Living a Full Life While Coping with Cancer
I know I’m not alone when I say that receiving a stage IV cancer diagnosis is life changing in every way imaginable. Dealing with dis-ease and facing thoughts of death has, without a doubt, been my biggest challenge in life. But despite what many people feel is the end of life as they know it, I have found multiple ways to live each day empowered and with a level of gratitude that allows me to revel in the miracle that is my human body—and I have done this for a decade now with stage IV cancer. I want to share with you some of the things I’ve learned about living a full life while coping with cancer.
First, the mind is one of the strongest and most useful powers we possess. The thoughts that pass through our minds are responsible for everything that happens in our lives. Because our predominant thoughts influence our behavior and attitude, as well as control our actions and reactions, the body will believe anything the mind tells it. With this in mind, I begin each morning with a simple prayer of gratitude: I put my left foot on the ground and say “Thank,” then put the right foot down and say “You.” I then say: “I have trust and faith in God and the entities of love and light. I acknowledge the divine spirit from deep within. I am all powerful, I am all knowing, I am unlimited.” This allows me to feel that nothing is impossible, and that the divine is always with me, desiring the best for me.
I have also found that reciting affirmations that confirm my wellness and peace of mind for ten to fifteen minutes each day has been a tremendous tool. I recommend beginning each affirmation or mantra with the words “I am.” In my situation, I confirm that I am healthy, I am strong, and I am cancer-free. I also acknowledge that every cell in my body fights off anything that is not good. I state that my immune system is optimal and that I am grateful for all that is good in my life. I affirm that I attract all that is positive, and that I believe and know it to be true that thoughts become words and words become realities.
Another action I’ve embraced is to truly enjoy the simple things, like petting and loving my dog, watching a sunset, or walking on the beach. I also pamper myself with pleasures that bring me joy, happiness, and comfort, such as an occasional manicure, massage, or even simply watching movies. I internalize the joy of these moments instead of busying myself with thoughts of things I have to do, or flooding my mind with worry the way I might have done in the past. In slowing down my pace and savoring each event, I’m able to sincerely appreciate every little thing that’s wonderful in my life. As I do so, I express to the universe that I’m grateful, and I believe it returns more things to be grateful for in return.
Physically, I find that I have more energy when I take part in activities like swimming, working out, and walking; these types of exertion not only help keep me strong but they make me feel good and keep my muscles toned. We all know that a bit of exercise every day is good for the mind, body, and soul—it improves our chances of feeling better, decreasing fatigue and stress. I have certainly found this to be true. In addition, I practice good nutrition—eating clean, sugar-free, and mostly organic.
Last, I know how important it is to our longevity to have things to look forward to. For this reason, I focus not only on the present, but I continue to dream about my future. I look beyond my treatment and think about what I can do to keep myself healthy, and I find it helpful to set goals so that I have something concrete to work toward—each week, each year, and into the future. As people witnessed how I was thriving with stage IV cancer, they encouraged me to share how I was doing it. But there was so much more to my story than just a cancer diagnosis, so one of the goals I set for myself was to write a memoir that I hoped would inspire others—not only those with cancer, but those who have endured a multitude of challenges, possibly similar to my own.
Boy Dreamer launches this fall and recounts my story of being a young boy who faced multiple adversities, including being in an abusive foster home at the age of five. As I learned ways to escape the cruelty my foster parents inflicted upon me, I also found ways to mentally escape through dreaming of a better life. This focus on dreaming big became a tool I used as I grew older, one that aided me in coping with several distinct challenges that shaped me: abandonment, sexual identity issues, loss, tragedy, brushes with death, and eventually, cancer.
Through the use of my imagination, I was able to create a belief system based on the idea that if you believe strongly enough in something, and you embrace knowledge and understanding of what you desire, you can achieve whatever goals you set. This belief system—along with an unwavering sense of hope—can be applied to anything in life, certainly to any dream you can envision, and most certainly to thriving with and surviving cancer. I am living proof.
About the Author
PAUL ECKE, a former educator, has been a professional artist for over three decades. His paintings of contemporary non-figurative and figurative works on canvas and panel are colorful thought- and emotion-provoking images that convey the inner strength, conviction, and complexity of the artist.
His works are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Manila, Philippines; the Crocker Museum of Art, Sacramento, California; and the Daytona, Florida’s Museum of Arts and Science, and he has shown in galleries in New York, Chicago, San Diego, Palm Springs, Florida, the Philippines, and Indonesia. His memoir, Boy Dreamer, is published by Morrison Meyer Press and is available for preorder through Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and Amazon.
“Boy Dreamer’s” release is October 21st on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and IndieBound. Hope is how I cope with cancer.