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Crushing Cancer with Mindfulness

Even though it’s been 6 months since the diagnosis, sometimes I still feel like I’ve been punched in the gut.

It seems like yesterday when Amy walked in the room and tearfully announced that she had breast cancer.

We both cried.

I’ve been married to Amy for over 30 years.

The thought of losing her was simply debilitating. I had a hard time standing up.

It feels a bit better now but we’re still going through this thing. We don’t use the “C” word. 

A few weeks ago Amy had her third surgery to remove all the diseased tissue. Next step: radiation therapy.

Even though I’m not the one with the illness, this thing has certainly been the biggest challenge I’ve had to face in my life so far.

Through all the treatment options, surgeries, endless discussions with doctors, screenings, research, alternative and conventional therapies, I’ve tried my best to support and care for her in every way possible.

But it hasn’t been easy.

I don’t know what I would have done if it wasn’t for my meditation practice.

I’m a long-time mindfulness meditator and teacher and this challenge was really putting my practice to the test.

Over the years I’ve learned to be in control of my thoughts and emotions.

But this “C” thing was serious.

Here are a few mindful approaches to help cancer survivors and their caregivers crush cancer with mindfulness.

Now as we talk about mindfulness – what do I really mean by that?

Mindfulness simply means awareness …

… a moment-by-moment awareness of your thoughts, emotions, bodily

sensations, and surrounding environment.

It is bringing your complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis, without judgment. Letting each situation be just as it is, not what you think it should be.

Be A Mindful Warrior

I thought of worse-case scenarios. I thought of a life without my mate. I thought of our long history together.

But that was enough thinking. 

So I cleared my mind and decided I would become a mindful warrior.

During doctor consultations, pre-op, post-op and endless waiting rooms, I gave my complete attention to whatever was happening in the moment.

I stood tall and strong in the gap between two thoughts.

I committed myself to equanimity.

I brought my complete attention to each experience, without judgment, just as it happened.

I decided to let everything be okay.

This loving indifference or neutral zone allowed me to remain at peace in my body and mind… for the both of us.

I held space for Amy.

The best support I could offer her was my presence.

Approaching the “C” thing without judgement is key.

I watched with a kind of detached interest as my mind processed everything that was going on.

I was careful not to judge my own thinking. I was careful not to judge how Amy had to process her feelings. 

I wouldn’t allow myself to take all this stuff too seriously.

But I couldn’t help myself…

Feel Your Feelings

One day we were talking about options for treatment. The “C” thing is a subject that is complicated and can be difficult to wrap your mind around.

My wife has always been interested in alternative therapies.

As soon as she found out about the disease, she radically changed her diet. She began green juicing and removed all grains and sugars from her body.

We began discussing approaches to therapy. I was very intent on finding ways to measure the results or outcomes of a particular therapy. 

Turns out this “C” thing can’t be measured. There is no blood test to definitively prove that it is no longer present within the body.

I rarely get angry.

But after a heated discussion I kicked the office desk so hard I put a dent in it.

I hurt my toe and limped around the house for the next two days. Talk about instant karma!

But the anger was good. I had to release my pent up frustrations.

I learned that it was important not to just think your feelings. I had to feel my feelings.

Feelings act as guideposts to help you process your life lessons. Feelings help you heal.

Feeling your feelings gives you permission to process what is happening in the moment.

Think of your feelings like waves on the ocean. They rise and fall. After they’ve been felt and processed, you can mindfully return to a place of peace and stillness.

Self Compassion

Serious health issues are stressful. We also had to face complex insurance and financial decisions.

Along with my mindfulness practice, I had to remember to maintain my physical exercise program and to continue eating healthy foods.

I had to take care of myself so I could be there for Amy. I had to be strong emotionally, mentally and physically.

I had to be able to think clearly and decisively.

My Favorite Tool

Since you are a being of Divine love you always have full access to loving guidance.

Whenever I have a decision to make I simply ask myself the following question:

“What Would Somebody Who Loved Themselves Do?”

This simple question bypasses the ego and goes directly to your Highest Self.

You don’t have to think too much. And you don’t need to ask yourself other questions.

Just trust this question and the right answer will come in a flash.

Should we do chemotherapy?

“What would somebody who loved themselves do?

Should we do radiation therapy?

“What would somebody who loved themselves do?”

Thinking isn’t the highest human faculty.

Loving is.

When you love yourself, everything else comes easy.

My Biggest Lesson

We will overcome this “C” thing.

Life is a gift. Even in grave situations.

When you live mindfully, life lives you.

It isn’t your life anyway… it’s God’s life.

Learning to trust in life and not be scared is my biggest lesson. 

That everything is in the right place, at the right time and in the right way.

This song goes out to Amy…

Here’s a song I wrote for Amy back in 2001. Amy is the vocalist, I made and played all the other stuff.

“Safe In Your Arms” by Ken & Amy LaDeroute

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P.S. If you’d like to read more about Amy, see the January edition of Western North Carolina Woman Magazine or click here to read more >>

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