Part 1: Beginning the Healing Journey

 

  • Diagnosis

  • Staging

  • Understanding Cancer Development

  • Overcoming Fears

  • The Spiritual Role of Healing and Wholeness

  • Developing Self-Care

  • Journaling

Integrative Colon Cancer Pathway

 

Diagnosis

 

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. 

 

Staging

 

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.

Overcoming Fears

 

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. 

Fear-Based Focus

Blocks Healing

Level   Emotion   Process   Life-View

Pride

Anger

Desire

Fear

Grief

Apathy

Guilt

Shame

Scorn

Hate

Craving

Anxiety

Regret

Despair

Blame

Humiliation

Inflation

Aggression

Enslavement

Withdrawal

Despondency

Abdication

Destruction

Elimination

Demanding

Antagonistic

Disappointing

Frightening

Tragic

Hopeless

Evil

Miserable

Love-Based Focus

Promotes Healing

Level            Emotion            Process            Life-View

Enlightenment

Peace

Joy

Love

Reason

Acceptance

Willingness

Neutrality

Courage

Ineffable

Bliss

Serenity

Reverence

Understanding

Forgiveness

Optimism

Trust

Affirmation

Pure Consciousness

Illumination

Transfiguration

Revelation

Abstraction

Transcendence

Intention

Release

Empowerment

Is

Perfect

Complete

Benign

Meaningful

Harmonious

Hopeful

Satisfactory

Feasible

Developing Self-Care

 

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

 

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.