6 Things to Learn from Cancer Patients
If you had only three months left in your life, how would you live it? What would you change about your life now? Some people would totally rearrange their lives, change jobs, change countries, etc. Others wouldn’t change a thing. Most of us probably lie somewhere in the middle, we’d want to change some things.
The tools that cancer patients use to live meaningful lives are in fact very similar to the rules that would help us all make the best of our days.
Here are the Six Life Maxims of Cancer Patients:
1. One day at a time.
Don’t get tangled up in the “what ifs” of the future and the “if onlys” of the past. The sick person knows better than anyone that all he has is the moment before him. “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift.” Or as Imam Hasan al-Basri put it “Life in this world is three days: yesterday has gone along with all that was in it; tomorrow, you may never see it; as for today, it is yours”
2. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
“Be self-led, not symptom-led.” Cancer experts have found that patients who approach their diagnosis like an athlete at a major competition fare much better than those who give up and stop their daily routines because they are dying. Do no react to each and every problem you face by giving up and accepting failure but rather view it as a challenge.
3. Build a strong network of support.
Our families, friends, books, therapy, support groups, ladies at the mosque…all of that support enriches our lives and lifts us up when we’re down. Cultivate and maintain these relationships.
4. Do what you love.
Do the things that give you pleasure: writing, reading, cooking, music, sports, praying, reciting Quran. Know that you have a mission and that you are part of Allah’s greater purpose. Even on a bad day, if feeding the poor and helping the needy gives you a sense of satisfaction, don’t back away from those activities. Find a way to fulfill your life’s purpose.
5. Think positive.
Studies on the brain’s “neuroplasticity” show how we can change our brain’s structure and neuronal connections with our thoughts, behavior and environment. Positive thinking can in fact contribute to stronger immunity, less stress and fewer toxic side effects from cancer treatment. The three-step method to positive thinking taught to cancer patients is: Stop, Think, Focus. When a patient begins to panic with thoughts like “I can’t do this,” she needs to make a conscious effort to say to herself, “Stop!” In the next step, she must pull out any positive aspect about her situation such as “I’m going to be okay,” or “I have a wonderful family,” or “I have strong faith in Allah,” and, finally, she must focus on those thoughts. This method is perfect for anyone facing trauma, anxiety or even a flat tire.
You never fully appreciate what you have until it’s gone. So appreciate every moment of your life and the favors that Allah has bestowed on each and every one of us and smile.
MA Counseling Psychologist