The Mind Is a Powerful Thing During Cancer


A book I read made me realize the importance of positive thinking — even when going through cancer.

One of my favorite authors is Louise Penny. She lives in a little village in Canada called Knowlton, which she names Three Pines in her 18 titles. Most of her books take place there, and all of them are murder mysteries. They are not based on blood and gore, but on what makes someone desperate and angry enough to kill, plus the impact on their victim’s families.

Chief Inspector Gamache was formerly Head of Homicide in Quebec and his second in charge was Jean-Guy Beauvoir. These two had seen the worst in human behavior including rape, murderand abuse. Both of them were involved in a shooting that scarred them mentally and physically.

In the book,“The Long Way Home,” the two detectives retreated to the idyllic Three Pines to recover while reveling in its beauty and peace. The problem was despite physical therapy, rehabilitation for their injuries and the quiet stillness of this lovely village, they continued to experience flashbacks from the past and tried desperately to stay in the present.

Gamache muses that after the trauma he suffered, he appreciated the peace. But he asked himself if those demons and fears disappeared, would the joy of living there vanish also? “The mind, he knew, really was its own place. Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”

It goes without saying that each one of us cancer survivors has had past traumas, including the shock of diagnosis, the painful treatments, watching our bodies change, the constant cloud hanging over us that we will get worse, or the cancer will return, just to name a few. Our identity is wrapped up in being a survivor for many of us.

But where our minds remain is totally up to us. We can make our minds hell by stewing every day whether the cancer will return or worsen, wondering if the treatments will stop working and what will we do if they will. I am putting my mind in hell right now by worrying about a large rent increase I cannot afford and worrying about where I will live.

Or we can go to heaven where we picture spring coming. I look out my windows and watch geese flying, squirrels scurrying about and deer walking through the yard. It is up to me — to all of us actually — whether we live permanently in heaven or hell. Of course, it is normal to vacillate, but the mind is one part of the body we can control. We have power over it and try to spend most of our life in heaven so we feel better!

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