When I was 12 cancer was introduced as a concept of my inner world. Of course I’d heard of cancer previously, my great grandmother had died in her 40’s of breast cancer, but that was far removed from me, so I thought. At 12, my mom was told she had a tumor growing in her ovaries and that she required a partial hysterectomy. It was scary as a child to watch your mother go under the knife, not knowing the outcome, watching her have complications and be hospitalized for days. That was my first experience with the power of cancer and the way it could impact not just the patient, but the family surrounding that patient, her co-workers, her neighbors. It impacted all of us. The stress, worry, fear of the outcome or unknown gnawed away at us and made us unable to act, we were frozen with indecision as to what to do. That fear took away our power.
As time went on I watched my mother go through breast cancer, twice, to finally have a double mastectomy, I’ve watched my sister go through breast cancer, twice, to finally have a double mastectomy. I’ve watched my mom’s sister go through breast cancer, and chemo, and recovery. What I’ve learned from watching these brave woman process their diagnosis, watched as practitioners gave them little options for alternative therapies, and supported them through their surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy, reactions and secondary symptoms, and long-term drug therapies that created additional disease, is that I never want to have cancer.
You would think with such a strong family history that I would be hyper-focused on contracting the disease myself or worried for my daughter and nieces, but instead I don’t. I chose to eliminate fear from my vocabulary and to embrace each day, each moment with intention and mindfulness. I don’t look at my body in separate parts but as a whole unit, physically, energetically, physiologically connected, working together to create the wholeness that is me, so to have cancer in one body part and treating one body part is not helpful. We must look at the whole person and the whole body.
We cannot change the past, it is gone, we cannot affect the future, and best-laid plans get changed. So what we can affect is how we are feeling right now and I chose to live my life with love. I use the power of my mind to sweep negative thoughts away. I use meditation regularly to teach my body that my mind is stronger than the sum of its bodily parts. If I feel anxiety and stress rise in me, I simply breathe. I count my breaths, or I close one nostril and focus on breathing only through one nostril at a time. In yoga this is called Pranayama. This simple practice, that is a daily part of my life, it’s free, causes no discomfort, can be done privately or in public, and is the most powerful thing I do each day to keep me healthy. I use meditation to scan my body recognizing where I may be feeling tight, tense, or relaxed. Knowing my body from the inside allows me to give it care when it’s required. Why is my shoulder tense? Why is my stomach upset? This basic recognition of honoring your body is our only responsibility to it. We get one body for this lifetime and we must be responsible to care for it.
The last thing I do is a yoga asana practice, mostly vinyasa slow flow, but these mindful movements with breath, intention, body awareness and control has allowed by body to elongate, realign energetically, open up my spine and heart space, allow the energy of our internal body to work in congruence with the physiological parts of our body. This has created strong muscles, well-nourished organs, proper peristalsis, and an overwhelming sense of strength and calm. By being physically aware of what my body needs and doesn’t need, it’s also changed my choices when it comes to nutrition. I no longer crave the sugars and salts, I no longer need food as a comfort but as a source of energy. I eat fresh, seasonal, and organic and I’ve never felt better in my body.
I’m so appreciative of this journey of life. Each misstep is a lesson to learn from. Simplifying our existence on this planet, being aware of our thoughts which dictate our actions, and being a loving kind person to yourself and to others is the greatest gift you can give yourself and to the energy of the world around you. As I think about the impacts of diagnosis of cancer, I am reminded about how that ripple effect can happen with a single stone in a pond. Your thoughts are yours to control and how you choose to move forward with your actions will deeply effect those around you, so my hope is that by living mindfully, by being calm, controlled, and accepting of my life that I will deliver a more positive experience to those around me. The energy you give, you will receive. That is the quickest way to heal and to have greater health. Namaste! Dawn
(Editor’s Note: Send us your story of Living the BeatCancer.Org Way to firstname.lastname@example.org. We love to hear and tell others how you’ve changed your lifestyle to prevent, fight or beat cancer!)