Part 1: Beginning the Healing Journey
Understanding Cancer Development
The Spiritual Role of Healing and Wholeness
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the US. Each year there are nearly 150,000 new cases. The most common symptom of colorectal cancer is abdominal pain, followed by a change in bowel habits, and finally rectal bleeding. Many colon cancers are found on colonoscopy in patients with no presenting symptoms. A pathologist makes the diagnosis of colon cancer after receiving a biopsy. It is important to have a pathologic diagnosis prior to planning surgery. Some large colon polyps are treated as if they were cancers without a biopsy proven cancer being present due to the danger of the polyp turning to cancer.
The Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) developed a staging system to classify colorectal cancer. Staging systems are a means for physicians to communicate with each other, and plan treatment strategies. Briefly, there are 4 stages of colon cancer:
Stage 1: Cancer confined to the colon
Stage 2: Cancer penetrates the colon but does not involve lymph nodes
Stage 3: Cancer penetrates the colon and involves lymph nodes
Stage 4: Cancer is found spreading to other organs
Staging can sometimes be determined by CT scans before surgery, but often staging is not complete until after surgery when the lymph nodes can be examined by a pathologist. Distant metastasis in colon cancer is almost always to the liver or the lungs. Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) is a glycoprotein that is present is 97% of patients with metastatic colon cancer, and shows up in 30-40% of stage 1 colorectal cancer. Controversy exists over the usefulness in following CEA levels but it is routinely ordered. Once a diagnosis of colon cancer has been made and CT scans and laboratory values have been collected, surgery is scheduled. More on pre-operative planning will be discussed in the next module.
Understanding Cancer Development
Cancer is simply an abnormal growth of cells that has escaped the body’s immune system. Although many people have contributed cancer to “bad genes” this is simply not true. Less than 3-5% of colorectal cancers are related to genetically inherited syndromes. The field of epigenetics further demonstrates that our genes are turned on and off in accordance with our interactions with the environment. This means that food exposure, chemical exposure, and the amount of exercise we get determine to a great extent if we will develop cancer. Advancing age is considered a non-modifiable risk factor, while the majority of risk factors are modifiable through life style changes. Physical stress to the body comes in many forms but typically results from dehydration, poor food choices, poor quality sleep, and a lack of exercise. In an effort to maintain homeostasis the body reacts to chronic physical stress by demonstrating a weakened immune system that “misses a growth” due to a lack of basic building blocks. Emotional stress can also contribute to a weakened immune system. Addressing and preventing physical and emotional stress to the body allows the body’s immune system to function optimally.
“Our goal is not only to remove the tumor, but also to address the circumstances that allowed the tumor to develop in the first place.”
Advanced Nutraceutical Testingoften detects severe nutrient deficiencies, which can then be replaced.
Many people develop anxiety and fear when they are diagnosed with cancer. It is common to ask:
Why is this happening to me?
Did I do something wrong to deserve this?
Whom can I blame?
What is the worst possible outcome?
Who can help me?
It is instinctual to experience fear, but focusing on the above questions creates self-defeat and promotes despair. Do not trap yourself in judgment and self-defeating attitudes. This leads to a sense of victimization, which blocks healing. Although you may consider these questions, do not let them haunt you. Consider the following judgment, “cancer is bad.” Adopt an attitude that cancer is neither good nor bad, but simply an abnormal growth of cells. This non-judgment change alone elevates you to a position where healing flows freely.
It is possible to work-through fear to a more integrative approach. Consciously free yourself from worry. Detaching from the problem is necessary to reaching the solution. Join your medical team in the promotion of healing by taking these steps:
Sit in silence and connect with your divine nature. Ask for courage. Allow the fear to subside. You are strong enough to meet this crisis.
Connect deeply to your intuitive self. Follow the guided recommendations and make the necessary changes to assist your body in healing.
Plan for healing. Plan healing meals and know that food choices nourish your body. Plan for supplements to correct deficiencies and know this will help you recover quicker. Plan for exercise and feel how much it assists your body. Plan to practice stress reduction techniques every day. Your body is intuitively strong and will provide the willpower to assist with changes you need to make.
Cultivate a healing attitude by focusing on gratitude and unconditional love.
The Spiritual Role of Healing
There are well-documented cases of physical healing that transcends anything science can explain. People who experience these “miracles” often describe it as enormous and overwhelming divine love. David Hawkins, M.D. in his book, Power vs. Force,” describes levels of human consciousness, as well as emotions demonstrated at these levels. Study the following charts and note that the one on the left contains fear-based levels that block healing, while the chart on the right contains love-based levels that promote healing. Spontaneous healing is possible at all levels grounded in love-based thinking. Unconditional love is a powerful healing force. By consciously moving ourselves from fear to love, we can move our physical and spiritual bodies into a place compatible with miracles. Are you living by force (fear) or within your own power (love)? This chart is a good starting point for daily meditation and connection with the divine.
Level Emotion Process Life-View
Level Emotion Process Life-View
One of the most frequent questions asked by cancer patients is, “When can I go back to work?” Although it is important, what is more important is self-care during treatment. This means slowing down and developing habits that honor the body’s healing process. There are several methods of self-care that we recommend. Prayer and devotion, meditation, guided imagery, and affirmations are all healing modalities that assist patients on the healing journey. Belleruth Naparstek is a therapist who has developed powerful-guided imagery CD’s for patients. Her web site is HealthJourneys.com.
Journaling is a healthy way to express emotions during treatment. It helps to clarify your thoughts and feelings. It has been shown to reduce stress and resolve feelings that do not serve your higher self. Journaling is most effectively done daily for about 20 minutes at one sitting. A journal is an all-accepting outlet that becomes a safe place for expression. Journaling also enhances intuition and creativity.