A Positive Mindset Helps
a Cancer Patient
(by Dr Abhilasha Srivastava)
is an individual's response to adversity by
perseverance, optimism and utilization of
external and internal resources." This
was how I had defined resilience for my D.Phil
in Psychology. Little did I know that I myself
would be undergoing a test of resilience by
becoming a cancer patient.
|Dr Abhilasha and
her two daughters
After the initial shock subsided, I went to the
Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute, Delhi from Allahabad
for the best possible treatment. I trusted in
the doctors to take care of the physical aspect
of the disease but at the psychological level
I wanted to participate in the healing process.
Cancer is only a 'dis-ease' and my body has more
strong, healthy and normal cells than the weak,
confused malignant cells. I decided to give my
body all the positive messages needed to foster
a healing environment. Luckily I have an extremely
supportive family and many friends and well-wishers.
My parents, siblings, husband and two small daughters
did everything necessary for a good prognosisa
comfortable environment, a regular anti-cancer
diet (olive oil, plums, tetra packed grape juice,
coconut water, etc) and relevant books. These
external changes, encouraging mails and SMSes
were definitely extremely helpful but ultimately
my journey had to be my own.
After the first session of chemotherapy, rehospitalization
for neutropenia was rather unexpected. Thereafter,
nourishment, evening walks and relaxation/visualization
became an integral part of my life. Evening walks
helped me to connect with Nature and see the ever
present harmony. Because I had read and believed
that walks improve immunity, I actually found
myself becoming stronger with each passing day.
After the first week of chemo I allowed the body
to rest and accepted the weakness and side effects
as a normal transitory phase of the treatment.
By the tenth day or so, the body could regain
enough strength initially for short then for long
walks. Relaxation and visualization/auto suggestion
were never discontinued. I did them at least twice
daily without fail.
Relaxation involved deep breathing and focusing
on each body part and joints from head to toe
and imagining them to become loose, limp, light
and de-stressed. Imagining a wave of relaxation
moving throughout the body was also helpful.
Then there was auto-suggestion and visualization
specifically meant for removing malignancy and
regaining health. One childhood friend, now a
reputed hypnotherapist, had given me specific
imagery. She suggested I visualize the chemo drugs
as coming from the 'jata' of Lord Shiva and as
Ganges cleanses everything, my journey from Gangotri
via Hardwar, Rishikesh and Allahabad to Varanasi
(where I have a positive association with KFI)
is helping me to get cleansed and disease-free.
During this journey the side-effects are seen
as muddy water which finally subsides. Initially
I could not see the journey as a movement but
it emerged more like a picture gallery. However,
with perseverance I could see it vividly moving
and flowing. I could see the doctors, my family
and friends as the structure on which I was lying
down and floating.
Pranayama, specifically anulom-vilom and
kapaal bhati, were also part of the journey
throughout and were immensely helpful.
After reading Love, Medicine and Miracles
by Bernie S Siegel and Getting Well Again
by O. Carl Simontons, I frequently used the visualizations
given in them. Reading the former was an insightful
experience bringing about inner transformation
while the latter gave a regimented routine which
if strictly followed will have immense benefits.
The former was like getting a glimpse of God whereas
the latter was like religious rituals which if
followed sincerely will lead to the same goal.
Before sleeping I read Siegel's techniques and
followed them. I am presently reading Peace,
Love and Healing by Siegel.
After the third session of chemo, my anxiety
and occasional crying spells returned. I asked
my doctor about it who attributed the mood swings
to steroids. I was not satisfied and started a
monologue with the Cosmic Power which gave me
solace. Specific visualizations were reduced in
frequency but I felt that some Cosmic Energy was
taking care of me and if it's a Karmic debt, IT
will give me directions to repay it and go beyond
this cycle. I was and still am trying to find
the meaning of this whole episode.
Initially my whole focus was to make the lumps
disappear and naively enough I assumed that surgery
would be avoided. Doctors told me that I have
responded very well to chemo and to avoid recurrence
surgery is required. So now I am again relying
on relaxation/visualization to have a successful
surgery with minimum blood loss and also to help
me have minimum side effects and a healthy mind-body
post surgery. For subsequent chemo and radiation
sessions, again these two will remain my aid and
hopefully by that time my monologue will have
turned into a dialogue.
I thank God for helping me undergo this journey
so far successful with the helpof doctors, family,
friends and well-wishers.
Update: I had an
MRM (Modified Radical Mastectomy) on 13th July,
2011 successfully. After two weeks I watched the
movie Zindagi na milegi dobara and would
like to share the message of the movie with everyone:
"live one day at a time and be alive to each
moment." This is the mantra to live our life
to the fullest because we don't know how many
moments, days or years are left in our lives.
BE ALIVE RATHER THAN MERELY LIVING!
lost her battle with her unusually virulent cancer
on August 24th, 2012, but the memory of her undaunted
courage and unconquered spirit live on in all
who knew her.
Bio: Dr Abhilasha
Srivastava, 42, did her M.Phil at IIT Mumbai and
D.Phil in psychology at the Centre for Advanced
Studies in Psychology, University of Allahabad.
She had taught psychology in Krishanamurti Foundation
India, Varanasi for one year and in a couple of
colleges in Nepal. She worked in the Research
and Development Dept of IPEM. For the past two
years she has been teaching psychology and doing
clinical counseling in the Dept of Psychology
at the University of Allahabad. She is deeply
interested in the issues related to children,
women, education, poverty and environment.
She lives in Allahabad with her two daughters
and husband. For the past three months she has
been staying in Noida for the treatment of her
breast cancer, and due to this disease, once again
the deep bonding among family members is felt
which is helping everyone cope with the situation.
In their words, "Don't judge any situation
negatively; it could be a blessing in disguise.
Cancer has given us new perspectives and reaffirmed
the importance of family ties." Dr Abhilasha
writes poems, is fond of good music and enjoys
traveling. Teaching and couselling are her passion.
You Must Live
(by Mrs Sudha Ahluwalia)
The word, which strikes
you like a hammer is not cancer. Actually, it
is not cancer, what takes over is the word DEATH
The moment the doctor declares that YOU HAVE CANCER,
the patient is almost dead and so are his/her
close relatives. It is immaterial at that time
to know from the doctor which part of the body
is affected. After a gap when you come out of
that initial shock and gather some strength the
word, which strikes you like a hammer is not cancer.
Actually, it is not cancer, what takes over is
the word DEATH .