5 things I Learnt About The Fire
More often than not, human tendency is to scour the wreckage of a deplorable life experience for the things we lose. And that's alright. For all its beauty and magic, life can be wantonly cruel. Relieving us of our most precious things without warning. Without mercy. Worst of all, explanation.
And through the loss the true value of those things is carved within us. At worst, too late. Irreplaceable. Breeding the interminable torment of profound regret. More preferable, just in time. A lesson in gratitude and the opportunity for expanding one's sense of appreciation for what really matters.
The B-side of this is of course a calmer, more uplifting score. Choosing instead to view that experience from a higher plane of optimistic curiosity. Sifting through the wreckage, looking not for what was lost, but for what was and could be gained. Clues towards a bigger, better, brighter life.
"The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?" Kahil Gribran, The Prophet
The obvious continuation of this would be to write about one's inflated, sharpened reverence for our supporting walls of Love, Friendship, Family, Nature and Gratitude. All that is of course true. Profoundly. But so too is the equally applicable outtake of Knowledge. Not General, but specific. Situational. Knowledge and information to create a better future. To be of service to others. The proverbial Greater Good.
So, as the flames of my own experience continue to dance around me, thankfully at a safer distance now, I've tried to use my downtime to get as intimately acquainted as possible with the architecture of my inferno. Clues towards my own better, healthier future.
Here's 5 things I've learnt about the fire (so far). Ironically, if not typically, 5 things I wish I'd known - and I wish you to know - before the match was lit.
NB. None of the below is conjecture, or subjective. But based on an aggressive assault on well researched books, articles and video based content.
1. Cancer is the symptom of a sick body, not just the sickness itself.
As most probably know, we all produce cancer cells in our body, everyday. Most, thank god, have an immune system that remains versatile and strong enough to do whatever's necessary to keep them at bay.
For the unfortunate, for myriad reasons, our immune systems have been compromised to such the extent that our bodies can no longer fight the revolt. And there be trouble.
Why and how our immune systems became so compromised is the billion dollar question. Perhaps the foundations for a finding a long-term cure for this epic foe, might lie in finding a way to objectively examine and understand this, for each and every individual.
2. S/C/R destroys the symptom, not the cause.
The conventional approach - Surgery, Chemo, Radiation - destroys the symptoms (tumour, tainted blood, contaminated bone marrow etc...) of cancer but doesn't address the cause.
To fully and permanently remiss, the inner-terrain of the patient has to be changed so the immune system can get back to functioning on its own again.
"...the job of every one involved in treating cancer is to restore the patient back to having a self-regulating body" I read this recently (can't remember author), it rang a very loud bell.
Restoring one back to being 100% self-regulating can only be done by examining one’s life. Holistically, not just biochemically. Making whatever lifestyle changes are necessary: eliminating stress, nutrition, emotional healing etc….
Everyone is different. No one case is alike.
3. Minimize stress, minimize ill-health
Having a better understanding of stress; how it's triggered, its effect on the body and (crucially) how it can be reversed, could well prove to be life saving education. Such is the danger of ploughing through an increasingly stressful world, unaware of what could be smouldering inside you, at a physiological stress level.
Here's a quick summary. Stay with me, you need to know this...
The part of your brain responsible for triggering the bodies stress response - the amygdala - hasn't really evolved since the authentic times of hunting and gathering. When the fight or flight response was pretty black and white, and easier to manage. But in today's always-on, hyper-connected world, with all it's rising political, religious and economic tensions and anxieties, managing that stress response has become overwhelming. Needless to say, chronic repetitive stress response is a major killer today. The latest statistics on the rise of all the classic stress related diseases makes uncomfortable reading.
Why? Put simply, that part of the brain that manges it all - the amygdala - doesn't distinguish and can't discriminate between very signficant and very insignificant threats to your safety. So regardless of whether you're being confronted by a potential mugger, worried about meeting your next credit card bill, or mildly concerned over a breaking news report you've just seen on the CNN, if it signifies a threat to your well-being to any degree whatsoever, the stress response is triggered. Flooding the body with aggressive hormones like cortisol, epinephrine and adrenalin, whilst raising your heart rate and blood pressure to ensure your big muscles have enough blood and energy for the fight. Or to leg it!
This is all great if you're facing a genuine survival threat, but not so useful for the less physically combative task of tackling bad debt or the emotional turbulence of seeing an ex-partner walk into the room! And here's the kicker; when that stress response is triggered, the body's self-repair mechanism ceases to function. And the longer it ceases to function, the more vulnerable we become to getting sick. Mores stress hormones + less self-repair hormones = greater chance of ill health.
Thankfully however, the stress response has an opposing one called the Relaxation Response (RR), triggered by the parasympathetic nervous system which is the homeostatic - or normal - state of your nervous system. When the RR is triggered the aggressive hormones dissapate and stress relieving hormones like oxytocin, dopamine, nitric oxide and endorphins are released. And these are what help the body heal. Powerfully.
The simple point being, unless you're willing to retreat to a life in the wilderness, our world today has the potential to cause us signficant stress. Most of it, thanks to our primitive stress management protocol, playing out without us even knowing. And we need to be responsible to that stress. Not for it. By taking the time to learn what it is that causes us stress as individuals - at every level - as well as the plethora of Relaxation Response techniques that allow us to minimize any potential damage it might be causing.
4. “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.
A line from the Hippocratic oath that all medical students have to take. Posing the question, why do so few Doctors or Consultants ever counsel us on nutrition and its role in healing? Especially Oncologists....(I'll reserve judgement here)
When it comes to healing the body - as well as prevention and general wellness - food and nutrition is beyond essential. I know we all 'get' that. But when you really delve deeper into what we eat and how it can affect our bodies, the truth can often leave you in a cold sweat. Research proves that proper nutrition can lower one's risk of getting cancer by as much as by 90%. Prevention, as they say, is better than cure....
So thank god for the current Nutrition Revolution. And yes, it’s easy to get lost and confused today with the tsunami of new nutritional information, turbo-charged supplement promises and all these grandiose statements being made about natural homoeopathic miracle cures etc…So personally, I chose to do 2 simple things as a means of getting started on my own Nutrition Revolution:
- Source selection. If it comes directly from nature, I eat it. If it goes via man, I don’t. Can’t really go wrong from here. Takes GMO's, processed meats and all their pernicious bad-food cousins completely out of the game.
- Nutrition counsel. Sought out a well-respected nutritionist that helped run some basic diagnostic nutrition tests. Subsequently prescribing me the right diet and mix of supplements, to assist my inner-terrain in getting back to optimal health. And hopefully self-regulating like it was designed to.
5. The mind-body connection is inestimably powerful. And important.
In fact, it sits at the root of some of the most exciting advances in modern healing research. As well all these amazing radical remission stories we hear and read about. If you want to school up on this in more detail, Lisa Rankin’s book 'Mind over Medicine' is excellent.
The mind-body connection must be essential self-education for everyone, today. Speaking with equal importance to those who are well, as much as to those who are battling disease.
It's a vast and broad subject, so in summary for now, and within the context of taking control of your own healing, I've crunched the foundations into the following 3 points:
1) cultivate a powerful, immoveable positive attitude that you 'will' beat whatever you're battling – no matter what is said to you by physicians, or what you read on the not-so-helpful internet. Your attitude is your sky. Keep it blue and clear, and make your mind and body ripe for healing.
2) surround yourself with a professional and private care team that both share, support and encourage your beliefs and attitude*.
Having the right team in your corner makes an incredible difference. Trust me. This is no time for nursing others' doom or gloom, or to fight for your opinion or beliefs on what's right for you. Even if it means keeping close friends or family who just can't get on board with your decisions, at arms length. This is your fight, your life and the one occasion you get to choose your 'A' Team.
3) continue indulging in any alternative supplements, nutritional support or healing practices that you believe are helping, and making you feel good. Because they are helping.
Placebo or not, if you believe something you are taking or receiving is really doing you good, on a health and wellness level, then it most certainly is. It is now an unequivocal fact that it is our mind and beliefs that controls our biology. So again, stay strong and remember; no-one knows your body like you do. Especially at a time like this.
*A quick tale of Two Teams
A small piece of my own story to demonstrate the importance of choosing the right team. People who are invested in your positivity. Your beliefs, and what you need to do to get well.
At the time of diagnosis, I was unable to walk with a severely fractured spine. Unfortunate collateral damage from the disease. So what was supposed to be a long evening in A & E, turned into a 6 week stay in Dubai's City Hospital. Always read the small print, right?
My Haematologist turned out to be an amazing fireman. Mahmood Marashi. His bedside manner was always calm, and his news softly spoken. He always had time, always smiled, and was always extremely honest albeit optimistic when discussing my disease. He also backed and supported whatever I wanted to do to supplement his care. Even if he'd never heard of what it was I was doing. Reiki, for example. To quote; “whatever you feel works and makes you comfortable”.
As a result, I can honestly say I never felt scared or panicked in anyway during my stay there. But more poignantly, my response to treatment was nothing short of phenomenal, brushing early signs of remission after just 2 rounds (of 4) of my front line treatment. And I walked out of City Hospital - given, gingerly - way sooner than I medically should have.
A few weeks later my family and I relocated back to the UK to continue treatment at the Macmillan Centre, part of London's UCLH. In danger of sounding ungrateful and unfairly NHS bashing, which I don’t mean to do in anyway shape or form, but my experience there was sadly the complete opposite.
Instead of one voice to trust in, I saw a different Consultant, Nurse or Registrar at every clinic and procedure. Without exception they all seemed rushed. Indifferent, almost. Spoke to me as if reciting a script. Waved away my questions about supplements and alternative treatment options with disdain, and generally left me feeling as if I was on a factory conveyor belt heading for a one-size-fits-all future.
Needless to say I never felt at ease during my time at UCLH. My biochem response to treatment slowed down, and little by little I started to allow ‘those’ thoughts to enter my head. Losing confidence in myself and my ability to defy the odds. To top it off, during my last clinic before moving to Sweden to be with my wife and daughter, I was ushered into see a Registrar whom at the end of the session nonchalantly said, and I quote: "the cancer will come back, it’s just a case of when”. Perhaps she never attended the NOCEBO class at Med School? Thank God my positivity and beliefs about my ability to beat this were alread in tact.
Your Team matters. They can either fill your sails and propel you forward. Or they can leave you rudderless, and stuck in an ocean of fear and uncertainty. Guess which one will help your healing journey?
"Man plans, God laughs". I'm extremely positive about my future, in spite of what one might read about my disease. But I'm also grounded enough to understand that life can be cruelly unpredictable. I wear the T-shirt everyday. Nevertheless, armed with a much better understanding of how my fire started, and how it may have been avoided in the first place, gives me back more control over my destiny than I ever had before. And that's a wonderful thing.
I hope some of this informtion has helped/inspired/nudged you enough to give you and yours a little more care and attention. Here's to bigger, better, brighter life.
Peace & calm