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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Stop The Cancer War

Last week cancer took a few more people I know from This World. As usual, many well-meaning journalists and social media posts announced condolences and grief by equating Death-By-Cancer with Losing-A-War. It inspired me to share my feelings in a Facebook status which, launched a comment thread full of love , support, and understanding.

Throughout my own journey with cancer, I've never wondered, “Why me?” or dwelled on how, “It’s not fair”. I accept that everyone has their own cancer; pain, struggle or challenge. Why is cancer a war?
After a long and courageous battle with cancer, So-In-So lost their brave fight. The funeral will be held at Such-In-Such cemetery....

When someone dies from complications of cancer, why is it acceptable to say that they lost? No one would ever say that a person couldn't beat heart disease, failed to beat diabetes, or lost their battle with an accident.
We wish our deepest condolences to the So-In-So family for the loss of their beloved, So-In-So, to a sudden battle with a car accident. Details of funeral to follow....

Is there a war against life itself?
We regret to inform the community that after an exhaustive 97 year battle with Life, Great-Grandma-So-In-So lost their war with Life. Memorial services will be held at....

Why should living life be comparable to fighting a war? Are we all soldiers put on this earth to fight a common enemy? If so, wouldn't that mean that Life is our enemy?

Life isn’t something to fight with, quit, or run away from. I've taken on this issue with my own perspective which is, I'm running with cancer - not from it. I don’t relate to or appreciate the metaphor of the cancer battle. For me, life is not a war or a fight. Nor is cancer.
When we face danger and the need to fight a threat we feel stress. In an emergency situation, an instinctive, lifesaving, protective mechanism takes over to protect our bodies from harm. The acute stress response, Fight Or Flight, is one of G-d's greatest gifts to living beings.

Stress causes our bodies to release stress hormones: Adrenaline and Cortisol which cause:
  • increased respitory rate 
  • elevated heart rate 
  • elevated blood pressure 
  • boosted energy supplies 
  • elevated blood sugar 
  • the brain to use more energy 
  • stimulation of tissue repair 
The life-saving roles of stress hormones are diminished when stress becomes chronic.

The mindset of war isn't a harmless metaphor. In the beginning stage immediately after my diagnosis, perhaps it may have helped me to hear that I'm a Warrior Princess but as the years go by and cancer is incurable, chronic, or a chronic metastatic life threatening illness, anxiety and stress levels go through the roof.

Scientific studies have proven that chronic fear and anxiety is detrimental to our health. We fear our environment, constantly looking for the enemy because stress hormones, by nature, cause us to perceive everything in our environment as a possible threat to our survival. The fight or flight system bypasses our rational thoughts and shifts our brains into attack mode. 

Living in a prolonged continuous state of alert may cause us to perceive almost everything in our surroundings as a threat to our survival. Fear is magnified and thinking is impaired. Someone in a constant state of battle will likely overreact to things because they see everything through the filter of impending danger. The mindset of war; of fighting, needing to beat an enemy called, cancer means living in a relentless state of fear.

war = stress

Without a doubt, all cancer patients already suffer from high levels of stress, fear, and anxiety. Stress hormones mess with your brain, your mood, and increase fear and depression.

fighting = stress

When the stress response system is activated, it automatically has a negative effect on many of our body's systems including our body's ability to kill cancer.

Chronic elevated stress hormone levels:
  • Have a bad effect on memory and interfere with cognative ability 
  • Are harmful to our immune systems 
  • Are harmful to our digestive systems 
  • Interfere with fertility 
  • Harm growth 
  • Cause depression 
Chronic stress has been linked to life threatening conditions such as:
  • heart disease 
  • high blood pressure 
  • high cholesterol 
  • type II diabetes, 
  • depression 

Constant stress can be the button that activates a multitude of health problems. None of that is helpful when trying to survive a life threatening illness. In the case of cancer, we should completely disconnect from war, fights, battles, and distance ourselves as much as possible from negativity altogether.

Cancer is NOT a war.

Mindfulness such as Yoga, deep breathing exercises, and meditation have been shown to lower stress hormone levels and are therefore beneficial to boosting the immune system.

Killing with kindness is a positive way to deal with negative situations. In order for the killing with kindness method to work, positivity must come from a genuine place. If you're outwardly loving while inwardly judging and hating, the outcome is killing with anger and most likely ending up feeling hurt which will actually increase your stress levels.

My journey with cancer, provided me with the opportunity to recognize some poignant things and over these years, I've grown and learned to first apply kindness to myself. It doesn't matter whether or not my smiles, hugs, and love are reciprocated because you can never err with positivity or kindness. 

I encourage you to be conscious of truly living life. A wise author, Amy Krause Rosenthal z"l, who died of cancer last week once wrote about Plan Be - that's how cancer survivors need to live. I invite you to live life with at least some Plan Be. Live. Be kind, rather than just acting kindly. I believe that our true instinct is to love and be kind and I know from experience how much that mindset lowers stress and it just feels better to truly come from this place. In my short life, I've learned a lot. I have no secrets and I choose to share my heart and soul with you, my friends and family, and countless strangers. The amount of love, kindness, and support I receive far exceeds the love and kindness I'll ever be able to give. Not every investment is profitable but in my experience, I receive more love in return than I could ever provide. I can solemnly bear witness and promise that those who react with love and kindness will also be the recipient of random acts of kindness as well as a life full of love, support, and happiness... and a lot less stress.

Cancer caused the inpouring of kindness and meaning in my life. I left the war. I exited the battle field. The love, support, and prayers that flow magnify and accentuate my somewhat newly heightened sensitivity to the abundance of goodness and even allows me to see something that is almost impossible for most people to see; the blessings that are attached to cancer. I'm able to see cancer from a different perspective; as part of my journey and let go of my attachment to life being perfect. Life is not my enemy with all of it's danger and imperfection.

Stop the war on cancer!
Kill it with kindness!
Find the cure!

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