The Mind Talk

The Mindtalk
Pink ribbon and hope word in woman’s hands symbolising cancer awareness and mental health support.

As my fellow countryman William Wallace said “Every man dies. Not every man truly lives”. Here is how I turned my death sentence into a life sentence.

In August 2020, at age 51, I found out I was dying. I had just been diagnosed with stage IV terminal lung cancer which had spread to my liver, bones, thyroid and other places. I was devastated; I am a wife and mother of two children who are now 10 and 15. I’ve never smoked and I’ve always had a healthy lifestyle. The news put me in a state of shock; I just didn’t know what the next step was. However, I realised I had a choice with regard to how I reacted to my diagnosis. We have all the tools within us to deal with our challenges; we just need to take some quiet time to listen to our inner voice.

So, I sat down and devised a holistic strategy, adjusting my health and wellness habits, mastering my mind and much, much more. 

Today, I realise facing death has been the greatest gift of life – I have learnt lessons, found a purpose and become a person I never would have been otherwise. When I was diagnosed, I was given 8-25 months. Only 2% of patients with my specific cancer type live to three years. I have been blessed to live this long and have now been in remission for over two years. It hasn’t been an easy journey. Along the way, I’ve had many treatments. Now I’m on two different targeted therapy cancer drugs and lots of supplements and repurposed medicines (drugs which were designed for other purposes but which can also keep cancer at bay). I’ve devoted a lot of time to research, identifying a team of international experts to support my recovery, eating a healthy diet, exercising a lot, and pursuing alternative and traditional treatments.

My key learning is we are our own greatest asset, so we must invest and work on mastering our mind. For me, this included:

  • meditating and listening to my inner voice
  • taking ownership of my healing journey and advocating for myself
  • only doing work that fulfills my purpose.

My mental health journey as a cancer patient has gone from Fear to Hope and eventually to Love.

Fear

When I was first diagnosed, I was filled with fear. However, as I started learning about emotions and cancer, I found that for cancer, a negative thought can kill you faster than a bad germ. FEAR is really just “False Expectations Appearing Real”. None of us know when or how we are going to pass, so worrying about it and predicting what might happen doesn’t help. It stops us feeling grateful and appreciating all the good in our lives. Therefore, I decided to stop the self-pity. It was not helpful to imagine my children without a mother, my husband without a wife, and my family without a daughter and sister. Instead, I replaced my fears with hope.

Group of multiethnic women wearing pink t-shirts giving high fives outdoors representing cancer awareness and mental health support.

Hope

I hoped for a better tomorrow, a better life, and for the cancer to go into remission.

This positive approach worked – I got into remission, and I grew happier and focused on living my life to the full. However, as I continued training to master my mind (still very much work in progress!), I discovered that the opposite of Fear is not Hope, it is Love.

Love

The answer is to love whatever it is you fear. In my case – love your cancer cells; they have sent you a clear message. My fears disappear when I dive into Love and focus on the present. Two and a half years ago, I was in hospital for weeks with a collapsed lung, pneumonia and cancer that has returned and was spreading rapidly. During that time I felt closer to God than I have ever felt. My hospital room felt like a white, light filled cocoon. I now recognise that if being closer to death brings me closer to God (or Source or the Universe depending on your beliefs) and to my true Love nature, how can I fear my passing? I’m learning to live as a soul and see through the eyes of Love and benevolence.

From fear to hope to love, I am now committed to making the rest of my life the best of my life.

Photo Credits:
First image: Stock pc: SewcreamStudio
Second image: Istock pc: Prostock-studio

Shirley Adrain

Shirley Adrain

About the author

Shirley Adrain, 54, divides her time between Singapore, Hong Kong, and her home country, Scotland. A Diversity and Inclusion Consultant and Leadership Coach, she runs a consultancy supporting executives to lead with wisdom and authenticity. As a stage IV cancer patient, she has learned many lessons and now assists other cancer patients to take a holistic approach and overcome their fears.