It's not always as simple as just going "all in" on healing.
Growing up, I’ve always loved watching the game of basketball. It’s fast paced, flashy and I enjoy breaking down the strategies. Also, basketball is a pure example of where late in the game, the team with the best athlete on the floor usually wins. And nothing is more exciting than watching your favorite player hit the game winning shot right at the buzzer!
It made me wonder why some players were consistently more clutch than others in big moments. For a while, Kobe Bryant was widely considered the league’s top rated player and so like so many other fans, I soaked up every drop of wisdom that I could from his interviews and documentaries.
My main takeaway was that Kobe went “all in” on winning championships. In a recent interview with "Motiversity", he explains that once he made the decision to fully commit, the world became his library. His mind became laser focused on attracting whatever information would help him reach his goals and he broke down his strengths and weaknesses. If he wasn’t the fastest player, then he would master how to use angles to his advantage. He also peppered legends like Michael Jordan with questions until he began to operate with the same level of detail and intensity.
It’s easy to see how this mindset leads to success on the court, but how effectively does it apply to fighting cancer? That’s a question I ask myself all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve adopted an obsessive mentality for years now. My days fully revolve around healing routines and my quest for wellness. I religiously study labels and ingredients of everything that enters my body and am always researching new supplements and cancer fighting techniques.
But I’ve also learned that fighting cancer isn’t quite that simple to master. When diagnosed with osteosarcoma, I toughed out a grueling year of chemo and massive surgery where a grapefruit sized tumor was removed, fortunately with clear margins. Then, in just the blink of an eye, we learned that nodules had metastasized to both lungs. This changed the situation gravely: whereas at first, I was assured that I would live, my new statistics showed less a than 10% survival rate.
As you can imagine, the panic became suffocating and having no other choice, I tapped into my inner-Kobe while preparing for battle. That’s when the hyper-intensity of my day-to-day routines started. I overanalyzed each nutritional and supplement related decision, and while I began to see improvements in certain areas, there was one downfall: I had driven myself crazy with stress and had another recurrence.
Afterwards, I met with a holistic doctor who reaffirmed the importance of balance and leaving room for joy, even if that meant an occasional a glass of wine. I’m still an advocate of holistic healing and have concerns over the harmful chemicals offered by conventional medicine but also understand that I could not have gotten this far without the incredible work of MSK’s surgical and oncology teams. I’ve seen firsthand how the two worlds, holistic and conventional, can complement each other.
Fighting cancer is also extremely expensive, even with health insurance. Most holistic supplements and treatments are paid for out of pocket and there’s typically an indirectly proportional relationship between prioritizing recovery and earning income. Plus, we all find ourselves in different situations. Certain diagnoses have already reached late stages where you have less options. At that point, the last thing you want to hear is someone preaching how easily it is to heal through the power of positive thinking.
Ultimately, I believe there’s a compromise. I still devote myself to healing the best that I can each day, but I can’t control the results, only my adjustments. There also needs to be room for compassion and it’s important to remember that no one method or person is perfect all of the time. Not even Kobe.