I'm sure you've heard the phrase "advocate for yourself" more times than you can count. Yet, in the intricate journey of life, especially when faced with health challenges like cancer, advocating takes center stage. It's not only about wearing a hero's cape; it's about embracing the power within to navigate the twists and turns of a diagnosis. Being your own champion is an empowering journey of self-discovery, where you are the coach, as well as the player. It means actively participating in decisions, asking questions and ultimately steering your team (your body) to victory (optimal health).
Unveiling the Hero Within
The journey of being your own champion begins with the unveiling of the hero within. It's not about waiting for a knight in shining armor; it's about recognizing that the armor is yours to wear. Facing health challenges, especially the formidable foe of cancer, demands an internal superhero. This isn't a metaphor; it's an acknowledgment of the strength, resilience, and determination that resides within each one of us. On MOJO Rising’s podcast episode #20 Be Your Own Champion, special guest and two-time cancer thriver, Jennie Smith joined host Julie Stevens to talk about her journey with breast cancer. Jennie said,
“Cancer is not a death sentence, but it’s a life sentence…it’s the catalyst to change your life.”
This idea could not be more true. While it’s an unfortunate wake up call, a cancer diagnosis will force you to change your life. It will make you realize that you need to do something different, and that your body is capable of adapting to this challenge.
Empowerment through Self-Discovery
The path to being your own champion is paved with self-discovery. It's includes understanding your body, its signals, and the unique dance it performs. This journey isn't a solo act; it's a collaboration within yourself. It involves discovering the intricate connection between mind, body, and spirit, and realizing the potency of your role not just as a player but as the coach. As Jennie Smith said,
“If my body can build this disease, my body can work towards healing it.”
For Jennie, this meant advocating for herself to find the best course of treatment. She was diagnosed with breast cancer twice. The first time, she went along with her oncologist’s recommendations, apart from some diet/lifestyle/environmental changes. Chemotherapy did its job and the cancer cleared up. However, the second time she knew chemotherapy wasn’t the only way. When her doctor at one of the best cancer institutions in Texas told her to get in touch with hospice, she immediately decided she needed to take matters into her own hands.
The Coach and The Player
Advocating for yourself means actively engaging in decisions regarding your well-being. It's about being curious, asking the right questions, and staying informed. Your body becomes your team, and as the coach, you have to lead it to victory, one decision at a time. Staying on this baseball metaphor, think about the different positions on a baseball team. Each player trains specifically for their role. For example, an outfielder practices long, precise throws and quick reaction time. A catcher, however, might practice, well, catching hardballs, as well as building leg strength to sustain constant squatting. The point is, they each have their expertise. Well, your team (your body, in this case) is entitled to the same. Your lymphatic system deserves a lymphatic massage therapist. Your spine should be treated to a chiropractor. Even your gut has the right to get special attention from a functional medicine professional. As the coach, it’s your job to find this group of professionals to build up a team of practitioners dedicated to your body's needs.
Steering Your Team to Victory
The ultimate goal of self-advocacy is to steer your body to victory. Victory doesn't always mean complete eradication of challenges, but rather a journey towards optimal well-being. It's about making informed decisions, based on data, and embracing treatments that resonate with you. Fostering a harmonious relationship between conventional and alternative approaches is important here. However, what if that isn’t the popular opinion of those who surround you? This challenge opens up an entire new realm of being your own champion. Your job is to go with your gut (and hopefully your research) and do what you know is right for you. Invest in that energy healer and pile of supplements knowing that you are your own champion. Another thing that Jennie Smith mentioned on MOJO Rising was,
“Our intuition prompts us and I’ve learned to listen.”
The second time Jennie Smith was diagnosed with cancer, she listened to her body and it told her that this wasn’t the end. She chose her own path and crafted a team of professionals to support her journey. So, let your intuition guide you on your health journey. Remember, you are in charge; you are the player, the coach and, ultimately, the champion. Do not be complacent and follow the opinion of one doctor. Seek more data and evidence that what they are recommending is, or is not, the only path to victory.