I was taught by a dear friend of mine, Judy, the importance of living in the moment when I was going through breast cancer. I guess it had never occurred to me before then…
I was sitting with her in the sunshine on her porch and I had just been diagnosed and was feeling fairly traumatized by the notion that I had an unwanted “guest” in my body.
Judy was listening to my long litany of things I was worrying about – chief among them being “What if everything I do turns out not to be enough?” Judy gave me a gift that day, by saying “Well you can certainly go down that road and worry yourself endlessly. Or you can choose to just live in the moment. Appreciate the here and now as fully as you can.” That turned out to be life-changing advice, and I thank my friend Judy from the bottom of my heart for that beautiful lesson.
We Can Get Lost In the Past and Agonize About the Future
Being a human isn’t easy. Our brains, which are so marvelous at figuring out complex things, can also be the bane of our existence. We can listen to the tales our brain tells us – worrying endlessly about what happened at a party last week, what people will think, how big our credit card bill is – on and on and on.
Sometimes our brain gets fixated on the future, however, and if we are anxious or fearful about that, it can be paralyzing. The trick is not to let our mind control us, rather, to take hold of the mind and direct it where you WANT it to go.
The reason I believe that living in the moment is important when you’re going through breast cancer is because there are so many things about which to be anxious and fearful. Living in the moment truly strips that away and helps you to be more fully alive NOW (which is really all that matters – the here and now!)
My Favorite 9 Tips On Living In The Moment
Release Your Self-Conscious Anxiety – If you can, release your worries about what people are thinking of you. Most people are so focused on themselves, they really are not thinking about you as much as you think they are. Who cares what they think anyway? It simply does not matter.
Truly Savor The Present Moment – Be alive to it, use all of your senses. Really hear the song that is playing or what your child is telling you, totally immerse yourself in the beautiful colors of a sunset, truly feel your clothes touching your skin, taste that mouthful of food you just took – endeavor to identify exactly what you’re tasting. If you’re doing something you perceive as boring (like walking to the bus stop), treat it as a meditation and observe with new eyes each thing you see on the journey – a bird, another human (smile at them!), a squirrel rushing past. Your world is changing constantly – be alive to it.
Be Very Mindful – All The Time! – This works especially well in your relationships with others and initially can be a little hard to do. But the more you practice it, the better you get at it. Simply put, it involves NOT reacting with anger in situations where you normally would. Take a moment and really think about what is being said, how it’s meant. The Buddhists call this recognizing the spark before the flame. In short you are inhabiting your own mind more fully, by not reacting and pausing a moment to think about things you are being fully present. When you do respond, do your best not to respond in anger but with thoughtfulness.
Don’t Avoid Pain – By pushing away painful thoughts (or even physical pain) you are simply postponing dealing with it. By facing it fully, accepting it for what it is and then releasing it (whether via a talk with your psychotherapist or a massage or whatever you need to do) you bring yourself fully into this moment.
Meditation Assists – Living in the moment gets easier with meditation because you are actively clearing thoughts from your mind (like the wind blows clouds from the sky) when you meditate and concentrating on an affirmation or your breath. When you notice your mind has wandered, simply bring it back to the present moment and your breath.
Forgive What Has Happened In The Past – That old saying “To err is human, to forgive divine” has never been more true. When you forgive someone for a wrong you perceived they have committed, you free yourself from the past and this allows you to be more present now.
Do One Thing At A Time – When you are multi-tasking (and I know you are… we’re all guilty!) you are quite unable to focus on any one thing and give it your full attention. Resist the urge to rush through it. Do it slowly, thoughtfully, mindfully, like it was the single most important thing you ever had to do. Try smiling while you’re doing it.
Leave Blank Holes in Your “To Do” List – Resist the urge to schedule things really close together for 14 hours straight. Give yourself a little wiggle room to breathe, meditate, take a walk or simply sit and do nothing! We have become human DOINGS rather than human BEINGS. Just sit and “be”.
Do Something Nice For Someone – Whether it’s for someone you love or a total stranger, nothing helps you to be more in the moment than to let someone know you care by doing something nice for them. Even just smiling at a stranger as you pass by could have an impact on their entire day. Hold a door open for someone, give up your seat on the bus to an older person, cook your spouse their favorite meal unexpectedly, tell someone how much they mean to you. It feels really good – to them and to you.
A final note: When I am stressing about something it’s almost always because I’m reaching too far into the future and feeling concerned about it. It helps to bring yourself back to “right now” by asking yourself “Am I okay right now?” If the answer is yes, then feel gratitude and stay with that feeling for as long as you can. Because right now is all we have. 90% of the things we worry about never happen.
If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach). It is my honor to help you through this.
Because every person is different – we come from different families, we have different ways of coping with life, different belief systems, different spiritual beliefs, different experiences, emotions and fears — all of this makes us who we are and directly affects how we make healing choices when dealing with a disease such as breast cancer.
One Size Does Not Fit All
I also feel that that very difference between each of us means that not one size fits all with regard to medical treatments, both conventional and alternative/complementary. It is because each person is so unique that I feel medicine in the future will stop throwing the exact same therapies at each of us to help us heal from breast cancer.
We have already seen a leaning toward that future of medicine with chemosensitivity testing, although it is currently more prevalent in EU countries than here in the US.
Being a natural therapist, I needed to be able to make my healing choices from a combination of both conventional medicine and complementary and alternative medicine. I was able to choose each modality and combine them to help me get to that healing place quickly and because I had the breast cancer background already (having gone through it with both grandmother and mother) and had studied it so intensively, I felt very blessed and fortunate to have those healing choices.
I believe it’s important to honor the wellness choices every person makes and to respect their religious and spiritual beliefs, even if they are quite different from our own. Many doctors don’t take these important differences into consideration though – some act absolutely outrageously if one of us doesn’t follow their recommendations to the finest detail.
What Are They Thinking?
My own very good oncologist, although baffled at me sometimes, respected my decisions and did his level best not to say things like “You’ll come to regret that decision” or “Well, if you get it back again, don’t expect me to treat you.” Amazingly, other cancer patients hear those statements all too frequently.
One of my subscribers was told by her oncologist that she was a “dead woman walking”. That kind of negative, defeating statement fills me with rage!
It’s a pity that so many treatment providers tend to believe that the therapies they offer are the ONLY ones that should be considered. I know they do their best, but what I’ve discovered is that the answers to healing come from many different directions.
It is so very important to have doctors and natural therapists that really hear you, respect you as a separate human being, and treat you accordingly.
Trusting Our Inner Wisdom
We need to trust our inner wisdom with any healing choices. Pay attention to your differences and make the best choice for you. This is your journey and your body and you have every right to choose what happens. Choice may be the only true power that we have during this difficult journey with breast cancer.
Can I Help You?
If I can help you on your path, I’m honored to do so. I have years and years of experience with breast cancer, going through it with my mother, myself in 2004, and with dozens of coaching clients. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark Breast Health Coach) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey. I also having coaching available to you, as well as How-To Courses. Lastly I’d like to share this quote from Buddha (this also appears on my “How I Can Help” page):
“Don’t blindly believe what I say. Don’t believe me because others convince you of my words. Don’t believe anything you see, read, or hear from others, whether of authority, religious teachers or texts. Don’t rely on logic alone, nor speculation. Don’t infer or be deceived by appearances. Do not give up your authority and follow blindly the will of others. This way will only lead to delusion. Find out for yourself what is truth, what is real. Discover that there are virtuous things and there are non-virtuous things. Once you have discovered for yourself, give up the bad and embrace the good.”
When you are first diagnosed with any life-threatening disease, it is easy to be overwhelmed by all of the decisions you have to make.
Sometimes you might make the conscious decision NOT to make any more decisions until you have more information, or until you’ve talked to that friend who has been through it. Sometimes you feel absolutely frozen in fear and can’t make any decisions at all, what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King termed “the paralysis of analysis”. Good turn of phrase!
Getting past that immobilization can sometimes be difficult. I would encourage you to do just that, however, because there is nothing worse than paralysis in the face of a threat. You must have a plan for dealing with the threat. You will notice, in the coming weeks and months, that as you face the fact of your diagnosis you begin to observe that life goes on, even with this threat hanging over you.
I have some recommendations on getting through the decision making time.
4 Ways to Help You Move Beyond the Paralysis
If a lack of information or understanding about the path you need to take is holding you back, talk to your doctor. Talk to me. Discuss it with that friend who has been through breast cancer. Do some searches on the Internet (but don’t dwell too long there because the misinformation out there is alarming sometimes), or have a friend do the searches for you. Don’t let lack of information hold you back – we live in the age of technology when information is in abundance.
If fear is holding you back, talk to a therapist. Discussing your plight with a neutral party can often be extraordinarily helpful.
If anxiety is keeping you from making the necessary decisions, and if you don’t know how to meditate, learn. There is nothing more calming, more grounding, and more helpful than meditation to calm anxiety. It will also help you with your treatments for the disease. Meditation will help you focus on the problem at hand and help you make your decision for the right reasons and when you are calm and thoughtful.
Seek solitude. A long walk along the beach or a river often helps because the atmosphere surrounding places with water is full of negative ions, which help you feel better. It can help to clear your mind and put things in perspective.
Psychology Today offers us this tasty little bit of advice: “You can practice confident decision-making by remembering a simple dictum over and over: You cannot have certainty and you don’t need it. By accepting that no certainty exists and that you don’t need it, you’ll instead harness intuition and, by extension, confidence.”
Decisions are an inevitable part of being human. It requires the right attitude. Every problem, properly perceived, becomes an opportunity.
GET MY BEST TIPS on healthy ways to beat breast cancer and prevent recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
Part of the hardest thing to deal with when you’re a cancer patient is all of the questions. Why me? Do I do the chemotherapy? What about radiation? How will I feel about losing my hair? How will others feel about me when they know I have cancer? Will I live?
The questions are seemingly endless sometimes – it’s a very confronting time of your life. For myself, I had a hard time with this initially. I’ve always been a decisive person, knew what I wanted, knew where I was going… or so I thought.
This poem from German poet Rainer Maria Rilke really helped me and I hope it helps you too:
Be patient toward
all that is unsolved
in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves.
Do not now seek the answers
which cannot be given you
because you would not be able to live them
and the point is to live everything.
Live the questions now.
If you’d like to stay connected, sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
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About Marnie Clark
Hi I'm Marnie Clark, breast cancer survivor, and breast cancer coach. I have 20+ years of experience in natural medicine. In 2004/05 I battled breast cancer myself. You can see more about my journey on my page Breast Cancer Diary.
I've been healthy and recurrence-free since 2004 and in 2012 I became a Breast Cancer Coach because I became aware of the fact that whilst there is now a wealth of information on the Internet, much of it is confusing, conflicting, and sometimes just wrong!
Why should you work with me? Because:
(1) You don't want to go through this journey alone, feeling unempowered, frightened or just plain
clueless about what to do to help yourself.
(2) You will have someone working tirelessly on your behalf, putting together a healing plan for
you so you don’t have to lose your precious energy researching what food you should eat,
what supplements you should take, and what other things you can do that will give you the
best chances for survival. Instead you can spend that time resting, meditating, healing.
(3) You will learn what questions to ask your doctor (and have someone to turn to for the
questions they can't or won't answer).
(4) You will be armed with the tools and strategies you will need to get through the therapies you
choose so you can make your body hostile terrain for cancer.
You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.