My Cancer Journey
As we grow older, we accumulate perspectives about life and a philosophy we call our own. But is who we’ve become truly aligned with the person we are meant to be? Often as we grow older, we move further away from our true nature. Sometimes it takes a life-threatening illness to help us realize just how different we’ve become. But why wait until something potentially catastrophic to be in full alignment with our core? This small book is a collection of insights that came to me during the months that I was trying to heal from the cancer inside me.
Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I thought I had become the man I was meant to be. When I got sober fifteen years ago, I took a deep look inside myself to uncover the shadow sides of my personality, and I began to work on healing the destructive behaviors that caused me to abuse alcohol and recreational drugs in a way that destroyed my life. At that time I went to inpatient treatment, started going to Alcoholic Anonymous meetings, and began meditating daily. Although most of my meditation sessions were a maximum of ten minutes, I’ve kept up the habit fairly consistently for the past fifteen years.
By many accounts I had become the man I was meant to be. However, although I had grown immensely over the years, I had also developed a rigid perspective and philosophy about certain aspects of life. For example, in my romantic relationships with women, I had a hard shell, I was extremely stubborn, and always had to be right. I lacked compassion with myself and with others.
On March 5, 2015, all of this began to change. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I began to see what was really important to me. After realizing that life is fragile and we never know what’s going to happen, I saw that the little things I got caught up in throughout the day did not matter. What mattered was being loving, open, and compassionate with myself and others.
Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma is a rare cancer that kills 60% of those diagnosed within the first fifteen years. Needless to say, I was no longer concerned about my ego struggles of the day. I was focused on being alive, now and for years to come. My attention steered away from trivial problems to just wanting to live life with an open heart.
What follows is my story—a journey that helped me uncover my true self and a new purpose. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter are my insights starting from March 5, the day I was diagnosed. My hope is that my words may serve as a guide that helps you to uncover your true nature.
Who Is Guiding You?
The week I was waiting to hear the results, I took a walk in the woods near where my parents lived. I was staying there while having the lump under my jaw checked out. As I walked under the tall trees, I thought that no matter what the prognosis, whether it was a benign tumor or cancer, I could use the situation as an opportunity to change a few things in my life.
On March 5, I was diagnosed with Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. In the weeks leading up to my diagnosis, the doctors thought the tumor under my jaw was benign. Below is my reaction to the diagnosis.
“Just got back from the doctor for the post-surgery check up. Turns out I have cancer. Good news is we caught it early, so we should be able to get rid of it. I’ll be starting radiation therapy soon.
Not looking forward to that, but I am taking this experience as an opportunity to appreciate life in a different way.”
What the surgeon didn’t tell me, and I’m thankful that he didn’t, was that Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma kills 60% of those diagnosed within the first fifteen years. This cancer is a difficult one to treat, and one that chemo does not work on. My above response illustrates an example of following doctors order’s without thinking about or questioning it. Fortunately, as the days passed by I came to my senses and began researching alternative ways to heal cancer. I started to wonder why I would poison my body when there were natural solutions available?
Although I had not yet decided not to do the radiation, I believed at my core that there was another path to healing cancer, one that would not cause harm to my body. Even though I wasn’t sure how I would proceed, I had the sense that there was a path that would feel right to me.
Primum non nocere is a Latin phrase that means “first, do no harm.” It’s often invoked by physicians as a guideline when practicing medicine. Although I believe most doctors truly feel aligned with this, it appears that the medical industry has completely lost sight of this philosophy when it comes to treating diseases.
Just because the so-called experts say we should do something doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
And to be clear, I am in no way saying one should not do chemo or radiation, because sometimes it does work for people. I can only speak for myself—I was glad that I didn’t do it, and I’m grateful that I trusted my body, which was screaming to me not to let them destroy my immune system with radiation.
Each and every one of us has an intuitive intelligence inside that can guide us in the direction of what is healthy for us. There is a lot of trusted information out there just at our fingertips. Why jump into something without gathering information on your own, first? Even though I had a sense that my diagnosis was about to change my life, I had no idea to what extent.
A new door had opened…