Can your mood or state of mind really make a difference to your physical well-being? I’ve never really considered it until I was diagnosed with cancer.  

I’ve read a little and now I have seen the science behind this, I get it, and I’m starting to believe more in the mind body spirit connection as an important factor in the ability to heal. While this is “the norm” in Eastern culture, there is so much evidence now that the doctors and institutions in the West are now promoting this as an important factor in combatting chronic illness.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in the camp that suggests I can “beat” cancer by eating well, juicing, taking supplements, and refusing traditional western treatments. BUT, if there is something, I can control that might just have a positive effect, then why not.

Of course, trying to create a positive, stress free, and calm state of mind when you have incurable cancer is not easy. In fact, it’s almost impossible. Some of the little things that have helped me since I was told to “go home and get my affairs in order” ;

Live in the now. This was the best advice I was given after my incurable prognosis. For some time, I tried not to think beyond the end of the day. Seriously, I try not to project forward too far. The maximum “future” I work with is 3 months simply because that has been my typical chemo regime. I plan on two-week cycles in line with the chemo treatment and make sure I have enjoyable stuff in the diary.

I’ve started to meditate – at the moment it’s just for 10 minutes a day but it helps create some sort of inner calm. I’m also doing yoga, and while it is fantastic for physical well-being (I never realised how hard it was), it also seems to really help me mentally.

But by far my toughest challenge is managing stress. Although I’m not sure having cancer has made much difference – I’ve always been poor with it. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, I think the medical profession call it OCD. I like things to be done a certain way. I tended to manage it through drinking and smoking – which I have no doubt hasn’t exactly helped my health. I stopped the fags about six years ago, but the eating increased!

So, I try and keep calm, accepting that I can’t control everything. I’m reading as much as I can on how to manage stress, how to relax. I’m learning how to say nothing when I would normally react, doing what I can to “be more Dalai Lama”, as my youngest son often reminds me as I re-stack the dishwasher, while moaning under my breath as to why people can’t put plates neatly in a kitchen appliance!

The reality is quite simply that what could possibly be that bad to cause stress? I mean under the circumstances, as long as my family has their health, what on earth could create a problem? Right? This is a work in progress, if anyone has any tips please let me know.

But I maintain a generally positive mental attitude. I just conclude that negative energy is wasted energy. What’s the point of being miserable? What possible good can it deliver, specifically when I believe in the science that clearly shows that positive thoughts like laughter, love, kindness, and a sense of purpose generate chemicals in the body that help the healing process

I’m trying to find that inner peace, some sort of contentment. Once again, there are some techniques to help here, very well highlighted in the book Radical Remission by Kelly Turner. One such exercise is the releasing of suppressed emotions. It has been very cathartic to go back over my life to analyse moments that have either created pain, and also joy. The key here is simply about recognising these emotions, and then letting them go; it’s all about the flow of emotion through the mind and body. 

Another common topic among cancer survivors is to have a strong desire to live. It is so important to find that sense of purpose and can be as simple as being there for your children. I also need to have plans and goals for the future – I’ve mapped my life out to around the age of 80!!

Excellent publications to help explain the science and provide some hope; 

Everything you need to know to help you beat cancer, Chris Woollams

Radical Remission, Kelly Turner

Anti-Cancer A New Way of Life, David Servan-Schreiber

Another great publication and certainly one to read to help with a positive outlook is from Bowelbabe – Deborah James