WHEN TUMOR IS THE RUMOR AND CANCER IS THE ANSWER ATTITUDE
Hi dr ryan here, medical oncologist and this is when tumor is the rumor and cancer is the answer. I am sure you are familiar with our opening song from chariots of fire. A man has a plan and in a day it is crushed…… so it is when you have been told you have cancer ,thoughts of loss of control, soul sucking anxiety, what about your family and the list goes on as it hits you like a ton of bricks. He rose above it in the film and so you to will be a hero ………i have seen no exception no matter how afraid you are, and that is what we are going to talk about today …your attitude when first diagnosed and through your course of therapy.. What works?
. We will take our time so feel free to write in your questions or comments at www.w4cs.com and i will try to get to them
It was quite some time ago when the master chief petty officer bob i told you about last week gave me some advice on one of the chapters of the book when tumor is the rumor and cancer is the answer.com and segments on the show .
His advice was that i include up front and importantly a chapter or essay of how to achieve the sweet life as much as possible when diagnosed that seems impossible when everything turns to crap and you are most scared .
He said i should collect ideas of the basic thoughts from patients who were successfull at just the right mindset and nurses who instilled and preached as well as support staff who lived it .
Then i should write a colorful essay about the attitude using allegory and metaphor. He said i would learn how to do that so that it would not sound like unrealistic pipe dreams that no one could expect or even should expect a cancer patient or their loved ones to be able to do….. Despite being precisely what they need to do-
He explained, and you and i and other patients and wise folks since antiquity know, you are able to reach that mindset because it is the way we are wired naturally by god ….
To keep it practical for you non belivers out there, it is the only set of attiudes that work to improve the quality of life and perhaps even survival because of all the spin off benefits of being more engaged in your care and the mind body connecton that is not to be denied for all of us. Quality of life improves and so does survival. So listen up,
of course the master chief( god) was right so i always looked for those traits and wrote them down over the years when i saw them and soon realized they were directions, directions for a better life when so scared . They were a better thought life, a better attitude to have in the so called kitchen of life as you whip up a recipe for not only surviving but emotionally trying to thrive when diagnosed with cancer or supporting one who has.
I will first go through the essay which is published on the web site and has been published elsewhere and then break it down again in straight talk because it is so true and so important
We have thousands of years and tears and those with fears who have earned the authority to say this attitude is true
We all decided to call it
Read the directions first
For la dolce vita
(a recipe) for the ‘sweet life’
Over our lives, we develop quite a palette for the bountiful buffet of personalities out there. We learn what seems to “taste good” and pretty much agree on what or who seems to leave a bad taste in our mouths. We learn that in the kitchen of life, where we concoct recipes for how to deal with everyday reality, no true surprises are produced.
This is as it should be as the ingredients for life’s sweetest, most nourishing and sustaining meals are not that mysterious. We all have access to them. If there is any magic, it is in remembering the tried and true recipes. As is so often the case with us mere mortals, we forget them fastest when we need them most, such as when tumor is the rumor and cancer is the answer. Certainly, when suspecting or being diagnosed with cancer, all hell can break loose emotionally and other ways. Granted, it is tough to start thinking about poetic notions like recipes for the “sweet life”. It may seem like whimsical pabulum
So here is the straight talk about what i have found works in terms of the attitude to strive for. There are asses and good people alike out there, that’s no surprise and in time , if we are smart we learn how to deal with them
There is no grand mystery to the ingredients to be happy no matter what the circumstances but when we have a cancer or a loved one does we tend to panic and forget them when we need them most
Or the stuff of nice sounding adolescent romantic
novels. It’s hard to think nice thoughts when you or a loved one is told you have cancer, sounds saccahrin sweet to be sure but it is again when we need them most
Fair enough. Most cancer patients are not adolescents and cancer is not a romantic novel. We all know that if ever there is a time to get it right, put on your game face, follow the rules and pay attention to what momma taught you and “get religion”, it is when you are in the foxholes handed out randomly by fate. But if there was ever a time to do so, it is when your are in the worst times , your quality of life largely depends on you and who you surround yourself with
Equally true is that the mindset, the lifestyle with which you embrace the disease has immense impact. Repeatedly, i have seen families and patients have meaningful improvement in handling the gamut of emotions that occur from rumor of tumor to cancer as the answer when they affect a simple yet profound attitude. Namely, they remember what works best in frightening times. In my thirty years of watching this transition from fear to fortune, the remembering of the recipe for a sweet fulfilling and enriching life is a practical part of the battle gear when putting on armor and engaging the beast. I say it again as have numerous pundits, poets and wise wise men and women, if ever there was a time to remember what works for the right attitude that is infectious for all it is when you are in a foxhole too scared to come out; this is it
There is good news. The best recipes always taste better when you are famished or when tough times hit the cupboard of our lives. Similarly, there is nothing quite like good ole home cooking. Remember times when gramps had a little g.i. Indiscretion, dad quipped about stepping on a frog and your little brother shot peas through his nose from laughing so hard while mom acted utterly disgusted muttering, “when in god’s name can we ever have a nice family dinner?” Of course you do, in some manner or another. Being with those you love and loving every moment when the main thing on the menu was not pretentious made it easy to digest heaping helpings of love. There is nothing more nutritious. Doing so pays for itself. It is its own reward and doing so with those you love is one of the greatest rewards of all
Therefore, as regards recipes for living when first hit with the diagnosis; the more you can nourish and sustain yourself in the company and care of those who love you and whom you love, the better the meal. Again the sufferring is not to be alone and rarely are you. If that is what you are essentialy surrounded by as you go through this remove them from your world one way or the other whether it is literally, going to appointments or through support groups. Loved ones and friends at this time can be your greatest ally and at times your greatest impediment to handling the hurt
now let us look at how god made us to be nourished and how to sustain ourselves with calories that can build more than just courage. Let us read the directions we came with for a sweet life in the midst of not so sweet news. We are hard wired with a blueprint to happiness, a map to finding peace and serentity and we lose our way most when we are most afraid but i assure you the harwiring and map are there
Beware pretenders and offenders to common sense when it comes to nutritious lifestyles just as you would beware magical promises of cancer cures. Mothers are rarely wrong. So for starters, do just like momma said and pay attention when better judgment tells you, “don’t eat that, it’s not good for you! Stay away from the too pretty packaging. Be wary of the wham bam, have i got a deal for you empty calorie garbage that will seem to pop out of everywhere from the internet to the airwaves, late night tv and trendy quick fix it self help books with titles that seductively “oh my god” seem to talk just to you…. Yes, only you! Of course, there are many well-intentioned and indeed very helpful things out there in the world. However, if it seems too good to be true, if it goes against common sense, if it does not pass the mommy test (“ where did you hear that nonsense”)…go back to the basics that have been there since man first sought to alleviate suffering and live the good life. Beware internet promises, rumors well meaning totally uniformed family or friends, anecdotes, dr google without discernment , unproven therapy, things that seem to be too good to be true and promises of magical cures
The best recipes come from seasoned chefs who have tossed quite a lot of “salad” in their lives. These are folks, as you and i, who have made many meals in tough times. They have burnt some and undercooked others but they know what really works. Here is what seems to top the list of appetizing aptitudes and attitudes that make a great recipe for a sweet life during tough times. Look to the experts first and foremeost,, those who have dealt with folks like your situation hundreds of time and draw on knowledge of folks like you thousands of times studied in controlled scientifically proven manners. Although you are in charge do not ignore the co captain of your ship
We said in the dedication and introduction and it will echo repeatedly throughout the book that you are not alone and there is a shared nature to humanity. Nothing makes you incomprehensible or unlovable.
The same is true for recipes for life; they nourish all.
From plato to charles schultz’s peanuts, thoughtful thoreau to inane inspector clouseau or the wisdoms of gandhi or christ and to whomever your sage best model for life may be, the recipe is unchanged. Certain ingredients just keep popping up. They are all readily available in the cupboards of your heart and the pantry of your minds. They are all essential for a substantial nourishing life. They will all keep meat on your bones and sizzle in your soul when the tough times, like the diagnosis of cancer, come calling. Best of all, the only entrance criteria to the kitchen to cook up your own concoction is a pulse. Again what works in handling this trauma is not original in terms of mindset. All the great philosophers and religious leaders have said it. Probably so did your mom… and you know it more often than not or a supporter does., these are not original thoughts about the nature of man and what works and does not when you are confronted with burden of being a cancer patient or supporting one who is.
Start with a pound of purpose. Lock and load up on plenty. No matter how dark, dismal or desperate things are, with purpose there is a path and ample provision for your heart and soul. Have a prupose in your life when things are dark, a laser focus to get knowledge to kill anxiety born of ignorance. Have a direction
Add a pinch of productivity. Just get your hands dirty and make something, anything more than it was to start with. Dirty hands can clean minds just as fuel treatments blow the carbon out of our carburetors. Don’t just sit there. Be engaged and active in your team. Do not let things happen to you. Be involved. Be productive in your therapy and in your life- never never ever underestimate the profundity of this
Then stir in cream of creativity. Remember, this singular gift marks you as the most wondrous of all creations. Only humans have that divine spark, the ability to create. It may be a ship in a bottle, a new gizmo whatchyamacallit patent or a smile on someone’s face. Your creativity is not about scope and grandeur. It is about keeping the flame alive. It is about the ability to affect the world around you in manner that no matter how infinitesimal, you left it with more and better than how it found you. God made you as the only being truly capable of creativity. It keeps the flame alive. It matters not what it is but make something else other than your misery. You will be amazed at the power of doing so
Then simmer. Some folks called it ciphering, chewing it over or sleeping on it. It never means dwell or getting ready to boil or blow up. It means have a gentle patience with your endeavors remembering you already met the only entrance criteria in the kitchen in the first place, a pulse. In addition, remember that there is no egg timer in hatching goodness. Then be gentle with yourself , there is no timer on your tempering your emotions move your mind deliberately in the right direction but move
take time and have faith that your endeavors will bear fruit and soon the sweet sizzling aroma of creative productivity will fill you up. Productivity and creativity are seemingly separate but they are mutually wonderful, intimately intertwined and together make for magic. Sort of like life, eh? The stew of life is always better than the sum of its parts. Remember being productive and creative are best pals, they go together. Remember all these things fit together in a wonderful way …let them
Next, lightly flour this meal with forgiveness. Always have some on hand. Moreover, it only works if you give more of it away than you recently got – darndest thing how that works! Even better, opportunities to use it are never in short supply.
Forgive yourself for whatever you may have done to assist this cancer like smoking, alchohol, obersity no exercise and so on . You will tend to feel guilty about many things sometimes. Drop that in the crapper where it belongs and stop the behavior and move forward and do not surround yourself with those who have bad behaviors . Forgiveness of self is mighty powerfull when sometimes, not always , it is needed
Add two, no, add three heaping helpings of humor. In the final analysis, you will never laugh so deeply, as when your favorite comedian is yourself. Granted, it is a tough gig and phew, what a hard audience but when you get the auto-giggle going, look out, its life sustaining and infectious. Buy a joke book. No i am not kidding. Laugh at yourself. Go to a comedy club or three. See a funny movie regularly. Humor is a fantastic treatment especially when we look to it early and always.
carmelize the entire concoction with kindness. Best way to do that is blind and almost random. Just like forgiveness, have it ready to add a little loving crust to seal in the sweetness. You will know when, you always do. Recognize and look for chances for kindness; getting out of yourself , kindness to the dr, the staff, random people, it always gets more than it gives especially when you need it most. It is a deposit that pays high interest. Do it
Of course, you have to have tunes. Start to sing, hum, whistle, do whatever you do that makes the melody of your mind, the rhythm of your walk, your own little ‘idiotsymphony’ come to life. Moreover, never miss a chance to invite others to join the band. Giggling, chortling, guffaws and hearty ho-ho’s count; they are always in key. Never forget the power of music, whether it is humming, singing in the shower listening to songs of your golden years or birds and nature. We are wired for it. Go to a concert or three but never forget the power of music
Now, as soon as you can, run around the kitchen twice. Wow the world that you are animated and alive. Toss a tomato, juggle a ju ju bee, and assault the pits, cherry-avocado or life. No matter what, do it with flare and keep moving to your groove stay active. Fight the weariness. Exercise because it changes not just attitude but response rates and possibly survival. There is more than observational data on this, there is a scientifically explained basis similar to the runners high and the heightened immune system of someone in shape versus a slug. Exercise helps
Now close your eyes and savor smells. Seek out the scent of a woman, a man, puppy breath, new england autumn leaves or your mammas lasagna. Repeat every time the stink of suffering or worry tweaks your nose. Do simple sweet things that bring back fond memories from looking at old photos to smelling baby breath and everything in between
Remember, if you do not cut yourself every now and then, singe a few hairs and are burned a tad or two, this recipe for life just will not turn out right. Every master chef experiences pain so be prepared. The pain free kitchen is not worth cooking in and momma was right, the pain of the fear of pain can be twice as disabling as the real thing. Life is not pain free, especially emotionally and psychologically, pain will happen.
Embrace it but do not dwell on it . You will get burned, roll with it and remember the fear of pain can be many times more disabling than the pain itself.
remember a lot of the non physical pain is a choice, a hard one to be sure, but a choice and choosing mindfullness and positive attitudes towards real body pain due to the cancer or the therapy can make a difference as well.
Things ranging from hypnosis, to accupuncture, meditation, yoga accupuncture massage, and in some cases even pot, all can assist and even lower needed pain medications can work
Finally, find a window, any window and look to the sky. Look for the glow of others enriched by passing through the tale and tail of your comet, as well as theirs. So what am i and 30 years of patients really saying
Remember you are not in this alone . Others have gone through similar experiences, talk with them in the chemo suites, the waiting rooms, with the nurses, the support groups you should be in/ family friends in most cases but especially those who have travelled the road before you or are on it now.
there is immense power in the connection that we in cancer medicine, with powerful friendships can form. Just as the marines instill comaraderie in their troops and call eachother brother, you too, if you are open, probably have a boatload of those capable of rowing a similar boat you are in . You are not alone. Attitude can bring a better aptitude of how all this treatment goes and as i have said many times…the data show it in quality of life and remission duration and even survival.
Common sense and life all show that you are not alone or as i said, you are not alone in this kitchen of life you find yourself in. So…. Despite all the weightiness, the sorrow, the guilt , the fear of loss on control and dignity, set the table of your heart and mind with help from others in a beautiful way and bon apetit
This has been dr kevin ryan author of when tumor is the rumor and cancer is the answer available on amazon and the therapeutic web site of the same name. This is the radio show to help you , the newly diagnosed patient or caretaker, family member or just concerned friend or interested person, the show to help you by being comprehensive , comprehensible and importantly, compasionate.
see you next week when we talk about the crucial topic of autonomy- you are the center of all your care and you are the co captain of your ship.remember, your doctors degree, md, does not mean magnificent demagogue. Stay with me, the ride has just begun. And one more thing, when i emotionally told my wife how hard this was to tell you temember atheist or not , this is how god forces us to look for him… you think about that
This is dr ryan hoping somehow someway you can hold on to what i have said as i promise you it is a path that works