Updated: Feb 12, 2020
(by Andrew Norton)
When you hear the news "you've got cancer", nothing can prepare you for this moment and yet everything that happens over the next hours, weeks, months and years will result from the preparedness or resilience you have built up over the preceding years.
Here's what I've learnt so far...
1. Build a container big enough to hold the news. Stuff
happens; tragedy, suffering, pain, disaster, and ultimately
death are all part of what is means to be human.
"Building a container big enough to hold the news", is about having a world view—an operating or belief system that is robust enough to handle the realities of suffering, pain and death. A small container has no room for suffering and pain because it is already full of excuses or explanations of blame or avoidance:
"It will never happen to me". "It's not fair". "Why me?" "Why God?" We don't talk about it (whatever "it" is).
2. Keep short accounts (emotional hygiene).
In her poem Alice Walker says, "The taste of a grudge destroyers completely the taste of cherries".
Bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness, blaming and even anger towards cancer destroys the taste of cherries. While people like to quote the cliché, "Life's too short", many carry way too much emotional baggage in grudges of many shapes, sizes and forms. Keeping short accounts means getting rid of this rubbish on a weekly if not daily basis (through journaling for example).
Learn to breathe well. Breath is essential to life. When you stop you're dead! But more than that, breath is one of the best forms of healing, pain relief and stress reduction available. Learn to breathe well. (Worth repeating)
4. Build a team.
Living with a life threatening illness like cancer is an experience unique to you. No one else can fully understand what it is like for you. It is a walk you must do alone but you need not be lonely. Some of your friends will withdraw from you not knowing what to say or do, while at the same time you'll discover a new depth and quality of relationship with those who walk along side you. Build a team of people who add life to your journey.
5. Make friends with yourself and your body.
Eat, sleep and exercise well. Treat yourself. Love the skin you are in. I believe love wins (see point #1).
6. Always refer to cancer with a small "c", never ever a big "C".
"cancer" is not terminal; life is. "cancer" is not a death sentence, it is treatable and many people go on to live a full and healthy life. Hope, medical science, nutrition and attitude are the core elements for any treatment for cancer.
(Reprinted in loving memory of Andrew Norton)