A Conversation with Cancer

By Amy Rauch Neilson

Talking to your cancer. Sounds a little crazy, right? Stay with me here.

Because there are people you know – or at least know of – who’ve done it. And people I know. I’ve even done it – and continue to do it every day.

Lance Armstrong started a chapter of his book, It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life, with one of his conversations with his cancer.

“There was a disquieting intimacy to the idea that something uninvited was living in my head,” he writes of the testicular cancer that had spread to his brain. “When something climbs straight into your mind, that’s way personal. I decided to get personal right back, and I began to talk to it, engaging in an inner conversation with cancer. I tried to be firm in my discussions. ‘You picked the wrong guy,’ I told it. ‘When you looked around for a body to live in, you made a big mistake when you chose mine.’

I have read and reread that section of the book since my Stage 4 cancer diagnosis in January 2011. I am a firm believer that a successful attack on cancer must be multi-faceted: medicine, diet, exercise, spiritual, and yes, mind. So many studies have concluded that what goes on in the mind has a significant and measurable effect on the body that the term Mind-Body Connection has woven its way into our language and culture.

I have a close friend, Jan, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in the 1980s. She would lie in bed at night and picture Pac-Men (the video game was at its height of popularity then) following pathways throughout her body, eating up any cancer cells in their way. I’ve taken her lead and picture those Pac-Men on a search-and-destroy mission in my body.

And, like Lance Armstrong, I also talk to my cancer. I start by repeating Lance’s words: When you looked around for a body to live in, you made a big mistake when you chose mine. After that, I think about Julia Roberts in the movie Pretty Woman, during the scene where she returns to the high-rent store with the salespeople who had snubbed her earlier, and says: “Mistake. Big mistake.”

I highly recommend Lance’s book. It’s an easy read and it’s good for the body, soul, and yes, the mind, to read such a story of triumph over Stage 4 cancer. Don’t underestimate the power of the Mind-Body Connection.

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson

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