When confronted with a “terminal” illness, the first thing you have to understand is that most of that illness is in your mind.
Do not get me wrong. I am not saying it does not exist. The illness is there. Do not be confused about that for a second. It is real, but what is more important is that you are real as well. You are real…and, if you can think and read the following lines - that also means you are alive.
Furthermore, do not confuse the things I am talking about with some hocus-pocus-mumbo-jumbo thing that some people tell you just in order to take your money. This is for free. I will not earn any money out of this. But also, do not think that if something is free it also means it does not have a price. A price is always there: time, effort, persistence, patience… all these are prices we have to pay.
I am not saying that I have a cure for cancer. I am saying something that can help you fight cancer.
Your body has a vast neural network. It is so large that, as I am writing this, the number of neural “nodes” in your body is about seven times larger than entire Internet.
Your body has “cameras,” “sensors,” and “secret service agents” in every corner, creating a huge amount of information in every moment of time.
Even more amazing, your body has three minds, not just one mind like we thought before.*1 One mind is in your brain, the all-day-information-processing, thinking, voice-chattering mind that controls all at the conscious and unconscious levels. Then there is autonomous mind that controls the heart, lungs, and kidneys, never forgetting to beat, filter blood, or take a breath. And finally there is one brain in your guts. Your guts are like another dimension, a whole universe in miniature. In your guts there are between 500 and 1,000 species of bacteria. The total estimated number of bacteria is ten times larger than the number of all cells in the human body (as they are much smaller than human cells).
Those bacteria are working in symbiosis with you. Also they communicate with each other by chemical means and, as interesting as it sounds, they communicate through taste buds in your mouth and guts (isn't that amazing, you have taste buds in your guts *2) and other receptors, forming an extensive neural network going from your guts to the central nerve system.
Your mood can affect those bacteria. Also the “wrong ingredients” can affect your mood.
The food you are taking in will affect your emotions, and your emotions will affect your thoughts. This is a very interdependent relation.
When you are sad, worried, depressed, or angry, you will probably skip a meal, eat some junk food, or try to cheer yourself up with some sweets. Also, you will not chew your food well enough. Skipping the meal, eating junk food, or not chewing well enough will cause future imbalances in your guts. Your guts will react and the bacteria inside will further negatively affect your emotions, and your emotions will cause an entire barrage of negative thoughts.
This is a vicious cycle. Even when you are healthy, this is something that can make you sick.
News about terminal illness is a difficult thing to process. Thoughts are overwhelmingly bad and you find that you are unable to stop or control them. An endless loop of a self-repeating voice that says one single thing: “I am going to die.”
That single thought is the worst thing that can happen to a terminally ill person. Stopping it will perhaps not cure you but not stopping it will most certainly kill you faster. Negative emotions and negative visualization will weaken your organism much faster than illness.
Repeating that one sentence constantly is a self-fulfilling prophecy *3. By thinking negatively, we become what we have set as a negative outcome because all that fear and negative emotion will create fertile ground for negative habits and negative habits will feed illness. When a body is under constant emotional stress, it cannot work properly and it cannot turn on the appropriate immune response.
In contrast, when we are happy and in a loving environment, if we laugh a lot, our organism will be relaxed and more oxygen will flow through our veins. Consequently, our body will trigger natural immune systems in order to fight illness.
Now, how to stop that one thought repeating like a broken record?
This seems an almost impossible task to do, similar to when they ask you to stop thinking when practicing meditation. If you try stopping your thoughts by thinking about “not thinking,” the only thing you will end up with is one more thought about “not thinking.”
The same is true with the “I am going to die” thought. If you try stopping it by sheer will, the only thing you will end up with are thoughts about how to stop thinking about the thing you do not want to think about, and you will be caught in a paradox, you will still think about it. This will drain your energy very rapidly.
What is the solution then?
Focus on something else, something that will give you positive feedback regardless of how small. Something to cheer you up, and something to make you smile. This is something that should give you energy by the pure power of thought.
The trick is to replace that self-perpetuating sentence with something else, something positive, a sentence that will lift you up instead putting you down.
This is not the same as occupying yourself with lots of things to do in order to escape reality, like playing video games, watching movies, chasing hedonistic pleasures, or working to exhaustion all day long. Do not get me wrong. I am not against playing video games. But you have to understand that sitting in one place for several hours while producing a significant adrenalin response will create a suitable environment for the illness and its development. It also will not stop your negative thinking loop; that loop will be gently pushed into the background but it will be there.
Movies that can make you smile can be helpful, as can working on something you love. But probably the best option from the lot is reading books as this will push out all other thoughts as you read if the book is interesting enough.
But remember, the general rule of thumb is to avoid things that will nail you to one place for a very long time while creating additional stress. This applies to video games, work, hobbies, movies, and books as well.
The goal is to train yourself so that whenever you get a negative thought you have to replace that thought with positive ones, the ones that will make you happy and will give you positive feedback.
This is very important. When you decide to choose your replacement sentence, it must be true at all times.
For instance, imagine that both sentences you are choosing are knights. One sentence is an evil knight. (You can choose any color for his suit you like. The only thing you have to remember is that the knight is evil and he is trying to kill your body.) The other one is a good knight. He has the task of protecting your body from the evil knight. If the good knight is not strong enough, he will fail in his task and the evil knight will continue his reign.
For instance, choosing to replace the sentence “I am going to die” with “I am better every day” can be a good thing as it can lift you up. But at the times when you get even the simplest cold, that sentence can seem to be a lie and can bring back the evil twin very quickly.
The trick is to choose your good sentence in such way that it will be positive and true most of the time, or even to have different sentences that will correspond to different situations. This is very much like having an army of good knights that are fighting on your side. Maybe your favorite one won’t always be in shape, but there will always be one good enough to replace him.
Remember this as well. The evil side also has an army, and the “I am going to die” knight is not the only one. There are a huge number of them who are there to poison you mind with negativity, and you have to fight back, you have to fight back if you want to get better. And you have to fight because you must remember that, in this world, there is always someone who would miss you very much if you were gone and that you are an important piece of the larger puzzle.
Replacing these bad thoughts with good ones is important, as good thoughts will create good emotions, and good emotions will lead to good habits, and good habits will help fight illness.
And lastly, do not give up! It will take time and patience to heal. There is a saying that one needs the same amount of time to heal as the time spent in developing the illness.
"You have to stay focused when fighting cancer!"