On 9 January 2009, the cancer site of Cancerstory.com became dormant.
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Healing Setback
- Means Test
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Understanding Cancer
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Cancer Challenge
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Art transforms into compassion
The 8 Overcoming Tools : How to Overcome Your Fear of a Diagnosis of Cancer

Give Yourself A Daily Retreat

The President of the United States has a permanent retreat in the Maryland countryside called Camp David. Many remember the key achievement of Jimmy Carter's presidency as the Camp David Accords. This was the landmark Middle East peace agreement signed by Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat and the Israeli prime minister Menachim Begin. These two leaders of historically antagonistic peoples came together to make peace in the peaceful setting of the Camp David retreat.

Every time I hear or read a reference to the Camp David Accords, I am reminded of the place where they were brought about and how important it is for each of us to have our own regular time of retreat and reflection. Your own Daily Retreat will help you more than anything else I know of to focus your energy and emotions onto your immediate task, which is to recover from cancer and get well.

The seventh Overcoming Tool is the cornerstone of this entire book. Giving yourself a daily retreat, fifteen minutes devoted to personal motivation, affirmation and inspiration for your battle against cancer, is the "how to" formula that will keep you focused on what is really important to you. It is not enough to read this book and make a sincere commitment to focus on the best possible outcome for you. You need a regular, daily, organized plan for keeping your attention, energy and emotions centered on the things you want to do, thereby eliminating from your mind the things you don't want. This includes negative thoughts about worst possible outcomes and other totally useless "what if" kind of thinking.

How To Do A Daily Retreat

Although we associate the idea of a retreat with a peaceful, natural physical setting, you can take your daily retreat right in your favorite chair. Your daily retreat is a quiet time alone that you set aside to remind yourself of what is important to you and to affirm your decision to focus on the best possible outcome as you begin your treatment and recovery program. You will need just two things to get started. First, you need a quiet place where you can sit down for a minimum of fifteen minutes each day without interruptions or distractions. Second, you need a notebook in which to write your affirmations and the other elements I will be describing for you.

As tar as the place is concerned, you may already have a favorite spot where you write letters, read or just sit quietly. If you are thinking about choosing a new place for your retreat, think of a place where you will not only be comfortable, but where you will be least likely to have visitors. Early mornings and late evenings are good times, but whatever time of day is best for you, try to have your retreat at the same time every day. This will make it easier to schedule, especially in the first few days.

You can use any kind of notebook that suits you. You don't have to spend a lot of money. Just a spiral-bound school notebook is fine, but you may want to be creative and shop for a unique size or binding style. Personally, I use a ring-bound notebook with looseleaf pages.

One word about privacy. Keep your notebook as a private tool that you alone have access to. You may occasionally want to write down thoughts and ideas that you might feel uncomfortable about others seeing. So keep your notebook tucked away "for your eyes only."

The key is understanding the process of setting goals and planning for their attainment. Then you can best utilize the techniques of prayer, meditation, affirmation and visualization in ways that are compatible with your values and beliefs. You may use every technique or only one. That's up to you.


Goals are what we are investing our life in. It is important to have written, clear goals. You will be working with the goal of achieving the best possible outcome to your diagnosis. To begin your Daily Retreat, write down the best possible outcome to your diagnosis you would like right now. This may be fluid and have some changes. That's okay.


Prayer is the word that describes our communication with God, a Higher Power or Infinite Intelligence. Prayer, when coupled with thanksgiving, helps us focus our thoughts about our goals and opens ways for attaining them. Keep a list of the things in your life you are thankful for that include people, relationships, career, physicians and accomplishments you have made. Remembering, on a daily basis, the things we are thankful for helps us keep perspective.


The goal of this technique is awareness. When exercised consistently meditation also has the side benefits of peaceful feelings and relaxation. Follow any formula you may have or this simple guide.

1. Choose a quiet place. 2. Sit comfortably. 3. Close your eyes. 4. Relax your muscles from your head to your toes. Concentrate on each muscle group and breathe deeply, inhaling to tense the muscles up, exhaling to relax them. 5. Be aware of your breathing. Let it flow easily. 6. Repeat a focus word such as God or love. Any word or phrase will do. 7. Let your mind flow freely to thoughts of peace. As other thoughts enter your mind, don't resist them. Practice this exercise daily. You will be amazed at how quickly you will feel the benefits of awareness, peace and relaxation. Don't worry if it takes time to catch on to this. Go easy on yourself.


One of the beautiful things about our unconscious mind is that it can "hear" what we say to it. What we are doing with an affirmation is stating clearly and exactly what we want and expect to become true in our lives. By repeating a positive, personal affirmation to ourselves, mixed with a growing belief and expectation of its fulfillment, we are asking our unconscious mind to accept the reality and start its work of turning a thought into reality. Although an affirmation may describe a condition or quality that you desire to bring into reality in the future, it is always stated in the present tense.

The benefits of using personal affirmations are usually felt immediately when they are repeated with heartfelt belief. After all, knowing where you are going is the major part of getting there. And using affirmations is a way of assuring yourself at the deepest level that you know where you are going with your life.


As part of your daily retreat, take a few minutes to create a mental image, a strong picture in your mind, of two things. One, your body's healing system at work. And two, the best possible outcome to your diagnosis. To do this successfully you will have to be willing to use your imagination to create a picture that represents your body's cancer-fighting cells doing their work of destroying the cancer cells.

During the time Elizabeth had to come to grips with an impending second surgery, I sat down with her one day and tried to explain this very powerful technique of visualization. As usual, once she got the idea she turned around and explained it to me in a much better way than I had her. I reminded her that our body has special cells whose only job is fighting disease to keep our bodies strong and healthy. "So the 'good cells' are already inside you, and your job is to encourage them to work extra hard to fight the 'bad cells' that have collected in your tumor," I told her. I asked her to close her eyes and see the good cells forming a big army and fighting her tumor.

Elizabeth closed her eyes, and I could see the look of determination on her face as she started creating her own images in her mind. In a few moments she opened her eyes and said, "Daddy, you were right! I can see the little white cells. And I can see the tumor. And guess what the white cells look like? They look just like the California Raisins!" (The California Raisins were singing animated characters in a television commercial that was aired a lot at the time). Elizabeth "saw" the California Raisins working on her brain tumor. It became very real in her mind because of the power of visual imagery that we are all born with.

Your body will be strengthened every time you sit and quietly visualize the healing process at work and your best possible outcome. You might want to draw some pictures in your notebook as you begin this work of making mental pictures part of your daily retreat. As Wayne Dyer says, "When you believe it, you'll see it." In summing up this discussion of the Daily Retreat, I would say only this, start now and don't quit. Your Daily Retreat is the key action step that brings together all the other Overcoming Tools and provides you with a regular, personalized and private time for renewing and reinforcing your commitment to focus your attention and energy on what you have determined is best for you.

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