On Facebook and on other internet sites, I have seen quotes or sayings that go something like this: “when adversity strikes, you can choose to be bitter or use it to become a better person.” Not only did this speak to me the first time I read it, but it has stayed with me over the last weeks, so much so that I decided I wanted to post on this blog about it. While some people would say that when hit with adversity, there is no real choice; that depending on the adversity one has a right to be bitter, in my view being bitter makes it worse and brings negative energy to you and those around you. Given that I believe that cancer and other diseases tend to grow in the face of stress, including bitterness and negative energy, being bitter is a choice that one should not make. At least, if you start bitter, you should try to turn that around to do something positive, and become better.
When I was first diagnosed and was, frankly, in a panic state over what I saw as a death sentence, I could see myself going down a path of bitterness. I could not stop thinking about the end of my life, and how shocking it was that I had cancer, and not just cancer but advanced stage cancer. The negative energy was so overpowering I was paralyzed with fear and panic and communicating that fear and panic to my family as well. It was no way to live. In fact, I said that to my husband the Saturday after I was diagnosed as I spent another day on the edge of panic. I told him I could not go on this way – I was not enjoying anything, had trouble focusing, felt like I could not breathe, and was not reaching out or able to reach out to my family or friends. I was alone and terrified, not a state I was used to, nor one that is healthy.
Once I broke that cycle, my energy went to fighting the cancer, being a survivor, visualizing the cancer being eaten Pac-Man style by my healthy cells/immune system, and, most importantly, focusing on the miracle of each day. I know I have written over and over that you should not take any day for granted and should enjoy every minute of every day. This is easier said than done, even in what I call my more advanced state of consciousness about this since my diagnosis. By and large, however, I have resolved to live each day to the fullest, felt blessed when I am healthy and able to do yoga and meditate, and have enjoyed my family and friends. I try to always keep my energy positive, not negative. I truly believe that this is key to fighting cancer and numerous other diseases; that when we give in to bitterness and negative energy diseases are ready to strike in what is our weakened state. The mind is so powerful, and we do not know the full extent of that power. I do know that I am using my mind, my will, my strength and positive energy, to help fight the cancer. I have chosen to become better, in the sense that I am more conscious of my blessings, more grateful for my life, my family and my friends, more grateful for my healthy days, and try to be positive overall. This is how I have tried to live since that first week.
I was reminded of my first week after diagnosis recently when I learned that a friend has breast cancer, had surgery and is undergoing chemo every other week. I wrote to her about this, and heard back about a week later. When I read her response to me, it broke my heart. She is so overwhelmed, not only with dealing with the cancer and the effects of the chemo, but she had a horrible week, with her kids in the ER, her daughter getting a traffic ticket as she was driving her sick mother, bald and shivering in the passenger seat, her dryer broke down, and there were other challenges as well. Reading her e-mail I could tell how overwhelmed she was. She also said something that is true – being diagnosed with cancer changes your life. She said that the old me is gone and she will never be the same. While I feel that the old me is still here at my core, there is no question that being diagnosed with cancer and going through treatment for it, changes you and certainly puts a stop to taking life for granted. For the rest of my life, even with full remission (which has not yet happened), I have to be monitored and worry each time that the cancer has recurred. I also know from experience that cancer strikes even people who have done everything right, or thought they had, and that many people who get cancer did nothing to cause it but likely simply have a genetic mutation that caused the cancer cells to start multiplying. That can be a frightening thought. Again, you can think it is unfair to have to deal with this, especially if you have lived cleanly, ate well, exercised, meditated and did everything you thought would keep you healthy (I know that feeling), or you can say, okay I have to fight this and I plan to survive, and in the meantime I am going to live every day the best I can.
My friend did say that going on the yoga mat helped her purge some of the poison and was the only place she felt at peace. That is a good thing. I can remember trying to do yoga the week I was diagnosed and being unable to get the stillness needed, or to breath correctly because of my panic. I kept glancing at the clock, wanting to be off the mat and out of the room. That panicked me even more – that something that had worked for me for years may no longer be available. That did not last, but at least my friend had not experienced that fear. I wrote back to her telling her that for me, I do not dwell on the future (other than to visualize myself here in 20 years or more), and that instead I focus on the miracle of each day and the days I am feeling good. I understand how she feels and that the chemo is something that is hard to take. Believe me, at the end of my infusion chemo, I was getting more anxious with each chemo, dreading it more and more. I told her that only people who have gone through chemo can know how awful it actually can be and why we dread it so much. Its not a group I wanted to join, but one I had to join.
There are days when I still say to myself why did I have to get this cancer, and if I had to get it, why couldn’t it be stage 1, removable by surgery with a little follow-up radiation to make sure the edges are clean, and then I am done. Early on, I even felt a bit jealous of people who have cancers in places where the main tumor can be surgically removed because the tissue is not necessary, such as breast cancer, uterine cancer or kidney cancer in one kidney. With my cancer, the stomach surgery is too invasive and it would take many weeks to recover, let alone be able to absorb nutrients needed for health. I cannot be that weakened when I have metasticized cancer and need to do chemo. I would love, otherwise, to cut it out, but instead must destroy it another way.
Today I went for my scan – the fist one I have had since finishing infusion chemo and since my severe reaction to Xloda. I am a bundle of nerves on the days I go for a scan. This one is more nerve wracking because I am on a protocol of no chemo, monitoring and scanning, but if my cancer has grown I am back to infusion chemo. I have decided I will not call tomorrow to find out the results. I am leaving for South Beach in the morning and see no reason to worry about the scan results or know them until I return. I cannot do anything about it, and if I do need to go back to chemo, I do not want to think about that when enjoying South Beach. Instead, I will continue to choose to be better, not bitter. I will continue to visualize my Pac-Man cells eating the cancer cells and killing them off, and I will enjoy every day in the warm sun and on the beach. I am ready for some heat, yoga, good food, and good friends.