DEVELOPING A POSITIVE MIND SET
“THIS POST IS WRITTEN BY JOEL T NOWAK AND WAS PUBLISHED FOR THE FIRST TIME AT WWW.CANCERABCS.ORG”
To get from being just a cancer patient or just a cancer survivor to becoming a Cancer Thriver, you will need to develop a special mind set in dealing with your cancer(s). You will need to make decisions about how you want to live the rest of your life.
You do need to understand and acknowledge your feelings, they are real, and they are a part of you, but you also need to make sure that they are not blocking you from living a good life. If they are, then you need to stop them from damaging your life. Finding a way to balance your feelings with living a positive life takes time and work, but it is now one of the most important tasks you have, it is one that you have to take on and conquer.
Cancer can steal away your life, but only if you allow it. Your mind is an amazing tool, and we all need to learn how to harness its energy and power to make it work for us, not the cancer. Positive thinking, honesty about your feelings, mental toughness, visualization and Self-Controlled Decision Making will allow you to begin the process of taking back your life from cancer.
This concept of Self-Controlled Decision Making is vital to taking back your life and becoming a CANCER THRIVER. What is Self-Controlled Decision Making? The best way to describe it is to share the experience of our founder, Joel Nowak. When he was diagnosed with a metastatic cancer recurrence, he went into a tailspin. He was convinced that he would be dead within five years (this was in 2005, and he is still alive today).
He became angrier and angrier each day. In a short period, his anger permeated his entire existence. Not only did he become paralyzed by his anger, but he also began “taking it out” on his friends and family. He even became nasty to strangers in stores and on the street. This anger took over his entire life, no matter the time of day or night.
One night, as he got into bed, he decided that he could not continue having these angry feelings, it wasn’t fair to the people around him, and it wasn’t fair to himself. After all, he didn’t know if he had three days, three months, three years or even 30 years of life left. What he did know was that what ever time was left he did not, would not, spend it having this anger controlling his body and his soul.
So, he made a very deliberate decision: he decided that when he woke up the next morning, all the anger would be gone from his body and spirit and he would instead find a way to be a positive influence in the world. That next morning he woke up and had let go of his anger. He felt a joy that he was alive and started his first day as a cancer patient advocate.
Don’t misunderstand, he still has strong negative emotional responses to his having cancer, and anger is occasionally one of them, but he doesn’t permit them to control his life. They are real feelings, feelings that he has acknowledged that are real and important, but he will not permit them to control how he lives his life.
Visualization often used to improve sports performance can be another valuable tool that you can use to fight your cancer and improve your life. Visualizing your cancer dying might, or might not kill cancer (who knows), but it definitely can help give you a feeling of control of your life.
We know a CANCER THRIVER who while in the radiation treatment apparatus developed a personal mantra; fry, cry and die. This mantra empowered him every day he went for radiation treatment. He also points out that his radiation protocol was completed over 15 years ago and he is still here today having seen his cancer fried, crying and then dying. His mantra gave him the power to do what he needed to beat his cancer every day he went for treatment.
Don’t be surprised if you too are having major emotional responses, we all do. We will experience them with our first cancer diagnosis, if we have a cancer recurrence and if we find that we are faced with a new, additional cancer diagnoses. Don’t be surprised; this is a very healthy and very normal. The degree of the emotional response will differ from one person to another. We are all different, and so we all will respond differently.
Don’t be surprised if you experience mood swings as you go through your day. Some of the time you will feel your emotional responses very intensely and at other times not at all. Mood swings are normal and expected. After all, we humans are emotional beings. We all feel, and we all respond to what is happening to us.
If you do begin to feel overwhelmed, find a way to center yourself. Stop what you are doing; if you are with anyone ask him or her to give you the opportunity to be by yourself. Sit down and take in a deep breath. Inhale slowly and deeply, hold your breath and then exhale your breath slowly. Repeat this process multiple times. Slowly inhale, feel the air fill up your lungs, feel your lungs expand and hold the breath. Then, again slowly exhale. Hear the air going in and out, concentrate on the air moving in and out of your chest. Slowly keep doing this deep breathing.
Inhale deeply, fill up your lungs and tighten all the muscles of your body. When you exhale the air from your lungs, relax all your muscles. Let the tension out of your muscles, and out of your body. Continue to concentrate on the movement of the air in and out of your lungs and the shedding of the tension from your body.
If you find that your mind wanders and you have thoughts that upset you, deliberately find a different thought, one that is pleasant to you. Interrupt negative thoughts with positive thoughts. It is impossible to have two thoughts at the same time. Remember, you always have a choice, so choose to be positive. Initially, you might find that the positive choice needs to be deliberate, but over time it will take over and permeate your being, making you a more positive person and improving the quality of your life.
Be honest with yourself about your feelings. Saying your feelings out loud so that you can listen to them will help you to understand them and put them in perspective. Expressing your feelings out loud so that you can hear them will allow you to accept them. After you do this then say out loud your positive thoughts, listen to them.
Then use the Self-Controlled Decision Making process and consciously decide to move on and live your life in a positive manner. Decide to let go of the negative feelings. Decide to move on by making a conscious decision to live your life happily while you deal with any barriers, including your cancer(s) that you come across while living your life.
Learn your limits. Don’t do what you cannot do, but always do what you can. Surround yourself with positive people and discard negative people. Whether or not you have cancer, have only positive people around you. Always wrap yourself in a blanket of love.
Exercise every day. Get those feel good endorphins circulating through your body. Even just walking every day will improve your mindset. If you need the motivation to walk, get a dog. Besides a walking motivator, they will become a fast friend and constant “cheer you up” companion.
Don’t confuse these, or similar methods, with burying your head in the sand or being apathetic. You are accepting your emotions as being real, but not allowing them to take over your life. As Arthur Gordan said, “Acceptance is not apathy. Apathy fails to distinguish what can and can not be helpful; acceptance makes the distinction. Apathy paralyzes the will to action; acceptance frees it by relieving it of impossible burdens.”