In Step 1 in this series we explored some of our unconscious beliefs and feelings about our bodies’ mortality. We now have a better understanding of how our view of this aspect of life can empower us to “Be strong” instead of trying to “Stay strong!”
If you need to go back and review that step or if you missed it, here is the link: Cancer – From Fear And Chaos To Calmness And Clarity, Step 1
To take this next step we will be looking at how we might view life and death, so we can live as fully as possible up until the actual moment that our bodies die. Let me share and experience from my early days as an Overcoming Cancer Coach:
A little more than 22 years ago, I went to make a house call on John. He was a middle-aged man, who 5 months earlier had been diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. John tried a number of treatments and modalities, some conventional and some holistic, but he was not doing very well. That was when a mutual friend recommended that he connect with me and see if I could help. I’ll never forget the conversation we had the first time I went to see John. It went something like this:
Me: “Hi, John. How ya doin’?”
John: “What do ya mean, ‘How’m I doin’?’ How the hell do ya think I’m doin’? I’m dying. Can’t you see that?”
Since this was the first time we met and we had previously talked for less than 5 minutes on the phone, to say I was stunned by his angry and uncensored response is an understatement. I sat in silence for a little while. Then I became curious about what John really needed most at that moment and how I could help him. I had come prepared to do physical, biological and nutritional work to help his body heal. But I hadn’t thought about anything that might be a higher priority for our first meeting. I knew that the anger, fear and resentment that radiated from every pore of John’s being were not serving him. I knew that if John wanted to get well, a shift was needed. Back to our conversation:
“John, thank you for sharing how you feel so honestly. I know that takes courage and trust. I appreciate it. Would it be OK if we dug a little deeper in that to see what we could learn that might be helpful?”
John replied, “Oh, I guess so. You’re here so we might as well.”
I asked John, “Can you tell me what is going on in your body right now?”
John looked puzzled and asked, “What do ya mean?”
I asked, “Is your body breathing right now?”
John replied, “Of course.”
I continued, “Good. Is your body digesting food and metabolizing nutrients?”
John said, “I guess so.”
I went on, “That sounds good. And what is going on in a typical cell in your left foot right now?”
Again, John looked puzzled. He asked what I meant.
I said, “Well, as far as we know, the cells in your left foot are using nutrients and oxygen for various metabolic processes, eliminating metabolic waste and some of the cells are even preparing to divide, or perhaps actually in the middle of their normal cell division. Would you agree?”
John nodded his head, “Yes!”
I continued, “Your body absolutely will die at some point. So will mine. As far as we know, that is inevitable. And it is inevitable beginning from the instant we are conceived. So this goes back even before we are born. So we could say that for our whole lives, we are actually in the process of dying. But isn’t that a limiting and dismal way to look at life. What if, instead, we told ourselves that up until the very moment that our bodies completely cease functioning we are living? Isn’t that a far more empowering way to look at things? Isn’t that a more fun way to look at things? And isn’t it at least as true that the other ways we could look at this?”
John thought for awhile. We both sat in the silence be until we both felt a deep and profound shift. And that is when the real healing began.
As I mentioned, that was over 20 years ago. What I didn’t tell you is that just before my first of many visits with John, his doctor had told him that he needed to get his affairs in order and that he most likely had about a year to live. Over the next 18 months John got better and better. He went back to playing golf, spending time with his kids and grandkids, and enjoying life each day. I stayed in touch for a number of years, and each time we spoke, John reported that he was doing well and felt great.
It’s now been about 8 years since I have been in touch with John. But I would be surprised if he were not doing well. We have several mutual friends and I am pretty sure one of them would have let me know if John were sick again.
As a side note: John had told me on the phone when we were first speaking together and arranging that first appointment that his doctor had “Given him about a year…” I bristled at the wording. It implies that the doctor is God, at least on some level, and that he was doling out portions of life that we get to have.
I wish that more practitioners would be mindful of the language they use. Since I primarily work with people who are dealing with cancer, I am often asked, “How much time do I have?” I reply, “I have no idea. I am not God. I am not in control of such things. None of us is.” Then I ask, “Would it serve you to know what the statistics are for people dealing with similar cancers and who are in similar circumstances?” If they answer, “Yes”, then I share some statistics, being ever so careful to emphasize that they are just statistics and that they do not impose any limits on what is possible. I usually share some past cases to illustrate my point.
In summary, what I want for you is to live every single day as fully as you can. Keep in mind that you are NOT dying. You are living! And live that way up until the last breath your body takes. In the next blog post I’ll be discussing Step 3 in our journey From Fear And Chaos To Calmness And Clarity. See you there!
To your great health!