Over a year ago Sophie Sabbage was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She had lung cancer that had already spread to her bones and brain and her doctors agreed she didn't have long to live. She is clearly beating the odds and has published an inspiring book, not specifically about natural remedies, but about how to work creatively and constructively with a cancer diagnosis and how to let cancer heal your life. Her book, The Cancer Whisperer, contains a ‘compass’ that guides you skillfully through the journey that people face, including how to marry conventional treatment with the natural approaches I write about. Here, she explains the cancer compass.
This compass is a summary of the skills offered in The Cancer Whisperer. The book dives into each part of the compass in detail, offering insights and practical applications about how this can be done when you are diagnosed with cancer.
Copyright Sophie Sabbage 2015. All rights reserved.
- Coming to Terms
This is an important phase to engage in fully from the beginning. It is about getting through the shock of your diagnosis, however early or late your cancer is detected, while laying some firm foundations for the journey ahead. This phase is both practical and psychological. It involves:
- Feeling Your Feelings: expressing and releasing your feelings rather than numbing out and avoiding them, which so often happens when we’re faced with shocking news.
- Facing The Full Facts: facing into the full reality of your situation, however hard that is to do, because the more you know about your condition, the more power you have to respond.
- Asking for Help: reaching out to whomever is willing to support you and creating a sustainable support system to facilitate your journey.
- Establishing Your Boundaries: setting necessary limits around your work and relationships so you can preserve your energy for the tough choices and challenging treatments of your cancer journey.
- Understanding Your Disease
Educating yourself about your particular form of cancer is one of the most important and empowering things you can do after you’ve received your diagnosis. Either you can leave this to your doctors and do what they say, or you can find out exactly what you’re dealing with and what treatments are available (or not). Then you can partner with your doctor and any other practitioners you find with more confidence, intelligence and freedom to choose your own path. This phase involves:
- Asking Questions About Everything: engaging in an ongoing, purposeful, brave inquiry into the nature of your condition and what it means for your life.
- Doing Your Homework: researching different treatment protocols at home and abroad so you know your options.
- Avoiding Statistics: staying away from soul-sapping, fear-inducing information that discusses indicators, but not inevitabilities.
- Tracing the Roots of Your Illness: uncovering the possible factors that may have contributed to your cancer and being willing to address them piece by piece.
- Knowing Your Purpose
I often say my faith is the wind in my sails and my purpose is the rudder on my boat. Purpose is a powerful force when consciously chosen and deeply committed to. It will guide all your choices and decisions on this journey, so it’s important to get hold of it as early as you can. To survive or to thrive? To hold on or let go? To take charge or be taken care of? To get through this or grow through this? To live or to die? There are no right answers. Just choices. Yours. Boldly and bravely made. This phase involves:
- Assessing Your Reality: reviewing the facts of your illness alongside the circumstances of your life so you can determine the limitations and possibilities with accuracy and wisdom.
- Knowing What You Really Want: engaging honestly, deeply and courageously with what you truly want, given your situation—from how hard you want to fight to how gracefully you want to let go.
- Knowing Why You Want It: discovering your deepest, most heartfelt intentions and envisioning the results you want to create.
- Choosing What to Do: making clear choices and forming a viable, specific and practical plan to underpin your purpose or purposes.
- Stabilising Your Body
This phase will depend on the nature of your diagnosis. If you catch your cancer early your body may be stable enough to make more progress with the other phases. If you are diagnosed with later-stage cancer you will need to prioritise this phase accordingly by:
- Taking Urgent Action: identifying immediate things you can do to steady your ship in the waters and catch enough breath to choose your next moves wisely.
- Changing Your Diet: because whatever the arguments for and against ‘cancer diets’, there are too many valid, common sense reasons to ignore, and too many risks to contemplate if you don’t change your diet.
- Detoxing Your Environment: creating a context for your journey that is healing, conscious, nurturing, intentional and dedicated to your wellbeing.
- Detoxing Your Body: minimising the toxicity in your body so that your cancer has less to feed on.
- Clearing Your Mind
This phase is all about coming to terms with your humanity, accepting your vulnerability and doing battle with the inevitable fear that grips you when you are diagnosed with cancer. It is also about looking at the fears, feelings and limiting beliefs you may have been carrying for many years but not paid attention to. In my view, cancer has emotional and psychological roots as well as physical and environmental ones. That is the nature of dis-ease. At minimum, it is important to keep releasing the stress that fear generates. If you are willing to go deeper to unblock emotional pathways in your system, then all the better. This involves:
- Re-experiencing Your Lifeshocks (significant events): learning to engage with specific moments in time when you reacted negatively and fearfully.
- Killing Your Killer Beliefs: noticing and tearing down false beliefs (about yourself, cancer, living and dying), as well as assumptions and predictions about the future that generate unnecessary fear and limiting outcomes.
- Making Clear Choices: choosing how to be and what to do in light of what’s really true—rather than what you fear, believe or assume to be true.
- Getting Emotional Support: because there is no better time and no better reason to invest in your mental, emotional and spiritual wellness, in addition to your physical healing.
- Directing Your Treatment
This is all about taking charge of your treatment plan by feeling informed enough and clear-headed enough to do so. It is well documented that patients who direct their own treatment fare better than patients who don’t, so this is an attitude to adopt as much as a practical plan to put in motion. It involves:
- Listening to the Experts: creating a partnership with your doctors in which you listen closely to their advice, experience and recommendations while asking astute questions and making your own choices.
- Using Your Intuitive Compass: this is your life, and every decision is yours to make on this journey. It’s important to start listening to your intuition, that inner instinct that knows what to do when all around you people are advising you differently or pressuring you to go in a particular direction.
- Creating Your Own Plan: designing your own plan based on the research you have done and what feels intuitively right to you.
- Preserving Your Personhood: finding ways to remain a person first and a patient second so you stay yourself and maintain your self-esteem in a system that often relates to you as a disease rather than a human being.
- Breaking The Shell
This is where your work with the previous parts of the compass can take you to a new horizon in your relationship with cancer, by inviting you into a radically different dialogue with your disease, one in which you can find the pearl in the oyster shell, the concealed and unimagined treasures your cancer can offer up when you listen to it very closely and ask what it is inviting you to change in your mind, heart and being. This is an alchemical inquiry that promises a different kind of medicine, the kind that turns fear into gratitude, sorrow into wonder and bitterness into hope—the kind that can provide emotional and spiritual healing on a journey of physical healing that has no guarantees.
- All of this may seem like a lot to take in when you are already reeling from shock—and may also be dealing with physical symptoms that limit your functioning. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed by all the information I was discovering, the advice I was receiving, the decisions I found myself making and the emotions that crashed through me for many weeks.
- So, here’s the thing: You don’t need to get this all at once. You only need to get it one step and one breath at a time. I have designed this process to make your journey easier, not harder. I want it to be as comprehensive as possible to give you the best chance of meeting your needs, but you can prioritise the elements that feel right for you and enlist help if you don’t feel well enough to do them.
- The Cancer Whisperer is available from Amazon. For more details on Sophie Sabbage’s support work for those with cancer visit www.sophiesabbage.com