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If you‘re like over a million Americans who are diagnosed with cancer each year, you may now find yourself on the greatest roller coaster ride you will ever experience. A diagnosis of cancer is life-changing! In most cases, it is not the end of the world, nor of life!

I don’t claim to be an expert on cancer, but after multiple cancer diagnoses over almost 5 decades, after surviving every one of those diagnoses to date, I can offer only what I’ve learned. It may help you to find this offering credible if you know that I was also in the medical profession in various roles for almost 30 years. I’ve done quite extensive research, especially regarding the psychological aspects of this disease, and I try to keep current on what’s new in cancer treatment. Putting all that together, and offering it in layman’s terms, has long been a goal of mine.  

When speaking of physicians, I will use the male pronouns because “he” is shorter than “her” and because you’ll find more male oncologists than females.  

Were you afraid, scared, terrified when you heard that doctor say, “You have a malignancy, a cancer” ? That’s normal, but leave fear behind as quickly as you can. You have no need for it, and it won’t help you in the least. Fear is as much your enemy now as the cancer itself. Just in case nobody else has told you, you don’t have to be afraid of this thing! People beat it every day! Be educated, not afraid! Know the enemy, but never surrender, not to cancer, and not to fear! One of the first statistics I’d like to share with you is that studies all over the world have shown that those diagnosed with cancer who can maintain a positive mental attitude, who can get on top of their fear and negativism, have a far greater survival rate than those who give up, or give in to fear, or refuse to realize that they can help themselves. As much as we possibly can, we must take responsibility now for our own cures. We are each capable of all that will be required of us to live!

No, don’t let fear own you! This is a tough trip, a bad shake, whatever you want to call it. But after having that thought, let it go! Chances are great that this is not the end! Let me say that again: CANCER IS NOT THE END! Don’t let anyone tell you that it is! Every single one of us is unique, both in the way we handle disease as well as the way we respond to treatments. What works for one, what doesn’t work, may not apply to you or to the next guy.

It will be very important to you to make it crystal clear to all around you, to each person who spends much time in your life, that no negatives, no hysterical tears, no sad dissertations, etcetera, are allowed in your presence! That may sound harsh, but you just don’t need that negativity in your life! It isn’t good for you! From this point on, until you achieve your cure, and even afterward, it will be imperative that you do only what is best for YOU ! Everyone near you will just have to “put on a happy face“, if they can’t manage real,honest positive feelings. Establish these rules now, and be consistent in demanding they be followed! Yes, now is the time to be a little selfish.

This rule must include your oncologist! You see, there are thousands of American oncologists, so you do not have to be attached to a negative, frightened oncologist who is not willing to support and match your positive energy, your fierceness of battle, and your willingness to try all options for your particular cancer! We hire our doctors, and we can fire them! Find one that is exactly what you need in a battle companion! You need someone as determined to beat this thing as YOU are! Choose wisely because this may be the most important choice of your life to date!

There are thousands of helpful cancer support forums on the internet, if you don’t have one in your own city or community. Find one, get sound advice from people who have been there, and lived to tell about it! See for yourself that cancer can be beaten! See what you can expect, realistically, from those who have gone through chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, etc. It’s not easy, this battle, and it’s full of surprises that none of us like to face, but we have no choice! We must purpose in our hearts to do what must be done, even if it feels like the treatment itself may kill us! Bad times do pass! They don’t last forever! It helped me to say to myself, “I can take this for 30 minutes!” Then , if necessary, I’d tell myself that for days sometimes, repeating it for 30 minutes at a time. YES, we can do it! We may have to do it minute by minute, but we CAN do it! Others have: babies have, kids have, older people than we are have! If they can, we can! Yes, you can! I have no doubt that anyone, everyone can!

Just get it firmly implanted in your mind that you can, that you WILL! I used a little trick to help myself, & those going through this with me, wherein I pretended that cancer can hear what I think, as well as what I say. With cancer being the enemy, I sure didn’t want it hearing me say my strength was low, that I was weak, that I felt like something wasn’t working, and all the other thoughts that come into our minds in rough times. I wasn’t going to give cancer an edge, or let it in on my weaknesses, so, I never spoke of them, never allowed my mind to dwell on them, and didn’t give ground for negativism to grow. I allowed nothing into my mind or out of my mouth that might help cancer in ANY way! Funny thing happened ... I began to believe the positive things myself! To this day, I honestly believe that cancer can never, ever defeat me! It’s just not an option. Even though I know some people don’t make recoveries from this hateful disease, I won’t be one of them! I refuse to let cancer beat me! I am determined to survive! You can be just as determined.

Were you angry when you heard the diagnosis? The right kind of anger can be a good thing. I had an oncologist during my second round with cancer tell me, once we achieved a cure, that he thought I had hated that cancer out of my body! It sounded funny coming from such a distinguished, educated, outstanding physician, but he may have been at least partially correct! The minute I even suspect that I have to go to war with cancer again, I get extremely angry! I get mad at the disease! It has no business in my body! I want it GONE! So, if you have anger, channel your anger properly. Researchers have found that emotions play a large part in healing. The right combination of emotions has incredible positive effects on our physical being, as do negative ones. Emotions release many chemicals that stimulate, or shut down certain bodily functions.

We’ve all read stories of super-human feats accomplished by even small children in times of great need, great fear, or great love. We must learn to use our own emotions to help us! Don’t allow them to hurt you and your chances of total recovery! You may think you can’t get a grip on this thing, that it’s just too big, to awful, too cruel, but, please believe me, you‘re wrong! Anyone can gain control of his/her own emotions! You really can, trust me! Realize that you must! If ever you needed a battle mentality, a must-win mindset, it’s now! Arm yourself! You‘re fighting for LIFE! If you don’t choose the best weapons, if you don’t arm yourself and prepare for this battle as though you faced a human foe determined to kill you, you have less chance of winning! If you want to win, arm yourself with every weapon you can lay hands on, and get ready to fight!

The war we wage against cancer has several options to bring about victory. These options grow every year as advances in cancer treatment become available.You and your oncologist will decide, based on tests and a number of contributing factors, which option is best for you. Sometimes a “simple” surgery will get rid of the enemy. Your surgeon will open you up, remove the cancer, and it’s basically over because the root of the problem could be removed! Or, you’ll have surgery followed by a round (or more) of radiation and/or chemotherapy. Surgery is not the enemy, cancer is! It’s normal to be a little leery of trusting people to put you to sleep, cut open your body, and then wake you up again. Honestly, if you demand the best, choose carefully, if you make sure your surgical team is one of the best around, and realize they’ve done this quite often, realize that modern-day surgery has been perfected as never before, that the vast majority of people survive surgery, you’ll go in with half the battle won. If you must, allow yourself 15 minutes several days before surgery to panic, to fear, to ask “What if?” & then let that go! Make certain that you go to sleep trusting in your surgical team, believing you‘re going to come out of it just fine, and see surgery for what it is ... LIFE-SAVING!

A note of caution here. Never, never lie to your surgeon! Never lie to any doctor! Answer all his questions with complete honesty! Even if he asks you if you‘re smoking pot, doing cocaine, or drinking excessively, if you are, ADMIT IT! He’s not going to judge you, send you to jail, or squeal on you, but he is trying to save your life, so don’t neglect to tell him everything! If you take vitamin/mineral supplements, use natural herbs, teas, even aspirin, tell your doctor! A lot of things can interact with anesthesia, pain medicines, chemotherapy, etc, and threaten your life, or even in rare instances, kill you! We don’t want that, do we, so be honest! If you‘re taking Aunt Betty’s Valium to “take the edge off” now and then, say so! Think carefully about what you’ve taken or used in the past few months and tell your doctor! Especially if you’ve been given steroids, any type of steroidal drugs ever, tell the doctor! Any medicines means just that! And if you aren’t sure what all is considered a medication, ask your doctor! Years ago I had no idea that the Korean tea mixture I drank daily was considered a medication! That cost me! If you aren’t sure, ask! Think! And then be honest!

And don’t try to hide existing medical problems! If you have anything, any medical problem, this can further compromise your immune system in cancer treatment! If you have allergies, a cold, a sexually transmitted disease, a fever blister, a boil, a rash, anything, tell your doctor! If you have metal anywhere in your body, including those older amalgam (silver with a touch of mercury) fillings in your teeth, tell someone when you first go for testing. If you were shot with a BB gun as a kid and didn’t get a BB out, tell someone before any tests. This is very crucial for any of you who may undergo MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). If you have metal fragments from an accident, metal implants, ANY possible metal in your body, now is the time to make it known! Also tell your doc if you’ve been on a lot of iron supplements. List everything you’ve ingested, and make absolutely sure about the presence of metals anywhere in your body before you go in for MRI!

If you and your oncologist decide surgery is not an option, or if there is a need for having chemotherapy, or radiation before or instead of surgery, you may as well know now that both these procedures come with varying degrees of difficulty to those who must have them. Some, a blessed few, will get by with little or no side-effects from either radiation or chemo. I’ve observed this rare phenomenon myself. Chances are, however, that you will have some side-effects. Let’s be honest ... some are rough! So what? You can handle it! Nothing lasts forever, and the side effects of radiation or chemo won’t either! Just make sure you get all the information you need, or want, from your oncologist before you make your decisions! Nobody can FORCE you to do anything you don’t feel is best for you. However,even if we are physicians ourselves, we don’t always know what’s best for us, so do find a compatible, trustworthy doctor, one who is up-to-date on the latest treatments and clinical trials and then trust him!  

I recently discovered that Fractionated dose chemotherapy is available. I’m very glad I did! This is an option that has been available for several years. Not ALL oncologists may mention this, but they should. With fractionated dose chemotherapy, your treatment is given in smaller amounts over a number of days rather than in a single larger dose, as with standard chemotherapy. Many believe that fractionated dose chemotherapy can make chemo more tolerable by reducing some of the unpleasant side effects. It did just that for many. Ask your oncologist, if he recommends any chemo treatment for you, if Fractionated chemo is available for your particular cancer.  

We’ve all heard the horror stories about both chemo and radiation therapies. Yes, there are many side effects to both treatments. Some are awful. So what? Cancer itself is awful, but cancer kills and treatments save lives! If “awful” is what it takes, so be it! You can handle it! All the more important to have a support group of people who have been down this bumpy old road before you. Ask questions, and insist on honest answers from your doctor, from those who administer these treatments. Ask other patients if they mind sharing what they’ve found helps to cope with such radical treatment. You can find a lot of info on the internet, but watch your sources! Thee are trusted sites and totally ludicrous sites, and some have helped me immensely, but your oncologist should be able to and be happy to answer every question you have, or refer you to someone who can! If he won’t, get someone who will! And remember,no two people have the same reaction to any drug! Don’t expect to go through hell, so to speak, but prepare your mind for all possibilities, and then determine how you’ll handle it. Plan ahead, visualize each possible scenario. I promise you, even if chemo leaves you a quivering wreck, it won’t last forever, and you won’t be the first, nor the last, to curse it as the vilest thing on earth. But, neither chemo, nor radiation is as vile as cancer! So try to see any side-effects as proof that the drug, or the radiation is doing its thing! It’s your mind! You can tell it what to think, how to react to everything! It takes commitment & practice, but you can do it! Now, let’s be honest, the day may come when you just fail to control your thoughts or reactions, but do not leave it at that! Just like falling off a horse, you won’t be able to enjoy riding unless you get right back on and ride! So, if you “lose it” briefly, don’t beat yourself to death mentally for not staying in control! Simply regain that iron-fisted control and keep it! You can do this! TRUST ME!  

Talk openly and honestly with your family and friends before you start treatment. Tell them not to expect you to be the easiest person on earth to live with. Tell them you don’t expect to have the time, and maybe not the energy, to be as attuned to their needs or feelings as you once were. Assure them that, whatever happens, you won’t mean to hurt them or neglect them, or turn into an “ogre“. Tell them that you need to handle things your way for awhile, because you‘re in a great battle, and all your energies will be devoted to winning! Please, don’t get despondent over having to be a little selfish for awhile! Self-preservation is the first law of nature! Lose your guilt! Realize that being the center of everything is necessary for now and don’t over-tax yourself trying to keep things on an even keel with those around you. Throw out your scorecards, forget balancing the scales for now! DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO DEFEAT CANCER! You won’t lose anyone who really loves you, who wants to see you win this thing! I warn you, those people in your life who have tested your ability to maintain civility before cancer came into your life, will now test your ability to not commit homicide! Stay away from these folks as much as you can!  

Whatever happens, no matter what , good or bad, live for the future and commit yourself to your cure! Don’t look back and ask “What if?“, and don’t look back and ask questions whose answers won’t actually help you! Questions like “Why did this happen to me?“or “What did I do wrong?“, or “Why didn’t I stop smoking/get frequent check-ups/pay more attention to my symptoms?” ! Forget all that! Such useless questions, are just not important right now! Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the present, either! This, too, shall pass, all of it! Focus on what’s happening now, give it your all, your undivided attention, but don’t let yourself think that this minute will never pass! All minutes pass! Look to your future, beyond this minute while exerting all your energy to the minute at hand! Forget blame, guilt, or any other self-defeating notion or emotion that comes to haunt you! You really don’t have time to waste on such things! Concentrate on what can help, what matters for your survival, rightnow! A good strategist looks to the future, to see what must be done now to insure VICTORY!

Be good to yourself! Even if you’ve kicked the dog and screamed at your mother-in-law, be good to yourself! And try not to see cancer as some sort of “punishment“! It isn’t! It’s a test, that’s for sure, but it’s only a test! Think how many of those you’ve already passed. Cancer is a fact of life for some, just like being right-handed, or having green eyes. We don’t consider those things punishment, even if we don’t like them. This is only a test. You’ll pass it!  

I’ve found it helpful to keep a journal during my battles with this abominable disease. Sometimes I write encouragement to myself, sometimes just a page of angry expletives, and other times I write scenarios that see me well and doing remarkable things. I write notes to myself and to others so that I remember to make apologies, mend fences, or whatever needs to be done once my mind is free of this struggle. I do not write negatives! I tell myself that cancer can read also!  

And I pray. Some folks don’t want to, need to, or even believe in prayer. I have found it very helpful. With prayer, I can unload a lot of heavy loads, find solace where none can be found in those around me. Prayer has always helped me put things in their proper perspective. I’m not pushing the prayer thing, just sharing something that I’ve found makes it all a little, or a lot, easier to handle.  

All of us who have cancer face an enemy that can be conquered! Keep that uppermost in your minds! Determine to win! No matter what happens, no matter what you‘re told, remember that there are exceptions to everything! Someone was the FIRST to survive lung, colon, skin, bone, liver, pancreatic cancers! All cancers can be defeated by somebody, by many! That somebody could be you, and me! What the medical profession learns from treating us just may save a million others! Remember: nothing is certain, not even death!  

Take this thing by the horns and subdue it! BELIEVE! SURVIVE! Whatever it takes, do that! Never, ever give up!

All the best!


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