Cancer: A Mind-Altering Experience
For many of those with cancer, I’m sure life before the diagnosis seemed normal with the usual activity-filled days, thinking about what needs to be done, what will be going on tomorrow, etc. We take life and our future for granted. However, the moment you get the diagnosis of cancer, all that changes quickly and dramatically. For me, the news was surreal, and sometimes it still is. I have always been a healthy person, an athlete, and in recent years, a vegetarian. While I didn’t go through the “why me?” despair, cancer did stop me in my tracks in terms of how I think about life, my relationships, and my future. Perhaps my work and study in psychology has given me the tools to handle the normal distress, grief, and fear that goes along with a diagnosis of cancer. Nevertheless, having cancer and going through the very difficult treatment of it is certainly a mind-altering experience.
As I talk to people with cancer and read articles and news about this disease, it has become apparent that those with healthy or positive attitudes about their situation are the ones that seem to do better in the long run. They do better with treatment, recovery, prognosis, etc., not to mention simply enjoying what truly matters to them in a more powerful, rich manner.
Being in the present moment is an important part of a healthy mindset. Those of use with cancer, and those struggling with other difficulties such as depression, can benefit by being present with what is happening now. This may be enjoying the taste of every bit of a favorite meal, watching the beauty of clouds floating by and changing shapes, fully immersing yourself in a conversation with a good friend, and so forth. All thoughts about worries or fears of the future are set aside. Thoughts of loss or sadness of the past are brushed away. All that matters is now.
I have certainly had my darker, fearful moments thinking about future possibilities for myself. It’s normal to go there once in a while, but it’s important not to stay there. When I find myself having these thoughts, I acknowledge them, but I also move myself into more positive thoughts—what I am grateful for, the recovery I hope to have, and the peace of the present moment.
Whether you are struggling with a medical or mental health condition, you will benefit from healthy, positive thinking and being in the present moment. The five Mindfulness Meditations at the end of the Online Relaxation Exercises page are wonderful for helping you be present with yourself. You might check these out to help with this process.