Receiving a cancer diagnosis is undoubtedly one of the scariest, most daunting, overwhelming, “side-swiping” experiences in life. When cancer has invaded the body, the mind hits a crossroad. It is often viewed as an unfortunate, tragic stroke of bad luck for which we are forever doomed. Alternatively, it can be viewed as a divine opportunity to change and evolve for the better. Although it may appear obvious what the optimal choice is, more often than not, cancer is still considered by most to be the ultimate curse.

The reality is that everyone has at least one form of “C.A.N.C.E.R.”, or “Concerning Active Neurosis Causing Extreme Resistance”. When it materializes and invades the physical body in the form of a physical disease, we have gone too far in resisting the belief in a higher power. Or it may be we are ready to relinquish old belief systems that no longer serve us in order to open our hearts and minds to evolve and serve a higher purpose in life.

Unlike other illnesses, cancer has the power to stop people in their unconscious tracks and dramatically pull them into the present. As cancer patients await test results and treatment protocols, all other life distractions and complaints that once consumed them fall to the wayside, appearing more trivial and minuscule than ever relative to their current circumstances.

Deciding that one is “doomed” and giving into fear will pave a pathway of pain and suffering until the expected end is achieved.

There is no other reason for cancer, an illness or tragedy to occur, except to provide an opportunity to connect with divine wisdom and the higher truth of our existence. Orienting oneself to cancer, or any illness or suffering, as a pathway to healing, not only has the potential to increase the quality of life and life expectancy, it also has the potential to provide a pathway of hope and inspiration to others who suffer from cancer, illnesses and life traumas.

Although it is important to recognize and honor all feelings as they arise, it is of utmost importance to not give into negative, gloom-and-doom reactions. Rather than resigning ourselves to typical, fearful reactions—such as anxiety, depression, seclusion, denial and resistance—consider the following more positive alternatives:

  • Take a good hard look at your life. Decide and choose to only continue with the life practices that bring you joy and serve the whole. Eliminate unnecessary stressors. Take the necessary steps to accomplish and do the things you’ve always dreamed of doing.
  • Study and practice mindfulness and meditation, in which one develops the practice of always living consciously and orienting to life as a witness to life events as they unfold. Through this practice, we develop the skill of mindfully responding rather than impulsively reacting to the unexpected hurdles along the pathway of life.
  • Read about, study and practice alternative forms of healing, including use of natural herbs and remedies, Acupuncture, energy healing, ayurveda, angel therapy and any other healing arts can add to our awareness.
  • Consider believing in a higher presence, whether it be called God, Jesus, the Universe, Source or something else. Practice believing and trusting in a higher presence every day, first thing in the morning and right before retiring to bed. Learn how to pray, and make very clear, deliberate and specific requests for healing and protection. Know that you are never alone, and will always receive help and guidance when you ask for it with merciful awareness, gratitude and an open mind and heart. “Let go and let God,” as the saying goes.
  • Learn to distinguish between the ego, or the false sense of self that processes most of our reactive emotions, and the higher self, which is the self that communicates through oneness, truth and love.
  • Stay tuned and open to miracles unfolding that you couldn’t possibly have imagined or foreseen.

Practicing the three Es can definitely help:

  1. Eat Well: Eat healthy, organic whole foods; drink lots of water; and consider interval fasting
  2. Exercise: Get into a daily routine of exercising first thing in the morning; make sure to do exercises that are motivating for you.
  3. Express yourself: Write in a journal as often as possible. Indulge in creative talents. Express through the arts and through music, go to therapy and read books about spirituality. Join a support group.

A Year to Live by Steven Levine is a beautifully written book by an expert in the dying process. He speaks to facing a fear of dying and practicing doing a “life review”, a process reported by people with near-death experiences in which all of life is reviewed. This practice allows for acceptance, forgiveness and completion. The delicate and powerfully healing process does not have to wait until physical death to be experienced. It can be done in this lifetime, and is carefully outlined in Levine’s book to transport the self from ego-driven fear and a false sense of separation to a sense of oneness, enlightenment, healing and inner peace.

It helps to share our experience with others and move outside our comfort zone. Instead of contracting into the darkness of our worst fears, expand outward into the lightness of hope and what is possible. Join or lead a support group. By sharing our stories, we know that we are not only helping ourselves to not feel so alone, but we are also helping to support and heal others going through a similar journey.

An enormous spiritual transformation is taking place in our world. It is time for the ego’s old, worn out ways of existing in separation to end; it is time for a more mindful, meditative life orientation as part of a larger collective, and as a “witness”, to begin. It is time to stop reacting negatively and to start responding positively to life’s “curve balls”. It is time to step into the pain rather than resisting it.

Give the cancer, ailment or suffering permission to exist, and to be actualized and healed. Keep an open mind and heart. Embrace the cancer with merciful awareness. Believe that a higher presence is available to help heal and support us. Let go of the notion that everything in life must be under our control. Give permission to receive love, prayers and healing from others and from a higher presence. Cancer does not have to be a dreadful experience. On the contrary, it can be an awakening, and a unique opportunity to evolve our spirit and heal our soul.

Lorraine Elmo, a pediatric occupational therapist residing in Trumbull, is also a breast cancer survivor who leads a private support group for breast cancer survivors. Follow her creative songs, poems and positive posts on Facebook at Lorraine’s Big Pink Adventure.