In January, 2018, I lost my baby sister to Inflammatory Breast Cancer. She was diagnosed nearly a year before her death. During that year, my little sister's diagnosis haunted me. She had been a selfless mother of nine, yes nine, beautiful children. She worked, she mothered, but she left little space for herself.
What I saw in my sister in the years leading up to her diagnosis was a quiet anger that lay dormant just below the surface of her active life. The quietness came in the form of a self-deprecating joke, or a good-natured annoyance with some mundane daily task. What I know now is that this quiet anger could have been a communication, a nudge from mind, body and spirit to redirect my sister toward a bit of self-love and self-care. The kind of love and care that she effortlessly gave her children was inaccessible to her.
What haunted me was my own inaccessibility to fully step into the care and love I needed to feel whole. What was even more disturbing, I didn't have to look far to see that same trap of moving away from the self that so many women are snarled in when balancing a career, children and other relationships. And I can't hold this truth for women only. A stone's throw brought me to men, my brother-friends, whom were on a treadmill of earning, producing, providing and creating a life for their families with honor and with pride. While there is no definitive cause for cancer, stress is a contributing factor.
My sister's journey with cancer, her stress, her quiet anger was a wake-up call to address my own quiet pockets of anger. When carrying too heavy of a load, I now know it can easily be lightened with a simple request from a loved one, or by simply allowing myself the space to sit quietly. I now create that quiet space by saying, "No" when my social training would have me say, "Yes!" I now can utter the phrase, "Can you help me?" when my the burden I am carrying can be lightened by a friend. I now allow myself a more generous understanding of who I am, how I serve, and how I can be served in return. As a hypnotherapist and intuitive life coach, my wish for my sister is my wish for you:
I wish, I could have explored, with my sister, the message within her quiet anger. Perhaps that emotion was there to communicate the lack of ease in her life with so many responsibilities. Perhaps that quiet anger foretold of the dis-ease (lack of ease) that was brewing within her cells.
I wish I had been there to help quell the mind chatter that kept my sister up at night with worry, for I know that through hypnosis, which is a state of mind that permits a person to process and act on suggestions, that the suggestion of calm could have given her a more peaceful existence in the waning weeks of her life. She often said to me, "My minds just goes a hundred miles per hour."
I wish I had been there to help manage her pain outside of the heavy narcotics that stole her lucidity and prevented her to be fully present to engage with her family. Because hypnosis bypasses the conscious mind and allows direct interaction with the subconscious mind, pain can be managed with less, and even sometimes without substances. The person who is being hypnotized starts to perceive things differently, even pain. The altered perception can be both emotional or physical bringing a sense of peace, calm, and pain relief.
I wish I could have been there before my sister's surgery because I know, as a hypnotherapist, that hypnosis intervention reduces post-surgical side effects such as anxiety, pain, nausea, and fatigue. Clinical hypnosis in cancer settings provide symptom reduction of both pain and anxiety, and empowers patients to take an active role in their treatments and procedures. Hypnosis is a powerful complementary cancer care, with one study touting that patients within a hypnotherapy group had a significantly higher frequency of days where positive feelings were greater than negative feelings (85% of the days positive in the hypnosis group versus 43% of the days positive for the control group).
The diagnosis and treatment of cancer are often stressful, and emotionally shattering as it was for my sister and all who loved her. Studies have provided evidence that much of this distress is preventable by providing a support service that is open-access and fully integrated with other parts of cancer care. There is ample evidence that relaxation therapy, guided imagery and hypnotherapy can be beneficial in helping patients cope with the diagnosis and treatment. It was my joy, on a few occasions, to quietly guide my sister through positive imagery as she drifted off to sleep.
My wish and my promise is to offer those dealing with a cancer diagnosis and their families a professional, caring service through every stage of their illness. What I know to be true is that a positive mindset and healthier lifestyle will not only greatly assist a cancer patient’s treatment, it will also help reduce their perception of pain and reduce the negative side effects often associated with traditional cancer treatments.
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