Letting down my guard.

Is being ready to fight good for you?
Which wolf do you want to feed? Fear, hate and loathing on one side, compassion and joy on the other. Which wolf do you want to be stronger?  What you feed grows stronger.

These days my focus in life is shifting – I am looking for ways to feed the loving wolf.  It could be because I want the world to shift and transform into a more wonderful place, or it could just be self preservation.

I subscribe to a variety of blogs, including one from a a Malaysian health care provider that works with cancer patients. He often states that there is no cure for cancer, and relates stories of patients who once they are doing well, revert to old habits. They stop taking his herbs, start eating foods which are bad for them and basically their cancer comes back and kills them.  I find it is good for me to read these things.

C:  “We cannot change human attitude. So let me tell you honestly — out of ten patients who come and seek our help, only three patients would benefit from our therapy. We cannot help the remaining seven patients because we cannot change their attitudes. We can help the cancer but we cannot help human beings.”

You need to take care of your diet. You cannot eat anything you like. So what to eat now? I can’t help people like that! I know many people swear and curse me because I say you cannot eat this and cannot eat that.

SIL: “My father is a very stubborn person. He likes to eat — so we have to change him on that.”

C: “That is the problem. I have no herbs to make him change his attitude, his stubbornness. I can tell you, I give up on such person. No use. My experience is when he gets well, he will not listen to my advice anymore. He eats anything he likes and he dies.”

While not a proponent of  fear based decisions I can well see how being three years post mastectomy, with no evidence of resurgence, it could be so easy to let down my guard. It would be easy to fall into old habits like overwork, and eating too much sugar. But if I embrace my new habits out of fear I am missing something.

The thing is that in comparison to the average American my diet has been pretty damn stellar my whole adult life. Same with level of exercise. Despite all of that the cocktail of my life experiences and exposures still stirred up a wicked cancer party in my right breast. That all that I have done since then has brought me to a state of good health does not negate the capacity I have to go down the cancer path in the future.

“We need to keep careful watch, because your body has a proven track record for cancer, we know that it already knows how to grow tumors.”   Dr.Tammy De La Melena – Breast Surgeon

This is one of the reasons that even when someone is done with treatments they are never really done with cancer. So even though cancering is not the first thought in my head in the morning these days – and even though I go long periods of time without thinking about it – the reality is that my body knows how to grow tumors. I did so even though I ate well and exercised. So even though I don’t think about it every minute, I do still think about it every day.  Keeping watch means that prioritizing my health, and cultivating right mindset is essential. It also means avoiding getting caught up in worry.

“Step back non-believers
Or the rain will never come
Someone start that fire burning
Somebody beat the drum
He said some may think I’m crazy
For making all these claims
But I swear before this day is over
You folks are gonna see some rain”

 Tanya Tucker Lizzy and the Rain Man

This gets me in trouble with the inner critics in my head that say this kind of thinking is akin to blaming the cancer victims.  That believing in the power of right thoughts and right actions is nothing more than a potential set up for guilt if I have a cancer resurgence. I am somewhat tortured by the naysayers of positive thinking, especially those who have taken up residence in my head. There is this false dichotomy I wrestle with all the time – on one side is the staunch belief that mindset and cultivating happiness is the key to health for me, on the other is the fear of being judged for my magical thinking philosophy. Or worse yet of being percieved as judging of those who have a different way of being in the world. What if there is no dichotomy? What if how ever you choose to live your life is perfect?

Scan 2
Always being prepared for a fight doesn’t lead to happiness
If cancering is looked at without assigning blame, it changes things. Cancering was not the result of carelessness on my part, it was the result of a mysterious combination of circumstances, many of which are beyond my control. Cancer is a tool my body used to respond to those circumstances.  My goal, now and always, is to attend to the circumstances that are within my control.  My thoughts, my food choices, and how well I take care of myself.

The great benefit of being pretty seriously sick before my cancer diagnosis is that I was given the opportunity to try out being really mad. For a long time I was generally pretty pissed at how stupid tired I was all the time. Getting fevers, being dizzy, throwing up – all of it just pissed me off. Eventually my body won. Eventually I couldn’t push through anymore. There was no pulling myself up by the bootstraps. Eventually I surrendered to what was. After that I did much better, and lived within the means dictated by my body.  I have wondered if I had received my diagnosis earlier, before I came to that state of acceptance, how different my cancer treatment journey would have been.  So though I know deeply the limitations of my thoughts, I also have an appreciation for grace. The Grace that comes in a door opened by surrender. I was gifted with the realization that being really mad doesn’t serve me.

This is a pertinent insight right now with all of the crazy posturing around national healthcare policy. It can be easy to freak out and shake my fist at the sky. I, along with the millions of other folks with a cancering history, face a future in which the careful watching may or may not be an option.  Will I be able to afford a yearly MRI in the future? What about blood tests?  Will I delay going to the doctor if I think something is wrong until it is too late because of finances? For right now the whole mess is just a colossal life force suck. I mean really, do those crafting the next “great” health care plan really give a shit about people?  I am uncertain what I could possibly do to influence them. This leaves me with the option to either spend my days beset by worry, or to focus on what I can do. For certain when I get all torqued up I let my good practices slide, which doesn’t help any body.

What I can do is continue to drink my chinese herbal formula. What I can do is get my ass outside. What I can do is cultivate loving thoughts. What I can do is choose love over and over and over.  I can listen to my body when it wants extra rest, and give it good food – mostly vegetables not too much.   I can choose actions that may help others. I can follow my bliss. I can choose not to focus on what brings me anxiety and fear and rage. I can look for ways to serve the wolf I want to grow stronger.

Scan 3
Focusing in the moment on what is happening that is good, is a good way to go.
This requires that I am mindful rather than guarded. I can’t fight my way to health. I can’t guard against something that starts within. I can’t change others, or lobby for the senate to do the right thing, or the drug and insurance companies for that matter. I can simply open up to what joy I may find. I can actively choose to cultivate love rather than get drawn into the ever evolving dramas that divide us all.  To the many guises of soul sucking misery that come knocking on the doors of humanity, I can say, “You can’t come into my space right now.”  Equally important is to consciously invite in what I do want.  Right now I want peace, health and compassion.  I know that I won’t get those things if I am itching for a fight.

The words of the Malaysian doctor are a reminder that mindset is everything. Clinging to habits from my past will not serve me.


*Many thanks to my fine boy Sam, who doesn’t mind that I am using pictures from his boyhood.

One Comment Add yours

  1. I so get this. My cancer has returned… started with breast, next on list thyroid, now thyroid is back… and still I am learning paleo autoimmune life and collagen, and palates, and saying no to hard physical challenges until I’m strong enough.. saying yes to turmeric and ginger, dandelion root tea, to a messy house sometimes, to writing when floors need scrubbed…. I love your reminder. Thank you.

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