Sadly, the incidence of cancer in many parts of the world is on the up, as well as many other illnesses and life altering medical conditions. Being fit and healthy, in mind and body is a powerful preventative , but sometimes it’s just not enough and we are faced with a prognosis that’s out of our control. What’s even more difficult to deal with – is a treatment plan that feels out of control too. That’s when our quality of life is most affected.
In my opinion, too many doctors approach treatment with a singular medical approach – giving the patient no chance to take control of their own journey. Most doctors believe that only conventional medical treatments can assist a patients condition and worse, those treatments can only be administered by a medical professional. They judge health outcomes purely on the physical.
For some people, this is ok and they are happy to follow a path purely outlined by a doctor. But for many of us, taking some control back of the journey is utterly critical to our physical and mental health – and I believe these are closely entwined.
I would not consider myself a particularly spiritual person and am not a religious one – but it was vital for me to create my own belief system – after diagnosis, pre treatment, post treatment and for the longterm – in order to feel in control of my condition.
My treatment plan was delivered to me in very medical terms – surgery . An all or nothing approach. This came without any other advice around lifestyle, nutrition, fitness and movement, mental health or possible changes to my quality of life in any way. I know this is pretty much the same for anyone in the cancer space (especially more rare cancers they know little about) and I think, totally unacceptable.
Of course, surgery was my only medical option and I was not going to turn my back on this, as for me, I weighed the risks of the surgery against the risks of my tumour growing and destroying my life – it was very clear. It wasn’t just about me either – I had a daughter to raise and who needed me. I owed this to her. I’m not going to lie – there were moments I wanted to back down from the operation, from pure and utter fear of something going wrong and being left with serious, life altering deficit issues that destroyed my quality of life and worse, made me a burden to those around me . But my belief was, having the surgery was the best option – that was my first feeling of taking control.
I am also a sponge when it comes to research – of any kind to be honest. So I began a journey of research into lifestyle options – especially around health and fitness (both physical and mental) I could adopt that would help me in my journey and specific to my condition. What’s important here, is that this was how I chose to approach it – these were the things I believed in, that could help me in my treatment. I believed in the power of nutrition as medicine, and nurturing both my physical and emotional health in aiding my immediate recovery and keeping my tumour at bay afterwards. Changing my diet, including supplements, being physically strong, taking up yoga to learn to breathe and developing a new way of thinking about life were all things I truly believed would help me. And they did.
I’m not saying everyone should believe in these things – but the point is, they were my beliefs and that’s why I believe they worked for me. Creating my own belief system helped me heal, gave me strength and courage, brought me peace and gave me some control over a situation that felt crushing.
Going through this journey has totally changed the way I approach life. I used to worry way too much about what other people thought of me – of the way I lived my life, whether I fitted in, or whether I upset people. I think that’s insecurity for the most part – something I had suffered with, like most of us, for a majority of my life.
My health journey gave me confidence. This may sound strange, but I am a cup half full kind of person and I feel pretty blessed to have gone through this experience and seen how it has changed my life, for the better. I have learnt first hand, how powerful the mind can be.
Following my beliefs and creating a sense of control over my health and wellbeing longterm has given me more confidence in my mind and body. I honestly don’t care if someone thinks my diet, lifestyle or fitness choices are strange or ‘not normal’. I know they work for me and I know they have helped save my life. I won’t answer to anyone, other than me, on that. I’ve learned that ego should never be your driver – and that knowing and acknowledging your limits sometimes can be empowering. It encourages you to focus on what you are good at and what makes you happy. This builds the right kind of confidence and sense of self-worth.
My lesson in all of this, is that we need to create our own belief system. Maybe not wait until something as devastating as cancer, trauma or critical illness comes along.
And those belief systems will be different for all of us. It may be religion or being part of a community group. It might be following a special diet, getting fit or joining a fitness studio. It might be meditation, or it might be as simple as every fortnight creating a special evening or day with a loved one to celebrate life. What’s key is the power of the mind and how it can heal and repair, when we believe in what we are doing.
Taking control of our own lives in not about destiny, it’s about the present. Believe in what you can achieve today.