Sad news, but prostate cancer is treatable and responds well to a variety of alternative approaches, which is what Robert has chosen to do.
NOVEMBER 9, 2008
I HAVE CANCER
We all have cancerous cells, but only in some of us does cancer take up residence, having successfully fended off our immune system.
Cancer. We have an incredible amount of information about it, but still do not know it very well. Billions have been spent on studying it, but very little has been spent on listening to it.
Cancer is not much more than cells gone awry, cells out of touch, cells without natural communication, the lines cut, the messages garbled, the march toward colonizing new territory operationally akin to an army blindly following a blind commander, intoxicated with imperialistic ambition and consumerist frenzy. Cancer is cellular chaos, cellular insanity — in killing its host, it kills itself, with no more intelligence than that of a mass of lemmings going straight over a cliff’s edge. Still, it has something to say.
We’ve had a much-publicized, very expensive war on cancer for quite some time, and we’re not exactly winning. Standard procedures for dealing with cancer, regardless of their sophistication, often only make more trouble; for example, when our immune system gets battered and bombed — as a “side-effect” — by a particular treatment, we’re made more susceptible to cancer occupying us in places other than our original cancer site. And so on. Not that standard procedures aren’t sometimes called for, but we easily tend to overrely on them, frequently being too quick to opt for surgery or chemotherapy or various forms of radiation, not giving our body enough of a chance to heal itself. We are inculcated with the notion that to deal with cancer we must busy ourselves attacking it, fighting it, zapping it, battling it, conquering it — in short, making war on it.
The trouble is, the war that we are making on cancer is itself carcinogenic, providing us with little more than a smattering of Pyrrhic victories.
Yes, plenty of valuable research has been done regarding the biochemistry and mechanics and treatment of cancer, but very little of it has been done in the context of our innate wholeness. We keep looking for the chemical protocol, the synthetic magic bullet — more war! — not realizing that what really is needed is an approach that is truly integrative, including the very best of both conventional and nonconventional treatments. Over and over again, research has demonstrated that various plants cause cancer cells to die in vitro — so why not put a lot more money and energy into studying this, along with the psychoemotional and psychospiritual dimensions of cancer? Why not get at the root of it? Haven’t we already done enough pruning? Isn’t it time for a radically integral approach to cancer?
It’s time we dropped the war — and our overuse of war metaphors — and started listening more closely to cancer, however difficult or challenging that might be. Viewing cancer as an enemy is not particularly helpful, for doing so keeps us too removed from cancer, immersed in fear-based adversarial stances. Cancer cells are cells that have lost their way. They are way, way out of balance. They have no center, other than that of the densest sort of mob mentality. They give growth a bad name. But we nonetheless could listen more closely, especially given that decades of pushing cancer away have not made it go away. Listen — what do you hear cancer saying?
I’m listening because I have prostate cancer. A couple of weeks ago on a sunny Friday afternoon, I heard the news, looking with Diane and my urologist at the stark printout of the prostate biopsy I’d had a week earlier, which stated that three out of the ten biopsy samples (obtained by punching ten holes through my rectal wall so as to reach my prostate) showed cancer. One of the samples suggested that the cancer may have spread beyond my prostate. The urologist quickly made his argument that surgery — cutting out my entire prostate — would be my best option. Yes, I’d be impotent for the rest of my life, but his job, he brightly said, was to keep me alive as long as possible. Etcetera. We didn’t stay much longer, already intuiting that surgery wasn’t the way to go.
After a weekend of intensive research, I knew not only that surgery was out, but also that I did not want to have any radiation treatment. My intuition was loud and clear. More than a few cancer patients die not from their cancer, but from the treatment of their cancer. Not that I thought that radiation would necessarily kill me, but I sensed with increasing certainty that my prostate cancer could be treated naturally. So I waded and sifted through alternative approaches — and there are an abundance of them! — eventually deciding to take a mix of powerful herbs that had been shown in clinical trials to, at the very least, reduce prostate cancer. I was already very healthy, and had a good diet, but now took this further, ingesting fitting supplements while keeping to a diet that didn’t support cancer.
And, most importantly, I listened to my cancer. It wasn’t hard to decipher its message: Slow down, and not just for a few days or weeks! As much as possible, only put energy into what is truly life-giving. Slow down, now and now and now.
This was easy to hear, but it was not easy to let in the reality of how this would impact my life, especially my work. I have, for a long time, worked very hard doing my psychotherapeutic and group work. It’s work that I dearly love, but now I see that I cannot do nearly as much of it, realizing that the best use of my energies is in training others to do the kind of work I do — and even that may be up for question, as I go more deeply into my healing process.
So I will be cutting back on my groupwork, doing far less traveling, and will be cutting back even more on my individual sessions. Perhaps this will change once my cancer has receded into insignificance or even complete absence; or perhaps not. My intuition is that I will have cancerous tissue until I am consistently slowed down and settled into a way of working that fully serves my well-being.
In all this, Diane is right with me. I am grateful to have such a deeply loving, supportive, and deeply attuned partner. The presence of my cancer has shaken us profoundly, and at the same time has brought us even closer together. The corner I am turning is a corner that we are turning together, in deeply vulnerable, life-affirming mutuality.
I’m viewing the healing of my cancer in two primary and simultaneous ways: restorative and transmutational. It makes sense to me to attempt to restore the natural intelligence of cancerous cells; this means getting a sufficiently powerful mix of nutrients into their domain, along with a clear stream of focused awareness and compassion. The effort to do this brings me into deepening alignment with my needed healing. As I internally “see” my cancer, I keep my gaze both focused and soft, both precise and spacious, energetically sensing, touching, and entering my cancer.
However much my cancer responds to this, it will also be encountered in a transmutational context, meaning that any cancer cells that cannot be restored to healthy functioning will simply be consumed by white blood cells, so that their constituent nutrients become but fuel for new cells, healthy cells, cells that are thriving. Cell death, cell birth. Whatever portion of my cancer doesn’t respond, or respond fully enough, to restorative treatment, will get to provide, through its death, essential substances for healthy growth. This is simple practicality, needing no aggression to be optimally effective. No war.
My cancer won’t let me off the hook until I am consistently living in accord with its message. This is its gift to me, which I gratefully accept.
- Robert Augustus Masters