One of the things I hear most frequently, as I work with women dealing with breast cancer and all that it entails, is the fear of dying. We talk about it in hushed tones, as if we are afraid to even utter the words “I might die from this.” I went through exactly the same thing when I was working on healing from breast cancer. It is a common thread among nearly every single person fighting cancer. In this post I will share with you some things that helped me with that fear of dying and what you can do to change your mindset.
“Many people facing life-threatening illness begin by being scared of dying. This is not surprising and often this fear leads to a high motivation to get well. However, if the focus is ‘I don’t want to die’, from the mind’s point of view, what is the target, what is the goal? Obviously, the dying! An important step in getting well is to shift the focus onto living and finding what there is to live for – the passion. In comparison with trying not to die, there is far more healing in focusing on living and living well. We are healed by what we turn towards, far more than what we turn away from. When we affirm life, healing is a much greater possibility.” – Ian Gawler, excerpted from “The Creative Power of Imagery“.
I found these words by Ian Gawler to be immensely comforting. They were kind of like a re-set button for my overworked brain when I was going through breast cancer. Reading those words, I realized that he was absolutely right. Changing your mindset from “I don’t want to die” to “I am living each day with passion, love and healing” may not be easy but it’s SO worth the developing this skill. Here are some tips to help you.
1. LEARN TO LISTEN TO YOUR INNER VOICE – Recognize that your inner voice is your touchstone, your guide as to how you are feeling. It’s also good to help you discover whether or not you are making progress. By listening to what your inner voice has to say, you can learn much about yourself. If you find that your everyday thoughts are filled with negative criticism, stress, self-blame, regrets and fear, get some help. Find a practitioner of EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique. This is a healing technique that (in simple terms) relies on tapping on acupuncture meridians, employing the use of neurolinguistic programming and positive thinking to change negative thoughts and beliefs into more positive ones, and it seems to do this on not only the mental level, but also energetically and spiritually. It may seem like a simplistic solution, but it can be quite powerful.
2. MAKE A CHOICE TO TURN NEGATIVE THOUGHTS INTO POSITIVE – We all have down days, but by paying close attention to negative thoughts when they occur, you can make the choice to turn away from negativity and embrace more positive, harmonious thoughts. Why is this important? Because we ARE what we think. Engaging in positive thinking changes you, both energetically and physically, from someone who is full of self-blame, stress, recrimination, and negativity to someone who is open, loving toward themselves and others, motivated, and more healthy. Yes, I said that – more healthy. Research shows that positive thoughts actually change your brain! It’s a whole new area of science called neuroplasticity. By engaging in positive thought and positive activity, you can rewire your brain and strengthen areas of the brain that stimulate positive feelings and emotions. Here’s something you can try. When you find yourself in that cycle of negative thinking, worrying or obsessing, there are three things that can help: a. When the worry and fear hit, mentally yell “Stop!” (I even envision a big red STOP sign). b. Remind yourself that the worry is not real – it’s something your brain has conjured up. Tell that worry to sit down and shut up! c. Reframe your negative thinking by focusing on more positive or distracting thoughts. Mentally switch gears and choose to think about something you love. Redirect your actions – go do something uplifting or fun. This might take the shape of helping a neighbor, calling someone you love, taking a walk, making a healthy smoothie. Make a list of things you love to do – and I suggest this because sometimes when you are down and depressed, you have difficulty even thinking of something uplifting to do that will make you feel better. Get the list out! Start doing more of those things!
After awhile, you will notice things changing and improvements in your way of thinking. The key is to do these 3 things EVERY SINGLE TIME you begin to worry or obsess. This breaks the pattern and helps you to rewire your brain.
3. TRY MEDITATION – Another amazing thing to rewire your brain is meditation. One American study on loving-kindness meditation, reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2015 , found that one hour of loving-kindness meditation PER WEEK (and certainly we can find one hour per week) “enhanced a wide range of positive emotions in a wide range of situations” for those taking the time to do the meditation. Interestingly, even after three months post-experiment, the people who practiced meditation daily continued to enjoy increased mindfulness, better social support, purpose in life, and (most importantly) decreased illness symptoms. The reasons for taking up meditation are many. You only have to Google the words “benefits of meditation” to be rewarded with hundreds of studies and articles touting meditation. If you need help with meditation, I have a how-to course that will teach you what works best, along with some great guided meditations that will help you. You can access it here.
The Bottom Line
What I came to realize is that by living with the fear of dying ever present in my mind, I was closing myself off to living NOW. I was projecting myself to some far-off day in the future when things might not be too good. By learning to live in the here and now, I lost that fear of dying. I came to understand that living in the present moment was one of the most powerful gifts a person can give to themselves. Because what do we really have other than the present moment? If we are truly alive in the here and now, we are quiet observers. We can really taste what we are eating and enjoy every mouthful. We notice the color of the sky. We hear that bird singing its heart out. We see the spark of love in our husband’s eyes. We see our children changing and growing. And really – what is more important than these things? Focus on the things you love and that fear will melt away. And you just may find that the energy you have freed up helps you to heal as well.
Please be aware that someone with a serious mood disorder or depression may require the help of a trained counselor. If you are suffering from severe anxiety or depression, please see a trained professional to help you get to the root of the problem.
 Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3156028/
The Creative Power of Imagery by Dr Ian Gawler, ISBN 0855722819
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Going Through Treatments? How To Feel Better Fast.
One of the things I needed badly when going through breast cancer was a list of ways to feel better fast. Why a list?
Because when you’re going through the treatments for breast cancer, let’s face it – your brain is pretty fuzzy, you can’t think clearly (it’s commonly known as “chemobrain”). So I made a list of all of the things that made me feel better because, quite honestly, I couldn’t think of them when I needed them the most!
Making A “Feel Better” List
My “feel better” list included getting a massage, inhaling some of my favorite, healing essential oils, listening to particular CDs for their calming music, talking to my best friend, going for a walk, taking a nap, eating really healthy food (because that always makes you feel better), but most of all, meditation. Meditation was (and still is) the one thing that makes me feel better fast.
When you are putting together your “feel better” list, use a nice thick marker and print the feel better suggestions as clearly as possible. Post the list where you can see it – on the bathroom mirror, on the refrigerator door – don’t make yourself have to hunt for it because you won’t be in the mood.
Some Help From Author Paul Wilson: Instant Calm
In his book “Instant Calm”, author Paul Wilson discusses what he calls applied suggestion. He says that if you can tell you’re feeling lousy, especially if you say it a few times and persuasively enough, nothing can be surer than you’re going to feel lousy. “If you keep on telling yourself positive things, calming things, then you will achieve them… More powerful still is visual suggestion. If you can see these positive things… calming things… and you can see yourself participating in them, then you are certainly well down the track towards achieving them. “
Mr Wilson goes on to say that applied suggestion must be accepted by the subconscious to transform it into reality. That’s where meditation helps. To be accepted by the subconscious, your suggestion should be in harmony with your subconscious beliefs. To make it powerful, wording must be in the present tense, simple and positive (“More and more, I am discovering that I am feeling better, I am radiantly healthy.”).
Doing meditation regularly with affirmations (the applied suggestion mentioned by author Paul Wilson) is quite powerful. Repetition encourages a suggestion or affirmation into being.
For long-term affirmations and goals to be optimally effective, Mr Wilson advises to repeat your affirmation at least ten times per day to yourself. See my article Creating Positive Affirmations That Work for more information on how to create the most powerful positive affirmations.
When I was going through breast cancer, the one thing I couldn’t seem to find was a nice guided meditation for cancer patients that would lead me through some calming visualizations and help me to focus on getting healthier. Oh, there were all kinds of meditation CDs available and I tried most of them, but most of them seemed to have some fatal flaw, something that drove me crazy – either the background music was awful, or the person’s voice was annoying… so I recently decided to create my own how-to-meditate course, called Change Your Life Meditation Course. I created it just for you, click the link to find out more. I’d love to help you feel better fast.
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 and e-book on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark Breast Health Coach). It is my honor and my goal to help you through this so that you emerge from breast cancer feeling better than before, thriving!
I am reading a fabulous book at the moment – “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R Covey. It’s ultra inspiring and teaches you how YOU create your life.
Stephen R Covey is one of my mentors and I very much appreciate his ability to motivate and inspire us with his well-chosen words of wisdom.
I was particularly inspired today by Covey’s suggestion that we develop a personal mission statement, philosophy or creed and the reason I appreciated it so much is that we often don’t do this. To clarify your goals for your life – to set them down in writing and then to focus on them and live by them is one of the most empowering things you can do.
I would challenge you – on this Easter weekend – to create your own personal mission statement. The following mission statement is an excerpt from Stephen Covey’s book, written from a female standpoint:
“I will seek to balance career and family as best I can since both are important to me.
My home will be a place where I and my family, friends, and guests find joy, comfort, peace, and happiness. Still I will seek to create a clean and orderly environment, yet livable and comfortable. I will exercise wisdom in what we choose to eat, read, see, and do at home. I especially want to teach my children to love, to learn, and to laugh – and to work and develop their unique talents.
I value the rights, freedoms, and responsibilities of our democratic society. I will be a concerned and informed citizen, involved in the political process to ensure my voice is heard and my vote is counted.
I will be a self-starting individual who exercises initiative in accomplishing my life’s goals. I will act on situations and opportunities, rather than to be acted upon.
I will always try to keep myself free from addictive and destructive habits. I will develop habits that free me from old labels and limits and expand my capabilities and choices.
My money will be my servant, not my master. I will seek financial independence over time. My wants will be subject to my needs and my means. Except for long-term home and car loans, I will seek to keep myself free from consumer debt. I will spend less than I earn and regularly save or invest part of my income.
Moreover, I will use what money and talents I have to make life more enjoyable for others through service and charitable giving.”
Isn’t that great? I know I usually write an article about something related to breast cancer, but this blog is all about empowering yourself and I found this mission statement to be wonderfully empowering. I wish to add one more paragraph to the above:
I will seek and and be worthy of divine assistance, maintain a positive attitude, keep a sense of humor, and if I find that I have regrets and emotional baggage, I will do everything within my power to free myself from their chains so that I can be the very best person I am capable of being.
Have a fabulous Easter weekend.
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 (MarnieClark.com). It is my honor and my goal to help you through this.
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.
Frances Hodgson Burnett was (for those unfamiliar) a marvelous 19th century English playwright and author. She is best known for her children’s stories, in particular “The Secret Garden”.
She had a wonderful way with words and today I’d like to share her thoughts on the power of positive thinking.
“Just mere thoughts are as powerful as electric batteries – as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live.”
It is unimaginable to me that there are still people in the world who don’t believe in choosing positive thoughts – the thoughts that sustain you, nurture you and heal you, rather than causing you pain, anguish and suffering.
It’s not always easy, I know, to choose the positive path. Especially when the negative path has been ingrained since childhood, or when surrounded by negativity and fearful thoughts.
But I challenge you to try it. There are so many books out there that will help you with this. Here’s my top 6 favorites:
The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale
Everyday Positive Thinking by Louise Hay
The Path to Success is Paved with Positive Thinking: How to Live a Joy-filled Life and Make Your Dreams Come True by Wally Amos
Positive Energy: 10 Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress, and Fear into Vibrance, Strength, and Love by Judith Orloff
The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
Excuses Begone!: How to Change Lifelong, Self-Defeating Thinking Habits by Wayne W. Dyer
It is my strong belief that if you are fighting a major illness like cancer, your thoughts can help to heal you much more quickly if you choose positive ones! I know it helped me immensely.
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.
I’m seeing a trend with breast cancer patients that worries me a bit. To put it bluntly, I think that it’s misguided to put your entire healing process totally in the hands of your medical team. That gives them all the power and none for yourself and that does NOT give you the best chance to heal yourself.
Your medical team, no matter how highly esteemed or how accomplished, function largely in the role of body mechanics. They are trained in terms of body. They can operate on you, they can prescribe a treatment strategy, but they are not responsible for your life or your health!
Nobody can get well for you. You have to do it for yourself.
I think it’s wonderful to select a medical team in whom you have a great degree of confidence. That’s important to do.
But once they are in place, your attention must also focus on the role of mind and spirit in this journey with cancer.
You are a totality of body, mind and soul – to ignore the other aspects and focus only on the body I believe is a mistake.
What Helped Me
I sought out a psychotherapist to help me with stress levels, I went to a person who taught me something called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to deal with my negative thoughts about cancer, my husband and I did some relationship counseling, we learned to meditate from a group of Buddhist monks — I did all this to give my body and my mind and my spirit a chance to heal. These things might not work for you, but I would encourage you to find the things that DO work for you.
Honestly, I felt so good after taking care of all the emotional baggage – so much lighter and like I wanted to take on the world. For me, that’s when true healing began to take place.
So empower yourself. Do what you need to do to get beyond this – and be the beautiful spirit I know you can be. You deserve it and the world needs your healing. Now, more than ever.
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.
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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.