Only a Hair Away

Pink wigHow can I prepare to lose my hair?

The loss of hair causes a loss of insulation to the scalp. This can make you feel cold even on the warmest of days. Here then are some tips on how to prepare physically:

Collect a selection of hats, caps, turbans or even several wigs before you start treatment. Wigs tend to be scratchy, so have other options available.

Get one or more turbans. These are especially useful to wear at night. It keeps your scalp warm, and will also collect any hair that comes out while you’re sleeping. I wore one every night until I knew for sure my hair was there to stay. read more

Killer Cells Hunting Down Cancer

Healthy_Human_T_CellSome lymphocytes, which are white blood cells particularly involved in fighting infection, enter the bloodstream before they are fully mature. They go to a small gland called the thymus, situated below the breastbone, when they mature and develop more infection-fighting qualities. When they leave the thymus gland, they are known as T-lymphocytes or T-cells, after the fact that they have been influenced by the ‘T’hymus gland. These T cells have special proteins on their surfaces so that they can deal with cancer and other harmful cells. There are three different types, each with their own responsibility.

    • The Regulatory T-cells help to keep the immune system under control, so that it doesn’t attack healthy cells.
    • The Helper T-cells help the other T cells do their work.
    • The Killer T-cells destroy unwanted cells. They recognise them, and deal with them efficiently.

Don’t we have an amazing body? There are exciting developments in this area where doctors are pumping extra Killer T-cells into diseased bodies in an effort to help the immune system conquer the disease. Watch this video to see them in action. 

Who’s in Control

Hands_of_God_and_AdamI’m sure you’ve  heard about the man who stumbled over a cliff. As he plummeted towards the rocks below, he grabbed hold of a small tree growing out of the side of the cliff.

“Help!” he yelled at the top of his lungs as he dangled over the chasm below. “Help! Is there anyone up there who can help me?” After what seemed like a long pause, he heard a loud voice. 

“Don’t be afraid – I am here.” “

Oh thank goodness!” the man responded in relief. “Who are you?”

“I am the Almighty God,” boomed the response. That sounded like good news. Surely God would be able to help him.

“Quick, what must I do? he screamed.”

“Let go of the branch, and my everlasting arms will catch you.” After a marked pause, the man responded.

“Help! Is there anyone else up there who can help me?”

During my year of aggressive treatment for cancer, I knew that the Lord was in control. I trusted Him to guide my decisions, and to lead my medical team. But I admit, at times, the temptation was strong to call out, “Is there anyone else out there?” The experience of being out of control is frightening. You let someone you don’t know put you to sleep, and trust that the guy with the knife knows what he’s doing. That’s scary.

I knew the Lord was ultimately in control, but I didn’t want to feel I was handing my life over to people I didn’t know. “This is my life!” I decided. “I am taking control wherever I can. I will make decisions, guided by God.” You can do the same. Okay, most of this “control” is in your mind, but in some other posts we’ve seen the power our minds have over our bodies.

Perhaps the most important way of maintaining control is to ask questions. “Why do I need that?” “How will it affect me?” “What can I do to improve the side-effects?” Do you need surgery? Ask what they’re going to do. Seek to understand. Then consciously, with God’s guidance, give your consent. It’s your body. You make the decision to go ahead with the procedure.

Are you about to commence radiation? Do you understand how it works? Have you asked? Obviously, don’t expect to have the same knowledge as the experts. You have to trust them—but you choose to go ahead on the treatment.

If you need chemotherapy, speak to your oncologist about the possibility of a port. There are various types, but all have the same function; to transport the chemicals into your major veins. I know of a number of people who did not have this, and the regular struggle to find veins became a real and unnecessary nightmare. Ask for—insist on—a port. It’s your body.

Wherever possible, ask questions, seek to understand, take control. And of course, don’t forget who’s really in control. The radiotherapists, the doctors, even your oncologist, are only tools in the hands of God. Remembering this will save you many times of panic and turmoil. So, “Is there anyone else up there?” Nope. No one. Why would we need anyone else?  

Power in Praise

Years before my diagnosis of cancer, I lived in beautiful Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) with my husband and kids. The country was in the middle of the so-called “Bush War”, with the security forces on one side, and the terrorist regime on the other.

woman praisingOne long weekend, my husband and I conducted a Christian conference at an out-of-town venue. Dense bush surrounded the conference centre, and we knew we were vulnerable to attack by the terrorists of Robert Mugabe.

Prior to a time of worship, Rob and I spread palm branches on the floor. After reading the Palm Sunday story, we encouraged the folk to use the branches in an active display of praise. They responded with enthusiasm, able to turn their backs on the possibility of nearby terrorists. As we sang praises to God, the dangers and fears of daily life grew dim. Our God was greater than the threat to our lives.

After the conference, we returned to our homes with new courage. In 1997, I faced my own personal war against another form of terrorism: cancer. One day, I remembered that incident from way back. It had worked for us in that situation. It had also worked at other times. But would it work against cancer?

After all, whoever praised God, or anyone else for that matter, for cancer? I admit. At that stage, I couldn’t praise God for letting me have cancer. The best I could do was praise Him that He was still with me. I could praise Him that He had a plan through it all, although I sure wished He’d show me.

One day, during radiotherapy, I started to sing. I sang songs of praise, and muttered prayers of thanksgiving.  As I focused my thoughts on Jesus and not on the machines, I gained courage that saw me through the treatment. Throughout the rest of that year, I kept my eyes open for situations where I could do a “praise attack” against the terror weapon of fear. It worked every time. All I needed to do was gather my courage and make an all-out effort. Sounds easy? Believe me, it was usually extremely difficult, and sometimes I failed to take the initiative. But I proved for myself that praise works. And yes, even in the face of cancer there is usually something to give thanks for. Even if it’s only for the ability to croak out the words, “I praise You Lord. I hate what’s happening. But despite this situation, I praise You.” What can you praise God for today, in your life?  

Visualisation for a Christian

ImaginationI’m a Christian. How can I use my imagination during treatment?

During my year of treatment, I read a good amount about the art of Visualisation. I knew that most Christians frowned on this, labelling it new-age, occult, weird, yet somehow I had a feeling that we were, to use a cliché, throwing the baby out with the bath water. I believed there was more to this subject. There had to be ways to use our God-given minds to encourage healing within our bodies, without entering into the field of mysticism.

Slowly, I experimented and soon found how well it worked for my time under the radiation machines. I decided to share the experiment with my minister husband, who was wary of the subject.

One day, while lying on a rug in the shade of a large thorn tree, I brought up the issue.

“Please allow me to explain what I’m trying,” I said. “Keep an open mind. If you’re not happy with what I share, I won’t bring up the subject again.”

“All right,” Rob nodded slowly. “Fair enough.”

“Well, you know how medical science has proved the effects of emotions on the body?”

“Yes.”

“And you know for yourself that if you dwell on bad things, you find negative reactions within your body right?”

“Mmm . . .”

“Well then surely by deliberately changing our emotions, we should be able to affect our physical body? That just makes sense.”

“Uh-huh…”

“I know for a fact that if I allow myself to dwell on the negative ramifications of cancer, before long my heart-beat speeds up, my mouth turns dry, I start to feel agitated.”

“Agreed. That’s why you mustn’t dwell on negative issues.”

“Well then,” I continued, “If by dwelling on negative thoughts I can create a bad situation in my body, surely by thinking happy thoughts, I will be doing my body good?”

“Yes, I guess that makes sense.”

“If I allow myself to think bad thoughts about cancer, I am using my imagination, right?”

“Yes—but you’re using it wrongly. You’re creating things in your mind which hopefully will never happen. You are facing crises which you may never have to face.”

“Exactly!” I beamed in triumph. “That’s what I’m trying to say. So instead of allowing that, I want to use my God-given imagination to conjure up good scenarios. This can only benefit my body.”

“Yes, I can see that.”

“So where’s the problem?”

“You mean that’s it? That’s all you’re trying to say?”

“In essence, yes. Now look at it in action.”

I reminded him of a chorus we sang with our youth, which speaks of the love of God surrounding us like a sea.

“When I lie on that metal table in radiotherapy,” I said, “I sing that song, over and over again. At the same time, I picture the Lord’s love surrounding me like a sea. I imagine the sound of the waves and it takes my mind off the hum of the machines. “

With that description Rob was perfectly happy and showed no further concern about my “visualisation” during treatment.