If you've survived cancer, do you trust your body to keep you healthy?
An ovarian cancer survivor recently told me "I love and trust my body. That doesn't change when I need to give it extra love." Her willingness to trust is particularly remarkable since she has a BRCA-1 mutation, which creates extra vulnerability to various cancers.
But in a piece I read this week, written by a two-time cancer survivor, her emphatic answer to this question was "no."
"There's no reason," she said, "to think it can't happen again." She struggles with fear, which she admits is a poor motivator to adopt healthy lifestyle practices.
The struggle to trust a body that's had cancer may in part reflect a medical system whose idea of prevention is "come back in 6 months for your next scan." Survivorship becomes a series of suspenseful intervals between tests, waiting to find out if the big C is back.
With a system so focused on disease recurrence, is it any wonder studies show up to 90% of survivors struggling with fear? It's hard to trust your body when that trust hinges on test results you feel are beyond your control.
Like a true friend, your body never means to fail you.
What's the alternative?
Think about someone who helped you learn to trust yourself. Chances are it was someone who believed in you deeply, and knew that your positive qualities easily outweighed your flaws.
You can begin to recapture trust by remembering that your body has more positive qualities than flaws. It's designed with exquisite systems to defend you from disease and heal you. Even when there's one part that can't heal completely, your body does all it can to keep the other parts working, so you can continue to enjoy your life. You can trust your body to do all this to the best of its ability, 24/7.
If you haven't already, thank your body today for everything that IS working. Your body feels your gratitude: it responds by bathing your cells in a healthy "hormone soup" that helps them function at their best. Regular gratitude for what's working in your body is a solid first step in expanding trust.
Now think about a time you were trying to do the right thing, but messed up. Maybe you struck out when the team was counting on you for a hit, or inadvertently offended a friend. In that situation, which would have been better for your wellbeing: someone who gave up on you and never trusted you again, or someone who helped you understand what went wrong, helped clean up the mess and continued to believe in you?
Like a true friend, your body never means to fail you. If things do go wrong, your body needs you on its side, asking what support it needs to get things working again. This isn't limited to getting appropriate cancer treatment. For cancer survivors, this means taking the important step of healing the body that produced the cancer.
Take the opportunity survivorship offers to learn what your body needs to function optimally. Work with an expert to identify and treat underlying conditions that may have made you vulnerable to cancer (glucose/insulin balance, inflammation and chronic stress are just a few). Keep in mind that your body was designed to keep you well. Your goal is to heal whatever is keeping it from working the way it was meant to.
Do this as you would for a beloved friend, and you may be surprised at the mutual trust and admiration that develops between you and your body.
Even with the best care, there's no guarantee you'll never have to deal with cancer again. But if you do, you'll approach it quite differently if you and your body walk through it as allies.
If anywhere along the road you find your trust faltering, be sure there's someone on your wellness team who believes in their bones in your body's innate ability to heal, and that your past doesn't necessarily determine your future. They'll hold trust in your body for you until you're able to trust again.
We rise to new heights of achievement in the presence of trust. We become friends with ourselves, rather than hiding away parts of ourselves that we're afraid will betray us. Your body's yours for life. Why not become the best friends you can be?
Now, go schedule that massage.
Dr. Shani Fox helps cancer survivors get back in charge of their health and rebuild their confidence so they can make the most of their new chance at life. She encourages survivors not to settle for a "new normal", but to create a "new extraordinary".
Dr. Shani is the creator of the leading-edge "Back in Charge!" medical model for survivor care and the author of The Cancer Survivor's Fear First Aid Kit. Her messages about your innate power to create wellness and happiness make her a popular national speaker, radio guest and blogger for cancer survivor communities.
Dr. Shani's "7 Common Myths Cancer Survivors Fall For...and How to Avoid Them" busts misconceptions that may stand between you and the health and happiness you deserve after cancer. Download your free copy today at www.7cancermyths.com .