Coping with Cancer and Other Illness

A Special Application

Our bodies were not designed to last forever. Thank goodness. Only a bit of reflection helps us realize that immortality would not be suitable to us or to the planet. But a serious illness challenges us and reminds us how much we wish to live. So we set out on a path to overcome our illness, and often it's a confusing path that presents us with complicated choices for which we are not prepared. Coping with a serious illness stretches us and pushes us to the edge of our capacity and then further. But this journey through illness can be an awakening - a deepening of our understanding of ourselves and our relationship to all life. We are challenging to learn how to cope with pain. We are challenged to stay in the present moment. We are challenged to be clear about what's important in life and not to be distracted. Your journey may be unique but you are not alone. Many patients report that their quality of life is actually better since their diagnosis. May you meet your challenges with wisdom and courage.

“You may have been told, 'Get your affairs in order, you have a short time to live' or a favorite of the medical community, 'Your illness is terminal.' Don't believe it. Refuse to give in to that despair. Only God knows how long a person has to live...So decide to live! Embrace hope. Hope heals. It is a decision that always leads to better days and perhaps more of them as well.” -- Greg Anderson


Claire Wineland - It's Just a Disease

Justin Hines: Music from the Heart

Stacey Kramer: The best gift I ever survived

“And a woman spoke, saying "Tell us of Pain." And he said, "Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses understanding.” -- Kahlil Gibran

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Articles From the ToDo Institute’s Resource Library

Japanese Psychology and Purposeful Living

Meaningful Life Therapy for Creating and Maintaining Health and Wellness

A meaningful life can be enhanced by creating and maintaining health and wellness. Taking responsibility for our health we can have a positive affect on our lives and the lives of others.... Initially it will require persistence and diligence, but in time it will become a positive habit that is an aspect of your life. Creating and maintaining health is a lifelong process that can free you up to live your life's purpose to the fullest. Being consumed by poor health as the years go on is not a fate everyone has to endure. By taking time to reflect and taking action needed to live well, you may find you have more energy to do the things you never thought you could do. Letting your health happen to you, is a gamble not worth taking.
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The full text of this article is available to ToDo Institute members only.

Mind/Body Medicine in Japan

Dr. Itami is the founder of Meaningful Life Therapy (MLT) in Japan. MLT is a psycho-educational program that provides guidance, support and skills for those who are suffering from serious illness, primarily cancer. It compliments the patient's medical treatment and is based on the premise that the mind and body are not separate. The patient's attitude and life activity impact on their health. Several characteristics of MLT are noteworthy when compared to efforts in the U.S.
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Keeping the Torch Lit

Dr. Jinroh Itami is the founder of Meaningful Life Therapy in Japan, an educational and inspirational program for cancer patients whose motto is, "I will not live like a sick person." In this article, Dottie Lessard O'Connor displays the same courage and fighting spirit we see in many of Dr. Itami's cancer patients.
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Meaningful Life Therapy

Coming soon.

What We Can Learn from a Toothache

Coming soon.

Basic Principles for Coping with Cancer

Jinroh Itami, M.D.

by Jinroh Itami, M.D. (from Meaningful Life Therapy)

  1. Be active and responsible in the treatment of your illness and the recovery of your health;
  2. Live an active life devoted to accomplishing meaningful goals each day;
  3. Help yourself by helping others;
  4. Learn to cope effectively with anxiety and fear (including fear of death);
  5. Prepare constructively for the time of death.

For additional discussion of these and other principles, see the article Mind/Body Medicine in Japan by Gregg Krech.

Naikan Reflection During Our Illness

“If we have to be ill, let us meet it head on. Let us welcome our illness with open arms. Let us live in such a way that we are grateful that our illness helps us improve our character. We should use the time of our illness to think about aspects of life that escaped us when we were healthy.” -- Rev. Shundo Aoyama

One of the best time to reflect on our lives is when we are struggling with an illness or disease. This is often a time when we become very self-centered and we have the attitude, "Why did this happen to me?" We can become so wrapped up in our pain and discomfort that we lose sight of the care and support we are receiving from the world, even as we struggle with our illness. I often suggest that individuals use Naikan to reflect on a period of time just after they received some major treatment such as surgery or chemotherapy. During the following week, what did your receive from others? Did someone cook for you or wash your dishes? Did others visit you or call? Did you receive gifts or cards? Did you have use of a television, computer, phone or electricity? What did your partner or friends do for you? What did the hospital staff do for you? While you were suffering and in pain, what else was going on? If we only notice and remember our suffering, we create additional suffering - unnecessary suffering.

A sample of Naikan reflection by a person with illness

Recommended Resources

“When illness comes we are shocked for a moment out of our stupor. We see that our time may not be endless and that right now we must say what has to be said, and do what has to be done.” -- Brenda Shoshanna Lukeman, Ph.D.

Thirty Thousand Days

Thirty Thousand Days: A Journal for Purposeful Living

Thirty Thousand Days arrived and after spending some time reading the articles, I must say that you have outdone yourselves. The journal looks great, the articles are terrific and the paper even feels good. Congratulations!”-- Dan Lucas, Arlington, VA

“What an OUTSTANDING issue! I devoured it cover to cover and found each and every article inspiring, humbling and informative. It is a real pleasure to continue receiving this fabulous publication.”-- Jane Skiba, New Paltz, NY



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