Imagine the scenario. You feel a lump in your breast, or perhaps the lump was discovered during a routine mammogram. You feel a churning fear in the pit of your stomach of what this may mean. The following day you go to your doctor and shortly thereafter, following a needle aspirate or biopsy, you get the chilling results, you have breast cancer.
When you believe that cancer is a real threat to your immediate survival, the news can be understandably devastating. Thoughts of possibly dying and the impact that this could have on your family and loved ones, not to mention the thought of stolen tomorrows, can be crushing! This will not be helped by the inevitable pressure most people will then undergo from their doctor to have surgery and/or chemotherapy almost immediately. The thoughts of surgery, not to mention the infamous debilitating side-effects of chemotherapy ahead of you, are enough to turn anyone’s life upside down!
However, what happens within your body in the days and weeks following a diagnosis of cancer, if it causes you to be gripped with fear because you believe your survival is threatened, is worth taking note of.
In this state of intense fear, your body which is a powerhouse of chemicals receives a crippling blow. The usual production of natural anti-cancer chemicals by the body such as Interferon and Interleukin 2 suddenly cease in this terrain of fear. Added to this, stress hormones such as cortisol that are released for as long as this perceived threat continues, result in a suppression of our immune system.
In addition, the release of hormones that serve to heal us such as our natural endorphins and growth hormones drop dramatically. And then there’s the ‘drying up’ of all our digestive juices in this state of ‘fight and flight’ so the nutrients in our foods which we need to nourish our cells more than ever during a time of having cancer, are simply not digested or absorbed as they would be in a normal relaxed and happy atmosphere.
Therefore, at exactly the time we need to call on our immune system to heal us, we inadvertently paralyse our own inherent healing mechanisms simply by being terrified by what we perceive as an immediate threat to our survival!
Added to this is the deeply entrenched belief which most people harbour; this being that cancer is a ‘killer disease’. When you consider the power of the mind, this belief can in itself set the stage for making the cancer patient’s worst fears become a self-fulfilling prophecy!
In summary, the simple act of receiving a diagnosis of cancer can be more damaging than the disease itself! So, what can we do help us cope with the news of cancer? One thing that is becoming increasingly popular is requesting a second opinion. Receiving a second opinion can not only ensure you have received an accurate diagnostic but also you have received the best treatment advice going forward. Companies like The Leader’s in Oncology Care offer a second opinion service giving patients the reassurance they need.
Cancer is only a formidable disease when in failing to understand it, we focus all our energy on the tumour (which is only a symptom!) instead of the underlying cause. We know that symptom-based approaches cannot work in the long term, and the dismal treatment results (slightly over 2% success in chemotherapy treatment – Journal of clinical Oncology) prove it!
Knowing this enables us to feel empowered in the knowledge that we can dictate our own healing from cancer! This has the effect of helping to dissolve our fear, which in turn enhances our healing!
Importantly therefore, changing our understanding of cancer not only improves the experience of having cancer to one that is positive and empowered (rather than one tortured with anxiety and fear) but also creates the platform for a vastly improved chance of survival!