Thriving With Cancer

Article

I transformed my mindset to maximize healing before, during and after prostate cancer treatment.

“I have bad news.” First time I heard those words, my heart skipped a beat. The second time was more of a kick in the balls, a mix of disbelief and agony. When a doctor says, “you’ve got cancer,” you know your world won’t be the same again. I’d just been presented with lifetime membership to a club I never wanted to join.

I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in January 2019 and one of the first things my doctor told me is that it’s actually a “good cancer” because if discovered early, it’s highly treatable. While there are far worse types of cancer, it still felt like my body had betrayed me. I was 63, which my doctors called young, ate well, exercised and didn’t drink or smoke. Cancer? WTF!

In April, I underwent a radical prostatectomy at the UCSF Medical Center. Tests showed the cancer had been confined to the capsule, so I assumed my treatment was done. But in April 2021, a routine PSA blood test showed evidence of a recurrence. I wasn’t told at the time of surgery that a third of men with prostate cancer will need salvage radiation therapy later on.

We did a PSMA PET scan to try to pinpoint to help locate the cancer cells, but nothing showed up. Given my options of doing nothing, while monitoring my PSA levels or immediately starting hormone therapy and radiation treatment, I hesitated. Going through forced man-opause and radiating my body without knowing the exact location of the cancer didn’t make sense.

Meanwhile, I discussed nutrition, supplements, exercise, acupuncture and meditation with my integrative oncologist. I tried all kinds of holistic modalities such as energy work, sound healing and CBD. But even though my PSA level was low, and we still couldn’t see the cancer on the scans, I was running out of time and needed to make a decision, rather than risk the cancer spreading to my bones or organs.

Eventually, I realized the most judicious move was to combine the best of modern and traditional therapies. But I also wanted to be an active participant in the process. Preparing for six months of conventional treatment, I did a web search on mind-body medicine and cancer and found a clinical hypnotherapist and cancer and trauma recovery specialist.

Hand pick and open curtain of bright day | Image credit: ©  jesadaphorn - © stock.adobe.com

I discovered while my medical team was treating my physical body, it was my job to take care of the person within my body.

Over three days of intensive one-on-one sessions, we pushed through my defenses and long-held beliefs that I brought to cancer treatment. I discovered while my medical team was treating my physical body, it was my job to take care of the person within my body. That meant taking ownership and responsibility for how I think and feel. Rather than falling down a rabbit hole of victimhood, helplessness and hopelessness, I needed to envision the best scenarios and results in every stage of treatment.

I followed up with my coach’s eight-week online course, which was more goal-oriented and result driven with practical tools such as writing exercises (including daily gratitude journaling), self-hypnosis, and meditations for surgery, chemo or radiation treatments. Neuroscientists are studying how cognitive thought affects nerve cells and tumors, and research has shown that going into any medical procedure in the right state of mind will yield fewer complications, shorter hospital stays, faster recovery rate, even overall better outcomes.

Is my wholistic approach to cancer treatment working? I do have hot flashes, gained a little weight and my libido has gone on sabbatical. I also have body aches and radiation fatigue. But these are all temporary conditions, and I keep reminding myself the long-range forecast calls for clear skies.

Yes, there will be moments where life gets messy and the “why me?” sneaks in. After all, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of all cancer deaths. But I’ve learned that a serious illness can also have a silver lining, where it becomes a rite of passage, a matter of self-transformation. During this crisis, I’ve become more like the person I wished I could be. Cancer has humbled me, opened my heart and made me more human.

My goal isn’t to merely survive, it’s living with the energy and intention of thriving. In addition to ridding my body of these malignant cells, my deeper purpose is to feel more grateful, peaceful, joyful and loving. Daily doses of these elixirs are the strongest medicine in my cabinet.

This post was written and submitted by Paul Gilbert. The article reflects the views of Paul Gilbert and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.

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