there was a show featuring someone whose father was diagnosed with cancer and given a few weeks to live. He rushed home to Poughkeepsie to be with his dad in the old home he was restoring every weekend.
So, instead of just waiting around on a death watch he started working on the house with his dad. And after three weeks, he was still alive. And a year and a half later, the house was fully restored, and his father was fully in remission. His father said, “You know, working on this house with you, it saved my life. It healed me.”
He had no time to give in to the cancer, he had something that inspired him to keep going.
The son was also inspired, he became an architect and founded a company called MASS – Model for Architecture Serving Society. CLICK to view story on 60 Minutes.
So, what is it that helped these people increase their lifespan? Mindsets.
Mindsets are like beliefs. They guide one’s attention and motivation in ways that influence physiology and behavior. The mindsets an individual holds shapes how they feel and act, in ways that can profoundly affect health and well-being.
Researchers argue that empowering patients to shift their mindsets could completely alter their cancer experience. Instead of catastrophic thinking, viewing cancer as manageable and recognizing the body as capable and resilient may motivate patients to participate in activities and change their lifestyle.
And what I am saying is not just about staying positive because it’s important to express feelings and not bottle them up. Because as much as being too positive can be stifling, so can being too negative. There is a lot of evidence in the medical literature that being depressed and anxious can negatively affect cancer outcomes but dealing with these feelings can help you become more resilient in coping with cancer treatment.
There are even some doctors and psychologists who believe that the proper attitude may even have a direct effect on cell function and consequently may be used to arrest cancer. This is a new field of scientific study that is called psychoneuroimmunology. Yes, it’s a mouthful but fascinating in what is being discovered. It is focused on the effect that mental and emotional activity have on physical well-being, indicating that patients can play a much larger role in their recovery. The very thought of having ANY control with a cancer diagnosis is inspirational.
I am not saying that changing your mindset will cure cancer but there are many examples of people who consciously made a “decision to live” who were able to prolong their life.
After the diagnosis there is an initial period of feeling hopeless and devastated. However, with the right mindset, they simply decided to assess their new reality and make the most of each day. When you think about it, making the most of each day is something we ALL should do but often don’t even think about it.
How to change mindset?
It is different for everyone. It could be talk therapy or a support group. For others it might be meditation, hypnosis, EFT Tapping or Reiki. All of these have positive data to support their use for cancer.
The most important thing is the willingness and openness to continue engaging in life and squeezing more joy out of each day and into the future.