I had terminal cancer in 1975 and was told that I had just one or two months to live. The tumour was in my spinal cord—in the neck—and as it grew it was pressing the spinal cord against the inside of the spinal canal. My right arm had become paralysed, and my legs were spastic. An operation to remove the tumour had been unsuccessful, and I was told that for various reasons chemotherapy and radiation therapy would not work. Doctors warned me that the end might come very suddenly, any moment, if I coughed or sneezed. I was faced with a reality in which each day was possibly my last day, each hour my last hour.
From then on… it was only me
One thing I knew for sure—for whatever time I had remaining, I wanted to be happy, just being myself. For that reason, unappealing special diets made no sense to me, despite the claims they may help. Each meal was possibly my last meal and I wanted to eat what I really enjoyed. I had to be true to myself, to be real in all that I did. My values shifted. I lived in the present moment and everything I did was for its own sake, because I really wanted to do it. Some things that had seemed important before suddenly weren’t any more. The only important thing was being happy and to me that meant doing whatever I felt happy doing, and not doing anything that made me unhappy.
Two months later, I was still alive; I had run out of time, but I was still alive! One month later I was on overtime, and still alive. I wondered how long it could go on. New Year was five months away and I decided that if by some miracle I was still here, I would celebrate with a vacation in a tropical paradise. What I didn’t know then was how that vacation would save my life. Five months later, I was celebrating the New Year in Martinique, having a mind-expanding talk with a man who was there to teach Zen meditation. He said to me:
“Cancer begins in your mind, and that’s where you can go to get rid of it”.
It was like someone had switched a light bulb on—it was so clear. I knew what he meant and could see how the cancer was a metaphor for things held in and not expressed. I saw how my former lifestyle and way of being had led to me killing myself in many ways. I realised there and then that if I changed my way of being, I could somehow release the symptoms. I could use my mind as a tool to accomplish the changes in my way of being, and in my body. For the first time since I had been given the diagnosis, I was able to consider a possibility of turning around my condition and getting rid of the cancer. I could save my life!
Some things that had seemed important before suddenly weren’t any more
Several weeks later, I listened to a talk about Silva Mind Control [now renamed the Silva Method], which teaches people how to use their mind as a tool. The idea presented was that our perceptions create our reality, and since we choose our perceptions, we can choose to change any aspect of our reality. My consciousness had been the effect of programming; in the same way that a computer produces results based on how it has been programmed. I could reprogramme my consciousness. My perception had been that I was terminally ill, so I had to reprogramme my consciousness to create the perception that I was well. I was not prepared for such an abrupt shift. For some considerable time I had perceived myself as being in a state of deterioration, getting closer and closer to dying. This called for a major change in my thinking. I realised that I could much more easily create the perception that I was getting better and better, until I was eventually well. I knew the turnaround could happen in any moment. It was a matter of turning a switch in my mind, and insisting on knowing it had been turned. I decided that if the moment of change could be any moment, then let it be now.
The shift in my consciousness was immediate, I felt it, and I knew then that I was in a state of improvement. I also knew the importance of maintaining the integrity of my decision. From that moment on I knew that my perceptions had to reinforce the idea that I was now getting better and better, so I would eventually be well. As I ate whatever food I wanted, I told myself it was exactly what my body needed and was asking for in order to accelerate the healing process. Physical sensations similar to electric shocks in my body had previously reinforced the idea that the tumour was growing. They still came, but now I chose to perceive them as evidence that the tumour was shrinking. My mind looked for more and more ways of knowing the improvement was happening.
The shift in my consciousness was immediate, I felt it, and I knew then that I was in a state of improvement
I knew I had to stay away from people who insisted on seeing me as still terminally ill, not from any lack of love, but rather to maintain my own positive attitude toward the healing process. I had to be with people who were willing to encourage me on this seemingly impossible task I had set for myself. Whenever someone asked how I was doing, I insisted on answering, “Better and better, thank you”. And it was true.
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