What if it comes back?
This is our greatest fear as survivors, isn’t it? It is looming in the background always. I suspect that it fades a bit with time, maybe we get used to the “all clear” at check-ups and the fear retreats a bit more. But does it ever go away?
One of the hardest parts of me getting diagnosed with cancer was being so blindsided. I had absolutely no reason to think I would be diagnosed with two separate and distinct cancers at essentially the same time. I was leading a very healthy lifestyle and other than the little bump on my neck, I felt great! Cancer is silent and I hate it for that.
What happens when you get blindsided by cancer or any other major diagnosis, is you no longer trust yourself, your instincts, your sense of knowing your body and its health. And this break of trust has lasting effects. I felt betrayed. I thought I had a good relationship with my body. I thought we were sympatico. Little did I know that it was being invaded and was giving me no signs that things were not well.
So we listen to our doctors and believe this unbelievable thing they are saying even though we feel fine. We do what they say to do because they know a lot more than we do. You learn all you can learn about your illness and make informed choices. You are open to anything and you survive! And you are so, so grateful. But your body has betrayed you in a fundamental way and you’re not sure you can ever trust it again.
At least this is how I felt. The problem is that in order to live with or manage the ever present fear, “What if it comes back?” we need to trust our bodies on some level. At minimum, we need to believe that our bodies can fight it again so we need to set them up to succeed. Better still would be to set our bodies up to be cancer killers right now. How do we do that?
Boost your immune system.
Our bodies have a built in system to fight abnormal cells. It is the immune system! The T-cells in the immune system’s job is to find and destroy any abnormal cells in the body. There are many ways to help boost the immune system and their cancer-fighting T-cells.
- Eat right. Lay off the sugar and processed grains, avoid beef and processed meats, eat more vegetables especially dark green leafies and mushrooms.
- Manage stress. Try healthy stress management practices like yoga, meditation, and exercise. Lay off the unhealthy ones like smoking and drinking.
- Heal your gut. Chemotherapy and antibiotics wreak havoc on the bacteria that live in our gut. Since 80% of our immune system is in our gut, it’s important to keep these bacteria happy. They actually play a part in all sorts of other important functions like regulating our hormones and moods. Consider taking a high quality broad spectrum probiotic. I take one with 15 strains and 90 billion CFUs because I am healing my gut from several rounds of harsh antibiotics I had with treatment. There are also probiotic rich foods you can eat and drink like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kefir and kombucha.
- Get Vitamin D. I recommend my clients take a supplement of D3 because it seems we are all deficient in this important vitamin, especially if we don’t spend a lot of time in the sun. The immune system’s cancer fighting T-cells are activated by vitamin D so let’s make sure we are turning them on!
- Be happy and connect with people. Laughing has been shown to be good for your immune system and happiness and human connection have been hailed in a recent Harvard study to be the most important factor in human longevity. Give hugs, laugh with your friends, notice the joy in life.
If you would like to learn more specific practices for managing life post cancer, you may be interested in my Permanent Remission Project coaching or the upcoming online course. I offer specific and tangible tools and skills to take back control of your health post cancer. When you know you are doing everything in your power to create permanent remission, that is the best possible way to knock the fear “What if it comes back?” directly to the far corners of your mind so you can live life fully, happily, right now.