Finding Serenity While Battling Cancer

02/22/2013 01:04 EST | Updated 04/24/2013 05:12 EDT
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People meditate during a meeting of Indian spiritual leader Mata Amritanandamayi, aka Amma (Mother) on October 31, 2012 in Toulon, southeastern France for a few days trip in France. Amma, revered as a saint and respected as a humanitarian, has hugged over 25 million people over the past 35 years. AFP PHOTO / GERARD JULIEN (Photo credit should read GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Many of us are familiar with the Serenity Prayer. It is recited at most AA meetings, at least in the Toronto area. This simple, yet very effective verse is relevant to cancer patients and their families and friends.

The first line of this prayer is "God grant me the serenity." This is a rare and precious commodity. A minority of people seem to have it regardless of what life throws at them. Some others, no matter how things are going, perceive their lives as a series of tragedies. Most of us are somewhere in between. Regardless of where you are on this scale, serenity is priceless, especially when you have a life crises like cancer.

During these times, fear can be overwheming and your thoughts are a ceaseless series of awful possibilities. Our minds can work at warp speed occupying every moment with never-ending chatter about our situation. As we grow more addicted to the fear and worry, serenity becomes more and more valuable. Even five minutes rest from the stomach clenching worry is a wonderful experience.

Our modern day world is not conducive to serenity. Even at the best of times, we are inundated with responsibilities and information. Almost everywhere we go there is something that requires and demands our attention. Even washrooms in restaurants have TVs as if the 25 screens in the eating area were not enough. Change is accelerating and it can feel that we are running at top speed just to stay in place.

So what does serenity feel like? Go to a time when you were totally absorbed by something negative. You just could not stop thinking about a situation in your life. We've all been there. Addiction to nicotine, drugs or alcohol, the pain of lost love, death of a loved one, stress and worry about health, work or finances. Any situation where we felt drowned and possessed by something outside of us. Now remember when you had that first hour, that first day when you realized that you didn't think about the substance, the lost love, your health etc. It was a wonderful feeling to realize that you were released from that pain. That is somewhat like serenity.

The first line of the prayer says we need to reach out God (or some kind of higher power) and ask to be granted serenity. If you have cancer and don't believe in a power greater than yourself, maybe it is time to start. It would take a special kind of self destructive pride to not believe that someone or something would have a kind of power that would help us out of this mess. Don't we acknowledge a power higher than ourselves by allowing the medical system to determine and implement treatment?

Activities like prayer, meditation, yoga, group therapy, massage, reiki, and reflexology will help you to become calmer. To make it easier, many of these things are offered for free at cancer support centres. After all if you are working towards serenity you are working away from pain and worry and doing something positive to fight your cancer. Sounds like a journey worth taking.

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