Surviving and Thriving with Cancer

In June, 2007, I was diagnosed with carcinoid, a rare neuro-endocrine cancer, after feeling a mass in my abdomen. The mass turned out to be one of many tumors, “too many to count,” in my liver. The cancer apparently started in my small intestine and metastasized to my liver. I have gained much knowledge about cancer, but mostly about life, since that time and I continue to learn every day.

These are the first of many tips that I will be writing about in IN YOUR FACE. I offer them in the spirit of mindful living, healing, and love. Pick what feels right to you and leave the rest…

flower1. Living in the moment!

This is a cliché we have all heard many times, yet I can’t think of anything more powerful than being told you have cancer to really force you into this practice. As Allison Stuart Kaplan (ASK) would say, it is “IN YOUR FACE!”When faced with a cancer diagnosis, you have the choice to curl up in fear on your couch, dreading every possible “What if?” or you can notice what is happening IN THIS MOMENT. For example, I might notice that in this moment I actually feel quite healthy, that the flowers are starting to bloom, and that my teenage daughter just told me she loves me. Consciousness is choice and once I have allowed all that is happening in that moment into my awareness, I have the choice, “Do I want to sit in fear curled up on the couch?” or do I want to be present for my daughter, to feel my strength as I choose to go out for a walk, and smell the blooming of spring. In that moment, the choice is pretty clear! While being told you have cancer is a terrifying reality, it is also an incredible impetus to no longer put off living the life you want to live. It is an incredible opportunity to live in each moment, with all of its richness and beauty and yes, sometimes pain. Which brings me to my next tip…

2. Feel your feelings!

What if I want to lie on the couch and sob with the grief that my life isn’t looking like the life I planned to have? What if I am scared? Does having these feelings negate tip number one? Not at all, because if, IN THE MOMENT, you feel grief, then LET IT FLOW! Be in the moment, feel what you are feeling, and let the feelings come. They may come with a surprising intensity, but they are also likely to pass relatively quickly. It is when we stuff our feelings and/or deny them or “try to hold it together” that they tend to linger for hours or days (or longer), threatening to sneak out at any moment. I have had many good sobs on my couch and usually after about 10 minutes, the tears and grief have passed. I feel cleansed, satisfied that I have honored myself, and ready to face whatever’s next. Sometimes, whatever’s next, is noticing the sun streaming through the trees into my living room, or feeling grateful for the yummy, ripe, organic mango waiting to be eaten in my kitchen. Which brings me to my next tip…

3. Healthy eating!

After my cancer diagnosis, I was told there was no cure. Forget that! After being inspired by several authors and fellow-journeyers on the cancer path, I realized there was a lot I could do to improve my health. In the spirit of the teachings of Dr. David Servan-Schreiber,* I could “make my body incompatible with cancer.” I don’t know about you, but I have always loved bagels. And chocolate. And sugar. And, I no longer eat them. Do I still love them? Maybe, but when I got clear inside that continuing to eat like that was actually harming my body and possibly contributing to the growth of the tumors, I knew I had to make some changes. Changing the question from “Do I really want this?” or “Don’t I deserve this?” (as a way to justify eating that ice cream cone) to the question “Does this choice support my health?” may help you in making the changes you’d like to make in this arena.

To start, take an honest inventory of your diet and see where you might want to make some changes. For me, it was mainly about eliminating sugar (including white flour) and increasing my daily intake of veggies. And I am incredibly fortunate that I live in a city where there is an abundance of locally grown, organic veggies to choose from. Which brings me to my next tip…

4. Cultivate gratitude for your life!

I recently read an article by Gregg Krech* in which he wrote about how we tend to notice when things don’t go well in our lives, but not when they do. For example, you may notice that the toaster burned your toast or the clerk at the store was rude, but how about paying attention to the toast that gets toasted perfectly or the fact that the clerk at the store was helpful? The practice of noticing what works, what is going well, who is kind, etc. is important for cultivating inner peace and kindness. After a great walk, yoga session, or lunch with a friend, you might want to acknowledge your gratitude for your strong body, your awareness of healthy living and the actions you take in carrying that out. Give thanks for your good fortune in having a special friend, for living near the ocean or the mountains or a great health food store, for having an open heart and mind to see the beauty in all things…which brings me to my next tip…

5. Get Inspired!!

Books, music, teachers, yoga, meditation, nature….what does it for YOU?????? What are the tools that help you to live in the ways you want to live? For some of us, it may be inspiring sayings that we tape on our bathroom mirror. For others of us, it may be the practice of saying a daily affirmation or sitting quietly in meditation each morning, perhaps visualizing the ways we want to live that day. Here are two of the visualizations I practice:


  • Today, I see the tumors shrinking. Today, they are surrounded by healing light and energy, by healthy tissues and healthy organs that are rendering them weak, small, and dying. Today, I am healthy and strong.
  • Today, I feel the light inside of me that is always there, that place of my highest self, my deepest peace and greatest joy. Today, I see that light in all whom I come in contact with. Today, I feel peace, and health, and joy.

Why get inspired? Because there is nothing but this moment and no one but you who can help make your life the way you want it to be. And the more support you get, the better!

And so today I end the first of my articles on mindful living with the most important of all the IN YOUR FACE tips: Don’t wait to get cancer to live the life you want!

Namaste, Dr. Bonni

  • I would like to dedicate this article to my two extraordinary yoga teachers, Kate Holcombe, Healing Yoga Foundation, San Francisco, CA. and Donna O’Neil,Tamarack Wellness Center, Eugene, OR. I would also like to deeply thank Tamarack Wellness for their generosity in offering free yoga classes to people with cancer.
  • Gregg Krech. Life is a Matter of Attention. 2008, the ToDo Institute, Middlebury, Vermont.
  • Servan-Schreiber, David, MD, Ph.D. Anti-cancer: A New Way of Life. 2008, Viking Penguin, London, England.

You may also like:

Cancer In Your Face – Allison’s Journey

Cancer In Your Face – Time To Let Go

Nine Ways to Open Your Heart to Joy

© Copyright 2011  Allison Stuart Kaplan LLC

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  1. Bonnie is an inspiration……good luck , Bonnie

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