My mom is a wonderful human and one of the best mothers I have ever had the privilege to know. Like many kids, however, I didn’t appreciate her when I was young. She did terrible things, like refused to buy us cookies, ice cream, and sugary cereals whenever we demanded them; she bought us fruit preserves and all natural peanut butter instead of Smuckers and Kraft PB; she took me to appointments at the chiropractor and allergist; and she believed strongly in the assertion that anything wholesome could be made into a substitute for store-bought popsicles (no-sugar-added fruit juice? Absolutely! Organic yogurt? Of course! Bananas on a stick? Why not?!). It got so bad for my sister and I that I swore I would eat whatever I wanted when I got old enough and that I would let my kids do the same.
Fast forward a few years and I am happy to say that I have come to not only realize but deeply appreciate everything that my mom did for us, even if I didn’t like it at the time. So many golden nuggets of how to live a healthy life imbedded themselves in my subconscious and waited there patiently until I was ready to listen to their wisdom. And it did take a little while. At first, I did just what I said I would. I happily ate things like candy and chips and mini cupcakes every day (sorry mom 😬), and I didn’t think twice about how it was affecting me. We all know where that landed me.
It took a cancer diagnosis for me to finally listen to those little nuggets, squirreled away and ready to come to the surface of my consciousness, and what they said loudly and clearly was that I needed to explore every avenue to healing that was possible. They also reassured me that I knew where to start, I just needed to take a page from my mom’s book: a diet overhaul, lots of learning, and the input of trained professionals from the alternative world to integrate with the recommendations from my conventional doctors.
It was an automatic response for me, and it was automatic thanks to my mom, thanks to her wisdom and what she instilled in me as a kid about healing, without me even noticing it. I already had a naturopath from dealing with a very low immune system the year before (coincidence that I had this problem only a year before diagnosis? I think not), and I was at her office 4 days after I was diagnosed. In the meantime, I was starting to read everything I could find about supplements and diet and homeopathic boosts to healing after surgery. And that’s how, without realizing it was happening, I became a member of my own health care team. I relied heavily on input from naturopaths and integrative doctors and oncologists and surgeons, but I acknowledged that I was the one in control of my decisions, always.
I have talked about this before, but I had this crazy moment of realization. I was trying to make decisions about treatment, and I think this moment was about whether I should do chemo or not (there were so many hard choices, it’s difficult to keep track of them all), and I was really struggling with it. I was one of those cases where it would make a difference, but I wasn’t sure if the 1.8% reduction in risk of recurrence was worth what it would put my body through. I was thinking over everything I had heard from my doctors (who wanted me to do it) and my naturopaths (who were leaning away from it) and my family (some for it, some against it), and I realized that I was waiting for someone to make the decision for me, I was waiting for the appointment when someone would say, “Do this, this, and this. This is the right thing to do, and if you do this, you will be okay.” Then, I smiled. It was a partly sad smile, because I acknowledged in that moment that no one was ever going to say that to me no matter much I wanted it, but it was also a happy smile, because I realized that I had much more power than I recognized up until then. That was the moment that I accepted the task of being an active member of my healing team; I accepted the responsibility I had to myself to do everything I possibly could to get well and stay that way for the rest of my life.
Your doctor knows only as much as they can read, and it’s impossible for them to keep up with every single advancement and discovery. Help them out! Be active in your healing and your health going forward, not only to ensure you hit cancer or anything else with everything possible, but for the profound impact it will have on your mental health. I stopped feeling helpless. I stopped feeling like this was happening TO me and there was nothing I could do about it. I stopped feeling like I was simply waiting around for my next appointment. I stopped feeling like I was just keeping my fingers crossed that nothing would get worse or come back. I started feeling like I was personally making a difference in my health and healing. I started feeling like I was in charge of this situation that so often feels like it is spinning chaotically out of anyone’s control. I started to feel more and more certain that I was absolutely going to figure this out and bring my body back into balance, back into a state where it was impossible for cancer to grow. And, most importantly, I started to feel like I didn’t have to be afraid all the time. I have my days, of course, where the fear and anxiety and uncertainty creep back in, but all I have to do is remind myself of all the amazing things I’m doing for my body, of the sense of teamwork I am cultivating with it, to assuage those fears.
To do this, to become a part of your health care team and to accept that responsibility, is the single most important thing that you can do on this journey. It will prove your capability to yourself; it will make clear the vital role we play in our own health; it will foster a stronger relationship between you, your body, and your intuition; and it will throw you a life preserver at the moment when you think you can’t possibly tread water any longer.
The mind-body connection has been proven to be real. Your cells are listening to your thoughts and feelings. So, if you truly believe you are a healing machine, you know that you are actively doing everything you can to heal and prevent illness, and you remind yourself often of all those things you are doing to become and stay healthy, your cells just might follow suit and believe it too. Why not at least try?
To your happy healing ❤️