There have been many changes I put in place in order to give myself the best chance of improving my health and overcoming the dire prognosis given when diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, the majority of which I have talked about both on here and social media. Meditation was recommended to me very early on in my cancer journey, and now I know why.
It is impossible to be given the earth-shattering news that you have bile duct cancer and it not affect your mind. Anger, fear, shock, grief, and isolation are just a few of the emotions that I felt daily in the first few months, all whilst attempting to be brave for the sake of my family and friends. Whilst it is understandable and part of the process of coming to terms with this news, these emotions can have a huge impact on your overall health, with chronic stress causing cancer to grow faster and spread. On top of this, there is the lack of sleep a diagnosis, as well as cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, can cause, and this prevents the body from being able to heal itself.
So how do we help ourselves to manage these emotions better and relax our minds enough to help support our bodies to fight the cancer?
The “game-changer” for me was when I changed my mindset from “beating” cancer to “healing” from cancer. Overnight, I was able to drop my “weapons”, remove my mental armour and adopt a much kinder and gentler approach.
By far the most powerful change, and the last area I actually tackled, was my mind.
Mainly because I really did NOT want to go there but also because I had no idea where to start. I had already made up my mind a long time that meditation just was not for me. I didn’t even make it through the introduction to meditating before becoming restless and bored. And besides which, I really did not have the time……. how utterly ridiculous that sounds to me now!!
But then 2 things happened:
- We all know that sleep is important for us but for me wanting to maximise my healing, I was desperate to improve both the quality and quantity of my own. When asleep, the immune system can release cytokines, reducing inflammation. Cancer thrives (and spreads) in an inflamed body. In order to do this, I knew I needed to find a way to unwind and quieten all the voices that seemed to only get louder the minute I turned went to bed.
- I was keen to try acupuncture as at the time, I was experiencing quite a lot of pain in my lower back and hip and had heard how effective this treatment can be. Whilst researching into the benefits for someone living with cancer, I learnt how organs in the body can store negative energy. I was particularly interested in how the liver stores suppressed emotions, such as anger, guilt, and resentment. The physical symptoms of this being imbalanced bile production and blood stagnation in the liver, reducing the efficacy of detoxification.
So, I began my new bedtime routine: bath – to relax my body, the aim being so I was able to sit or lay still longer than 5 minutes, meditation, read, then sleep. It took quite a few weeks for this to become a new, healthy, habit but I have never looked back and only wish I was doing this many years before.
“The best cure for the body is a quiet mind” – Napolean Bonaparte
I worked my way through many, short meditations, originally aimed at helping me to drift off to sleep, and found that there were actually many, good ones on my Fitbit app to start me off. I still struggled with these but then, I saw that Deepak Chopra had some short meditations on there and I tried one called “Managing Stress at All Times”. It’s only 10 minutes long but I can honestly say, I had never felt so totally relaxed and I ended up having the best night’s sleep in a very long time. When going through chemo, sleep is near impossible, so this was just epic!
And there began my journey into the scary depths of my mind. Through months’ worth of various meditations, I learned to relax my mind and get the sleep I so badly craved and needed to help my body heal. It also enabled me to become open to looking deeper into past traumas, overcoming my fear of failure and the biggie…death.
I have particularly enjoyed guided meditations promoting healing. I have added one below that specifically focuses on healing the body from cancer. I listen to it all the time. You do need to use visualisation which can sometimes be tricky, but it is short enough not to become bored and give up. Stick with it, at the very least, you are relaxing.
As I write this, I am finding it hard to express in one blog post just how life-changing this whole process has been for me. Although I originally started meditating for no other reason than to help me sleep – which it most definitely has done – it has given me the tools to reduce my anxiety and calm my nerves. The bonus from this is that I have been able to look at and deal with all the suppressed emotions that I had hidden for so many years.
I feel lighter mentally and now have clarity, without fear, to fully focus my energy on my diagnosis.
Such is the impact this has had on me that I know I will probably write so much more on this topic.
If you have not considered meditation, try it. You never know where it might take you.
Much love and strength,