Meditation is also an Advocacy Challenge

I have been doing Deepak Chopra’s 21-Day Meditation Challenge which is just coming to an end.  I freely admit that I am a few days behind because I just haven’t got around to it some days.  Sometimes this is because of fatigue and others I have just forgotten about it if I didn’t have the time when the Email was sitting unread in my inbox.  The theme is Perfect Health – and for me what better theme could there be?

Advocacy is about influencing others to, in our case, understand Metastatic Breast Cancer better but I don’t think that this should just be about politicians, researchers and pharmaceutical companies.  One of the biggest things I feel that we should be advocating for is patient empowerment.  When my journey with MBC was in turmoil and I was finding it really difficult to find a way to move forward I came across a book when I was browsing in my local library.  The book was Prof. Jane Plant’s ‘Your Life in Your Hands’ and I thought I would give it a read and see if there was a way of empowering myself and helping myself.  I know that many people don’t like the book, or her Programme, but for me it was life changing.  At a time when I was about 7 months into the prognosis of having 6 months, possibly a year to live, I could finally see that there were real things that I could do for myself.  Others of you may have had a similar experience from reading a book, seeing a film, something you found on a website.  Here at last was my way forward.

I am not suggesting that this approach is for everyone, and I know that her advocacy of soya is controversial but it has worked for her, and it works for me.  I know that I am not cured, and I know that this disease is more than likely to be the cause of my death, but we should be advocating for HOPE as well as research funding.  We should be advocating for LIFE as well as treatments.  We should be advocating for this to be the normal way of dealing with metastatic cancer, that there is some hope for life rather than the false hopeLESSness that is given to us by the medical profession.  Just as I believe Metastatic Breast Cancer is created by a ‘perfect storm’ of causes, so I believe that the way of dealing with it should be an informed ‘perfect storm’ of many approaches.  Cancer is not only about surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy (and other conventional treatments) it is about dealing with an understanding that we ARE all mortal after all; and that the remainder of our lives does not have to be a miserable slide into constant illness.  There are still days that can make being alive a wonderful thing.  There are days when we can be at one with this disease and gently but firmly put it in its place in the corner of our existence.

Finding a new way of living is never easy, but we have all done it over time.  The first grey hair, the embracing of yet another 0 in our age and with a funny new number in front of it (just how did I get to be 53 years old?), the prescription for glasses when my eyesight used to be so perfect … these are just the major milestones that we pass as we more of less willingly embrace the passage of time.  Our timescale has been altered, we didn’t want this but we have it anyway so let’s just get on with it.  Meditation is one of those things that I have found to be invaluable to help me deal with the crappy hand I have been dealt of late.

Things have been very stressful at work of late.  The government have made cut-backs in the educational budget and money has to be saved.  Sadly, as always, the savings come from the bottom of the pile and never from the top.  Things have had to change, but too many people have just continued doing what they have done for years because, well, that is what they have done for years; however for those of us who have been forced to change this makes things very difficult.  It was especially bad a couple of weeks ago and I was able to recognise that I too was getting very stressed which is why the Meditation Challenge came along at just the right time.  I managed to haul myself back from a melt-down and now I have a couple of weeks to really get my equilibrium back.  The trouble is, how do you get others to understand that it is only they, themselves, who can take control of this and do something about it.  A couple of years ago we had a ‘stress-down’ day at work and it is a proven fact that laughter and humour and excellent ways of relieving stress so I sent an All Staff Email of links to jokes.  While some thought it was great there was one member of staff who wrote me a stinging Email saying that I was trying to make a joke out of the fact that people are stressed.  I replied and told her about my cancer and that I had come to realise that to a certain extent it is each individual who has to deal with stress.  The college can only do so much to relieve the stress of those who work there (and it would really help if they would really listen and do something about it) but in the end most of it is down to the individual.

Advocating for ways to empower and educate the patient about dealing with and managing a disease is as important, in my humble opinion, as research and political clout because they are practical ways that we can learn to live again with our new reality.  It may not be life as we would want it to be but it is still the life that we have.


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