I must confess I went through a Give Way sign the other day. It was 5.30am, dark and I was in unfamiliar territory. As I followed the curve in the road, I could have sworn I was on a roundabout and had the right of way. After all everyone knows Canberra is full of roundabouts and the airport is no exception. It’s full of them! I was lucky the other driver saw me and gave the horn a blast. But for the whole day, I couldn’t work out what his problem was. It was a roundabout after all, or was it?

My curiosity got the better of me and I went back to check it out in daylight. And then I saw it. The Give Way sign. And I realised with a sinking feeling that while most of the intersections around the airport terminal are roundabouts, despite the curve, this one is not. I gave thanks to the other driver for being more aware than I was. For seeing things differently. I was so sure it was a roundabout, that I was driving with this blinkered mindset. I simply didn’t entertain any other possibilities. They weren’t even on my radar. And despite the evidence in front of me, my self-imposed blinkers prevented me from seeing the reality of the situation. But it was there for others to see and it was only my mindset that blocked me from it.

We talk about this phenomena during the Embracing Chemo programme. How we can approach chemo and cancer locked into a particular mindset, a particular set of beliefs that do not let us see the other, often more positive, possibilities. Many people don’t realise these beliefs affect our decisions and our physiology. Isn’t it interesting that our beliefs can create much of our experience. Because there are many possibilities in life, aren’t there. There for our choosing, if only we could see them.

Many people don’t realise that stretching our minds can be one of the most proactive things we can do to help ourselves make the experience of cancer and cancer treatment that much easier.

I wonder if you’ve ever realised how other people can affect us without us even noticing? And it can be in such simple ways. Sooner or later, everyone’s had the experience of seeing someone yawn and voila! – you’re suddenly yawning too. I even yawned as I was looking at pictures of people yawning to put with this blog. It just seems to plant a seed doesn’t it.

Isn’t it interesting how people can affect us at a deep subconscious level. The truth of this came home to me after Steve and I spent 14 months ‘trying’ to fall pregnant with our first child. A bit over the cycle of disappointment, we eventually decided to have a holiday overseas and look into fertility treatment on our return. So it was we booked 3 weeks away. I was 30 and had never been overseas before. I was very excited! And I guess you won’t be surprised when I tell you that a month after we got back I was pregnant.

Perhaps it was because we relaxed and stopped ‘trying’. But looking back, I now remember my father’s words – ‘make sure you go overseas before you have kids’. And I think the impact of his words are closer to the truth for me. At the time, I didn’t really give them much thought. But a part of me must have. It was as if a deeper subconscious part of me was listening and took it to heart. How easy it was then to give myself permission to fall pregnant once I’d done what Dad had suggested. No doubt the other factors probably helped too.

I noticed the same thing happen as I was going through chemo. The first cycle was easy. A bit emotional, but nonetheless, okay. My beautiful oncologist congratulated me on a job well done. ‘No side effects are compulsory’ he said. He always makes me feel so good. Whenever I visit, I’ve noticed that he waits for me to tell him if I have any concerns, rather than make suggestions as to what concerns I might have. He’s a wise man, and I am grateful for his care. But then it seems I came undone when I went for a check up with other medical staff. Have you ever noticed how some medical staff have no idea about the impact of their words? And it doesn’t help when chemo staff tell you what each drug is going to do to you as they administer it! And so despite my protests, I was asked the usual questions – did you have any side-effects? Did you feel nauseas, did you have diarrhoea? Again it seems a seed was planted. My second cycle was by far the worst I ever experienced. Nausea almost to the point of vomitting, diarrhoea. A complete wipe out. Chemo Monday I called it, the third day after chemo, and it was my lowest point throughout the whole 5 months. This time it hit me pretty hard.

But it didn’t last long. I was fortunate to have therapist friends who worked out what had happened and helped me to get the suggestion of these side effects out of my head once and for all. And I never experienced nausea or diarrhoea again. Each chemo cycle just got easier and easier. By the last cycle I was euphoric! I’d got there and I’d found resources within myself to make it easier.

So now I don’t read the side-effect lists. I pop them away, and if I have a problem I can look into them. I see no point in even entertaining the possibility. After all, how often do we imagine things to be one way, only to find out the reality is something quite different, in every other area of our lives? Each time I have a check up now the medical staff continue to be surprised by my lack of side-effects. But I’m not! And neither is my oncologist. Sure chemo is a physical thing, there’s no getting away from that. But I often wonder how many side-effects occur because a seed has been planted…