Meditation – The Strength I Found From Being Calm

Photo by Dingzeyu Li on Unsplash

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.

Despite the “warning”, it is perfectly appropriate

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,

Megan x

Finding My Life

This simple statement I recently read, really resonated with me.

The truth is, I HAVE lost the life I had.

Cancer changes you. Facing your own mortality changes you and life can never be the same as it was before.

 This sounds pretty sad, doesn’t it? But, for me personally, I now realise that losing the life I had is nothing I shall grieve for. Although I wish not to have received this diagnosis, the truth is, Cholangiocarcinoma has proven to be a huge wake-up call, and boy, did I need that…. although I don’t think I truly appreciated it until a few months ago. I didn’t know it at the time, but when I was diagnosed back in August of 2020, I was about to embark on a life-changing journey.

Cancer patients are told to “kick cancers arse”, “you can beat this beast” and “f**k cancer”. Of course, this is always said with love and good intention and because of that, I’d never correct someone for saying that to me even though fighting is not how I’m dealing with this.

Because…

Truth is, I’m tired of fighting. I’ve fought for years now and it has made me sick, I imagine for a long time. But you know how it is…..we all lead busy lives, so you just carry on, making our way through the everyday tasks, chores, and manage the best we can.

This really hasn’t worked well for me. I’ve ignored many illnesses, suppressed many emotions, and never really, properly dealt with anything that I found painful! I don’t think I even had the tools to know how to.

I’m great at the practical, everyday stuff

But emotionally?

No thanks! Let’s stick the kettle on, open a bottle of wine or find some unnecessary chore to busy ourselves with.

Oh, how things have changed……and about bloody time too.

I don’t need to fight. I need to heal.

I was never going to be the type of patient who goes in for treatment, rests up, and hopes for the best, but I also knew that if I wanted to have any chance of making the best out of this, I would have to put a LOT of work into this part of my life. So I researched anything and everything, making up a rough plan of the various areas of my life I wanted, and needed, to work on:

  • Nutrition – nailed it! (*when I have an appetite)
  • Exercise – nailed it! (*ok, maybe not quite nailed it but I’m trying)
  • Complementary Therapies – Currently have Oxygen Therapy, Acupuncture, EFT, Reiki, Infrared Saunas. Still need to book IV-C!
  • Sleep – Yup, a good 7 hours of solid, restful shut-eye. At last!!! Insomnia and a mind that refuses to switch off lost me so many hours.
  • Meditation/Emotional Healing – errrrm……hang on, I did I put that washing on??

See, that last one just got me every time, and was absolutely the last thing I was ready, or wanted, to explore. Because, quite frankly, it was uncomfortable and damn well painful.

The thing is, speaking from only a few months into this, it has been the most enlightening experience of my life. What started as using meditation to wind down each night and increase my sleep (which worked) had a surprising effect on me and sparked a curiosity to further explore the murky mind.

What started as no more than a way to relax, soon developed into an exploration into how the mind works, how we internalize trauma and pain and how this impacts us as physical beings. I began listening to talks and interviews by the likes of Gabor Maté, Dr Joe Dispenza and Dolores Cannon, learning how to understand and work through these emotions and I’m really not being dramatic when I tell you it has changed my life. I’ve been able to deal with past trauma that has dogged my life and given me the tools and confidence to finally move forward. I watched the documentary, The Secret by Rhonda Byrne and was able to visualise a new, exciting future ahead of me. I seriously encourage anyone to look into all those I have just mentioned there if you haven’t already!

So, I guess what I am saying is that I can’t mourn for the life I had pre-C. It made me ill and cancer is, for me, my “get your s**t together” final warning.

Cancer is not just a physical illness, I’ve not been invaded by some evil monster. I was (am) really sick, partly because of all that I had neglected and suppressed. I believe that this wrecked my immune system, leaving my body unable to do it’s job effectively and keep me well.

But now, here I am, almost 11 months on in this chapter of my life and I’m finally starting the healing process that was previously, so impossible to address. I’m undoing the hurt, the pain, the anger, bitterness, guilt and resentment that resulted in my life being “stuck”.

Bile duct cancer may well get me eventually, I’m not completely deluded, and if it does, then so be it, I have absolutely zero fear of death (thank you, Dolores Cannon, you remarkable woman) and will be at peace when the time comes. I read somewhere, that death is the one certain thing in everyone’s life and so is not the issue. The issue, therefore, is in life and the challenges it brings. How true, but do any of us, think that way?

If you haven’t considered looking into how the mind and spirit can effect the physical body, you really should try. Find something and someone who really speaks to you. It’s empowering. There are many articles, books and YouTube videos on how the mind can help towards healing your body. Radical Remission by Dr Kelly A. Turner, is an incredible read for any cancer patient and delves into this topic at length with some really inspiring stories of those who healed from cancer.

This new life I’m living right now, learning and experiencing, has changed me for the rest of my life…however long – or short – that may be.

It has been the making of me…..and I am finding my new life.

Much love and strength,

Megan x