Cancer is not a name for one disease but over 100. Most cancers are named after where they start in the body. Although, cancer begins in the body, the mind is involved.
People often use meditation as a way to relax and cope with stress and anxiety. The Canadian Cancer Society reports that daily meditation can help lower blood pressure and improve mood in people living with cancer. Complementary therapy like art, writing, music and dance plays an important role in maintaining a healthy mind.
Aliciya Jamal and Mim O’Dowda are two strongminded women who both won their fight over Hodgkins Lymphoma.
Aliciya Jamal is a Western University student who was diagnosed with stage III Hodgkins Lymphoma in November of 2016. Jamal spent a semester away from school and friends for treatment in Toronto.
Jamal played the piano, journaled, and completed an old painting to help her stay motivated during her cancer journey.
“A song I resonated with at the time was ‘Pyramid Song’ by Radiohead. The song is about acceptance and in the beginning the first thing you have to do is accept that you have this disease because if you dwell on the fact that it’s such an issue, it will bring you down.”
She says one of the most difficult mental challenges was accepting her appearance.
“This cancer is gone but I still look sick and that was really troubling for me. I remember sitting outside on my deck with my dad just crying about it. Even though I’m done, I’m not done. I look like I’m not done.”
Mim O’Dowda is the founding co-chair of the London Regional Cancer Programs’ Patient and Family Advisory Council. O’dowda is a cancer survivor of stage 2B Hodgkins Lymphoma. She was diagnosed in 2008.
When O’Dowda was diagnosed her initial reaction was to fight the illness and she was determined to win. O’Dowda used creative writing as mindful therapy.
She shares a poem called “Evil’s Mistake.”
O’Dowda says she refused to look at her tumor to avoid any kind of negative influence and instead she meditated. While O’Dowda approached her cancer ready to fight, some were terrified to face the disease.
“I knew of a woman who was going through the same illness I had. We never ever met, we communicated daily via e-mail or telephone. She was much younger than myself. She had a two year journey with Hodgkins. Literally the minute she found out she was so riddled with fear. You could hear it in her voice, you could feel it in her emails…and…she didn’t make it. Two years later, she passed away and I had the opportunity to speak to one of her oncologists. They had no idea why none of the treatments would work on her…and I often wonder if it was because she was just so terrified.”
Mim O’Dowda is a mentor for new patient advisors, and a patient advisor with the Corporate Patient Experience Committee and the hospital Ethics Committee.
The patient and family advisory council encourages patients to share their stories from their healthcare journey to improve the overall patient and family experience. She was a member of the team to co-design the Patient and Family Advisor Orientation.
The mind body connection plays a key role in fighting cancer. Jamal and O’Dowda believe the journey to healing begins with a healthy mind and remembering that cancer is a name for over 100 diseases, not a person.
“I am not my cancer.”