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A different choice: Beyond just surviving cancer...without a battle

Originally published March 15, 2019

A year ago today, I finished Viktor Frankl’s classic, Man’s Search for Meaning. In the book, Frankl writes of barely surviving the Nazi concentration camps in World War II. He describes a horrific experience, including watching friends and his family heading to the gas chambers. He also shares how he managed to go on living, in spite of the horror and loss. He realized that the only freedom he had was his attitude and how he chose to respond to the situation. According to Frankl, “each of us has ultimate responsibility for choosing how we respond to challenges, and we have the additional responsibility to determine how we will give ourselves to the world and create a truly meaningful life (2006).”


Also, a year ago today, I learned I had “aggressive and invasive” breast cancer and would likely lose my right breast. In reaction, I cycled through feelings of shock, sadness, anger, and fear. Sleeping became a challenge and my thoughts were consumed with worst case scenarios. I felt overwhelmed by it all. Gratefully, Frankl’s words and wisdom were still playing in my head. With time, I pivoted towards his sage advice.

As I started reframing the situation and how I wanted to be with it, I heeded Frankl’s guidance and made a conscious choice to be intentional about my attitude. Contrary to mainstream cancer nomenclature, I decided this was NOT a “battle” for me to win, and I wasn’t interested in being a “survivor” who declares temporary remission. For me, this was a journey towards thriving and healing my body, mind and spirit. A strong desire to heal emerged from within, and I knew I was 100% responsible and empowered to do so.


On this journey, I enlisted authors, doctors, gurus and biohackers as partners, teachers and educators. I listened to everything—my guiding principle was any idea is a good idea, until proven otherwise. I researched and investigated various perspectives on cancer’s origins. Through myriad tests and lab results, I understood more about my own biology. I also read articles and books on how our emotions impact our health. Through my discovery process, I crafted and executed a plan to achieve my healing goals.


Today, a year later, I am cancer free. I have emerged from the experience feeling like a different person. I appreciate my life in new ways and plan to continue building upon what I have achieved. Consistent with the teachings of Viktor Frankl, I am drawn to share my experience with others, and this pull gives me a sense of purpose and meaning. I realize my path and plan may not be a fit for everyone. Still, it offers options—whether you are faced with a similar diagnosis or simply want to do everything possible to avoid one. The process is the same; it is just the urgency that is different.

So, this post is my first in sharing what I have learned. In posts to come, I will take up specific topics, including my favorite books, podcasts, articles, hacks and treatment options. For now, in the words of Frankl:

“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible (2006).”

REFERENCE

Frankl, Viktor E. Man's Search for Meaning: an Introduction to Logotherapy. Beacon Press, 2006.

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