30 December 2013

Cancer, transformation and meaning

We learn so much through sharing our personal stories. So as 2013 draws to an end, what a delight to be able to share some of the inspirational life story of a doctor diagnosed with breast cancer. Dr Ilana Galgut has been attending a group I have been facilitating in Melbourne for the last 2 years and she has kindly offered to share her story – as she presented it recently to a hospital meeting.

Stories can demonstrate how real suffering can be transformed, how often lives change for the better in response to adversity, and how meaning is found.

Stories grant us a glimpse into another human being’s life. We get to share in their experience, to travel with them, to understand something of the choices they made and why, to have the opportunity to consider what we might have done in similar circumstances, learn from other people’s strengths and weaknesses; be uplifted, be informed, be inspired.

Also, a big thank you to all those who have supported Ruth and myself throughout 2013 in the work we offer. May 2014 be a year of good health, deep satisfaction and profound meaning – now there is a nice thought!

But first

Thought for the Day
We are healed more by what we turn our mind towards in love
Than what we turn away from in fear
               Ian Gawler
                   I think this is mine; I have been saying it for years, 
                   but does anyone know where it may have been quoted earlier?

Here is Ilana's story 

- plus a photo of the 2 of us :)

Thanks for providing the opportunity to share a little of my story.

Up until the 25th of May 2011, I was a hardworking, capable, independent single mum whose whole purpose in life was to look after my patients and my children.

I was working part time as a women’s health GP as well as a Cosmetic Doctor - making people happy by putting needles in their faces! I was an evidence -based, very thorough conventional GP, not into all the “airy-fairy stuff” of meditation and supplements.

However, my life was about to change forever - and on the 26th of May, I found my cancer. Initially I reacted like a doctor and went about my working day, squeezing in an appointment for a mammogram.

But I did not come out of the x-ray department the same person I went in as. The non-perk of being a doctor kicked in immediately as I was advised of my diagnosis whilst still in the x-ray department. A biopsy followed as did a visit to my favourite breast surgeon to whom I used to send my patients.

The medical travelator began of CT scans, bone scans, mastectomy, chemo and radiotherapy. I felt no loss at removing my breasts as I deemed them to no longer be my friends but rather as wielding an atom bomb, which was about to take my life. In the same light I have not had a reconstruction as my scars are the testimony to how I saved my life!

I also did not grieve the loss of my hair as, yet again, the chemo was to annihilate any remaining uninvited guests in my body, the cancer cells.

Imagine my surprise when one day, my 10 year old daughter said to me, “ Mum, I think God gave us cancer to be good to us. Because without it you would have never stopped working so hard”.

Well how right she was. I needed a wake up call and it had to be something as huge as this to get me really moving.

In the same way that I looked after my patients, leaving no stone unturned, I set about investigating the best way to make sure that I am here for as long as I possibly can be.

I could not find the proof and the guarantees that my treatment would cure me. And what I discovered in my search for creating a healthy body went very much against my medical training and scientific background.

There was a large void in the system between the oncologists, the treatment and me the whole person.  I was told that stress does not cause cancer but I was stressed out to the max and had been living like a crazy girl. I was told there is no special diet that could help me and if there were, the oncologists would be advising me of it.

But it really did not sit well with me that all I could do was to hope that the treatment would work. So I set about to build myself a new body, ensuring that the body that developed the cancer, no longer existed. I decided that whatever I had been doing was clearly not the right thing.

I found myself a GP who is a very special lady. She helped me through the fear and anxiety of chemo and surgery and suggested that I attend a healing group at a Buddhist temple to help me cope better.

That was, I think, the real beginning of my new life. I learnt to meditate, think about the purpose of life and what really matters to me in my life. I learnt that cancer is not necessarily a death sentence, regardless of the medical prognosis. I was introduced to people who, in medical doctor language, should not be here today, never mind be cancer free.

And slowly, slowly I entered a world about which I was previously very cynical.

I changed my diet, changed my view of my work and career, realising that there was no need to prove anything to anyone, and embarked on a journey to learn more about myself.

I met a wonderful lady hypnotherapist, who helped me deal with heavy suitcases of emotional baggage that I had be lugging around from childhood. I read books about living and also books about dying. I started singing lessons, art classes and Latin dancing. I really was creating a new life, having more fun than I had had in many years.

One day it suddenly dawned on me that I had needed to learn about dying to really be able to learn how to live.

I was learning how to nurture myself and how to create a healthy body, mind and soul, retaining people and things that would foster my transition to a healthy life. It then struck me that yes, I had lost my breasts, but had grown some balls instead. I was unburdening myself of negative influences in my life.

One of my mentors, Ian Gawler, has written a book called You Can Conquer Cancer and I believe that I have conquered it. That does not mean that I will live forever, but I have allowed the cancer to open up my mind and broaden the opportunities that I afford myself. I have lost a lot but gained so much more and I am living a life that is not governed by the what-ifs, the should’ves and the could’ves.

At yet, I have not returned to my GP work as I am not currently well enough to do that but I have assisted many other ladies along their journey through breast cancer because I have learnt to embrace and utilise the best of all available therapeutic modalities - both conventional western medicine as well as complementary medicine. I have learnt to marry the two, as the combination was what worked for me, to get me through this life changing experience.

I will never be grateful for the experience of cancer as there is nothing nice about life with cancer looming in the shadows, but I believe that I took from it the opportunity to learn and grow and can truly say that I am now living my best life ever.

You are the inspiration

NEWS – Very engaging/interesting/informative Video Link
Dr Neal Barnard, M.D. is the author of – the nutritional equivalent of You Can Conquer Cancer for Type 2 Diabetes and President of the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine – a very significant US medical body. Watch him here discuss the benefits of a plant-based diet on the Intelligence Squared Don't Eat Anything With a Face debate. Dr. Barnard and Gene Bauer won the debate, convincing more people in the studio to change their views on this important topic and winning a majority of the online voters. CLICK HERE

Trouble viewing? Watch here

Dr. Barnard’s closing statement:
Let's say your teenage son or daughter says to you, “Mom and Dad, I’ve decided I’m going to eat my fruits and vegetables, but I’m not going to eat anything with a face—and don’t worry, I know where to get my protein. This isn’t that hard." If you were to then look at the numbers and realize that your child's likelihood of becoming obese, having a heart attack, or developing cancer or diabetes just plummeted, you would be thrilled. That is what we are voting for now.

If you were part of an insurance group where your premiums depended on everyone’s state of health, and if everyone in the group decided to stop eating meat, you’d be thrilled.
The world’s strongest man is Patrik Baboumian, who recently lifted 1,210 pounds on an entirely plant-based diet.

The world’s greatest long-distance runner is Scott Jurek. He runs 100, 125, even 150 miles without stopping, and he does it faster than any other human being—powered by a plant-based diet.

On Monday, at the World Memory Championship in England, where contestants can memorize a deck of cards in 30 seconds and perform other mind-blowing feats, the world champion was 25-year-old Jonas Von Essen of Sweden, who was powered by an entirely plant-based diet.

Arguably the world’s greatest brain, Albert Einstein, wrote: “It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.”Einstein continued: "So I am living without fats, without meat, without fish, and am feeling quite well this way. It always seems to me that man was not born to be a carnivore."

A generation ago, we tackled tobacco. And while everyone is free to smoke, we just know we are not going to do it. Today, the issue is food. For yourself, and especially for your children, let me ask you to vote for this resolution: Don’t eat anything with a face.

Want to jump into a healthful plant-based diet? Start now at 21DayKickstart.org.

Interested in learning more? We have all the educational resources you need at PCRM.org/LitStore.


Meditation in the Forest : April 11 – 17,  2014

The regular Pre-Easter retreat Ruth and I present is on in the Yarra Valley again. This year as well as providing the opportunity to learn more about relaxation, mindfulness and meditation, and to deepen your experience of same, the particular focus of the retreat will be on contemplation.

For details CLICK HERE

New Year’s Eve – and the marathon vegans return to Fed Square

Consider this – Janette and Alan Wakelin will complete 365 marathons on New Year’s Eve and will be arriving in Melbourne’s Federation Square that afternoon. The celebrations/welcome will be on from 2 - 4pm.

Maybe if you are coming in for the evening fireworks, maybe if you are simply inspired by their extra-ordinary endurance feat, you could join us in the city and welcome them home.

Details of their efforts CLICK HERE

1 comment:

  1. thanks for sharing your story ILana. Please keep sharing it so more GP's can be more open to what not only makes life worth living but what heals it. we both know that this is not always about living for ever, but this is not what healing is.
    warm regards,
    Michelle Hewitt