May 20, 2024

Zenith Tranquil

Information treatments and health conditions

A Heart-Centered Approach to Cancer Treatment

3 min read

No emperor has the power to dictate to the heart. —Friedrich Schiller

With the recent news of high-profile cancer diagnoses, including within the British royal family, reflexive responses of fear and grief have spread across both traditional and social media. In addition to the collective concern for those who’ve been diagnosed, there have been a plethora of warnings regarding signs and symptoms of cancer’s arrival and recommendations for check-ups and treatment.

Author Siddhartha Mukherjee refers to cancer as the “emperor of all maladies.” This seems a fitting title for an illness capable of invading the healthiest of bodies and conquering everything in its path. In Harry Potter-like fashion, the “name that shall not be named” cancer is often reduced to “the C word.”

While cancer is often thought of as a disease of modern life, as Mukherjee points out, it is “one of the oldest diseases ever seen in a human specimen—quite possibly the oldest.” Since this tyrant has been with us throughout the ages, one might expect that its treatment would mirror other miracles of medicine that have led to cures. But the historical record of cancer remedies and treatments reads like a horrific tale of terror and torture. From bloodletting to the non-anaesthetized surgical removal of tumors, early attempts to eradicate the menace speak to both the depth of fear it instilled and the dedication of those determined to eradicate it.

We have, of course, taken some giant leaps forward in the understanding of cancer and moved out of the shadows of exploratory and often deadly interventions into the light of scientifically sound targeted therapies. Despite this, any cancer survivor knows that the confirmation of a cancer within one’s body is only the beginning of a dark night of the soul. Personally, I have often repeated the line, “I was never really afraid that I would not survive cancer, but I was convinced that chemotherapy would kill me.”

When it comes to cancer and its treatment, what’s old is new. Despite astounding medical advances, the disease continues to carry a heavy weight and its treatment comes at the cost of living cells and tissues. Anyone who has sat through the first round of chemotherapy and the obligatory recital of the list of possible side effects most likely leaves with the thought that was pounding in my head when I returned for my second session: “I can’t do this anymore.”

It’s far too easy to throw up our collective hands and raise the white flag of surrender to cancer. With more than just a hint of ironic respect for cancer’s shape-shifting nature, Mukerjee, at the end of his book on the disease, points out that it may be “the new normal—and inevitability.” The question, he suggests, is “not if we encounter this immortal illness in our lives but when.” For millions of cancer survivors like me that “when” has already passed.

As millions await updates on the conditions of the members of the royal family, it’s important to remember that countless others will experience this life-altering illness out of the limelight and challenge this emperor with minimal means and support.

This, however, does not mean that they fight alone.

If history teaches us anything, it is that all empires, and those that rule over them, eventually collapse under the weight of their own vanity. Let us both praise and bury Caesar by exhausting all efforts to strip cancer of its power to rob, pillage, and plunder what is most precious: the undying spirit of life that is truly immortal. Let’s do this by living with dignity despite cancer’s attempts humiliate us. Let’s continue to create unity when cancer tries to isolate us. Let’s live from our hearts while cancer confounds the mind. Finally, let’s refuse a “new normal” in which illness reigns and instead live the realization that love is the ultimate conqueror and the heart our true home.

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