Positive mindset key to dealing with cancer - six tips from a survivor
Dovi Stern (46) survived aggressive stage 3 bone cancer more than 30 years ago. A positive mindset was key to his recovery. Dovi has since built a life around teaching people the power of the mind, especially those who are facing illness or tough times.
Dovi Stern is a health and wellness coach who exudes positive energy. Inspiring, supporting and teaching other people how to use the power of their mind to help improve their health and get them through serious illness has become his calling.
He was only 13 years old when the tumour and severe pain in his right hip was diagnosed as Ewing sarcoma (bone cancer). "I was told I had a 5% chance of living. Despite that, I somehow knew I wasn't going to die," says Dovi.
For several months Dovi endured chemotherapy, gruelling radiation treatments and replacement surgery for his hip joint. Eight months later he was declared to be in remission.
Living from the inside out
During his illness, Dovi recognised the importance of living from the inside out, largely thanks to a volunteer who visited the children's ward and taught him meditations and breathing work. "I became more aware of the power of my thoughts and how to live consciously. You've got to be conscious of the inner world you're creating for yourself otherwise you go into autopilot, and you start believing the negative thoughts that play through your mind.
"By training yourself to think a certain way, you can create new realities for yourself, like I did as a child. I really want to share how to do this with as many people as possible." These are his tips:
1. Visualise your goal
"The first thing I'd recommend is to figure out what your goal is. Where do you want to get to? And then visualise achieving that goal.
"Visualisations are something you can really have fun with. As a child I used to imagine myself shrunk down and pushing a miniature vacuum cleaner around inside my leg sucking up all the cancer.
"I had fun visualising myself as this character, instead of feeling hopeless in my situation. Create things that keep your energy up, be playful, and help yourself progress in the most positive and enlightening way.
"I did three hours of visualisations every day. I used to close my eyes and see myself being 100% healed in the future.
"You must be conscious of what you want to create in your life. Your inner world is so important. You can get lost in your fears and worries and that becomes what you create. Or you can see yourself as healthy and happy and lock that into reality."
2. Link affirmations to an emotion
"Affirmations aren't just about saying 'I'm healthy'. They are also about tuning into the emotions you want your body to feel in that desired state," explains Dovi.
As a child, Dovi would say the following affirmations to himself over and over: "I feel my body is full of energy. I feel healthy and strong today.
"I would then feel my body going into a different state. Instead of being in a state of hopelessness and helplessness, and just sitting on the bed and unconsciously waiting for someone to give me medicine, I'd get my mind into a place where I could see myself as being strong and as a result I could feel that strength in my body."
3. What do you value in life?
"Most people would probably say they value their family or their jobs. But I want people to ask why those things are important to them. For example, people might value their family because of the love they get from them, or value their jobs because it helps them grow.
"As I child with cancer I really valued health and I would ask myself what it meant to be healthy. Being healthy meant being happy and calm. Then I would do things in the physical world that would make me feel happy and calm, like breathing exercises, watching a movie, or exercising.
"Knowing what you value and how to achieve that is important, because when your values are fulfilled, you feel more connected to yourself."
4. Healing is holistic
"I think it's important to look at things holistically," says Dovi. "Taking care of your overall wellbeing includes staying hydrated and eating a wholefood diet.
"I drink a lot of water and eat non-processed foods that are in their natural form. The benefits of good nutrition are undeniable. The less sugar and refined foods you eat, the better for your system."
5. Find a positive support system
"Find people who can support you in a positive way while you're ill," recommends Dovi. "It's natural for the people around you to be stressed and worried about your condition. But it's important to encourage them to deal with their reactions and feelings more privately or by seeing their psychologist.
"When they are around you, ask them to help take your mind off your illness and focus on positive things. If your support network only talks to you about your illness, that becomes the centre of your life, and you never have any form of reprieve from it."
6. What can I learn from this?
"No matter what situation you're in, ask yourself 'What can I learn from this?' "You can take your pains in life and turn them into your greatest treasures, learning and gaining wisdom from them. Or you can take that pain and create anger, resentment and hatred.
"Your mindset plays a huge role in how you're going to get through your illness, and it will help your recovery. When you focus on the worse parts of your situation, it's just going to make you sick inside. "Use the opportunity to learn more about yourself, and about being in the moment."
Making a positive mindset part of your everyday
"I work with both children and adults who have cancer. For children, cancer doesn't carry the stigma and fear that it does for adults, and they are able to really enjoy and embrace these positive mindset exercises." When Dovi was 20 years old, he visited the hospital ward where he'd spent many months six years previously, to inspire the children there.
"I shared with them what I'd learnt. A lot of the time people just sit back and don't take control. They find themselves engulfed by the trauma they're going through and feel like they're stuck in a nightmare. I wanted those children to know and believe that there were things they could do to help themselves. "Since Dovi has been in remission, he's gone on to have six more hip replacement surgeries and two knee replacements.
"It's been an ongoing journey for me. But I do all the same work to maintain the mindset I developed as a child. I'm probably stronger now than ever before because I make this mindset part of my every day."
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