Guest Post: Belinda Hawkins, Embracing Chemo
What led you to start Embracing Chemo?
A good friend watched her father go through chemotherapy three times, for three primary cancers. She just couldn’t believe the difference in the way I approached chemo in comparison. She noticed how I just seemed to roll with it, continued working (in fact, I even went out and got my job two weeks after my chemo started), ate constantly and spent weeks away studying. Although I didn’t enjoy the prospect of another dose of chemo each cycle, I approached it without fear and anxiety and I think that had a lot to do with why I seemed to ride the wave of the chemo so much more easily. And the more I understand about how the brain works in collaboration with human physiology, the more I realize the truth of this.
So, Embracing Chemo came about through her encouragement, that I should share my knowledge and experience with others, so they would find the experience easier too. She had spent hours on the internet trying to find help for her father without much success. It just seems that when the time is right for a new idea, there is no holding it back, is there? Embracing Chemo has just naturally unfolded out of my training in both medical science and as a subconscious mind therapist, my experience with breast cancer and being surrounded by just the right people at just the right time. I am honoured to be able to help others in this way.
What are your goals with this blog?
I want to see the Embracing Chemo mindset made available to anyone going through any type of cancer alongside their medical treatment. The more I scour the medical research, the more I realize the importance of emotional and mental support in cancer treatment. Many people don’t realize emotions such as fear, anxiety, depression, anger and isolation cause inflammation in your body. When this inflammation is allowed to continue it causes damage and prevents us from healing. In fact, science now shows that stress actually turns off our immune system and that includes our ability to deal with cancer cells. It doesn’t seem to matter what the type of cancer, both research and anecdotal evidence suggest that people who invest time in dealing with the negative emotions in their life benefit with better outcomes. So it doesn’t make sense to me that health issues as serious as cancer, do not have emotional and mental support as an integral part of medical treatment. But I guess there’s the real issue isn’t it? Medical staff aren’t trained to help people process their emotions. That’s a different type of training. This is why you need to have specialists who are trained in the area of the subconscious as a part of the team, because this is where we store our emotions and this is where we need to heal them.
What were your experiences with cancer and the Embracing Chemo “mindset”?
One of the most mindblowing experiences I had was the effect that just the suggestion of side-effects can have. For my first cycle of chemo I got myself in the strongest place I could mentally, and I aced it! Other than being a bit emotional (because I survived it!), I ate all the way through, and despite feeling a bit light headed, I was okay. In fact, I kept waiting for ‘it’ to hit me. But it never did. Then a week before my next cycle of chemo, I had an appointment with both a doctor and a nurse who each went through the list of side-effects with me within hours of each other. It was as though they had just planted a seed.
The next cycle I felt nauseous, almost to the point of vomiting. I had diarrhea, and it wiped me out by Monday. I called it Chemo Monday and it was not a pleasant experience. Somehow, just finding the determination to say that it wasn’t going to beat me, I managed to get myself up and go to work the next day. I was fortunate to be training as a subconscious mind therapist at the time and my teacher realized what had happened. That somehow I had taken on board the suggestion of side effects at a subconscious level and then played them out. So he sat with me and helped me achieve a deep relaxation in which I could “rewire myself”- basically break the associations that I had formed in my brain. It worked beautifully.
Each cycle just kept getting better and better. No more diarrhea and I never felt nauseous again. In fact I ended up flushing the rest of my nausea tablets down the loo. Despite the fact that my body did suffer some of the physical effects of chemo, such as tiredness and needing to repair itself both inside and out, I managed to go tobogganing with my kids a week after my 6th cycle of chemo. It was exhilarating!
Most people don’t realize the resources we have within ourselves to affect our experience for the better. My own experience really brought home to me the importance of the mental and emotional side of cancer treatment. Doctors are beginning to understand how our minds can make these connections which then become our reality. This is exactly what happens when you are anticipating nausea and vomiting, people can actually begin to experience these symptoms before the chemo even starts just because that seed was planted in their minds. At least one in every four people suffer this, and medication is relatively powerless to stop this phenomenon. People need help at a subconscious level to break the learned association and so this is part of what the Embracing Chemo program is designed to do, to make chemo easier.
What final thoughts would you like to leave the mesothelioma community with?
Believe in yourself. Our human design is amazing and when we begin to tap into these internal resources, many things are possible. In the words of Doctor Herbert Benson, “self-care is the missing part of the medical model.” Learn about how your body heals and work with it mentally, emotionally and physically.
Simple things such as learning how to properly relax your body and mind makes such a difference to how we feel and how we heal. Take the time to learn how to relax properly and practise it daily. If you can, add in diaphragmatic breathing, it will further enhance your healing capacity. Learn to choose your thoughts and entertain positive images. It’s a discipline that pays big dividends.
Be selective about what you read and watch on TV. Spend time doing things you love and enjoy happy memories. This will again trigger your healing pathways. Find a subconscious mind therapist to help you heal emotional wounds., and always pick doctors that support you and make you feel good.
Above all, don’t take no for an answer. No matter what your prognosis, use your internal resources. No matter what the stage of your journey, you can always do something to help yourself, to make your journey that much easier.
We would like to thank Belinda for taking the time to share her thoughts and experiences with chemotherapy with us all. What do you think of her approach? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook.