In my family, when someone’s worried, and trying not to—inevitably, Alfred E. Newman of Mad Magazine, gets a mention. “What-Me Worry?”

Some people end cancer treatment with the label, “cancer free.” Others are in “remission.” And there are those who die from this crazy thing called cancer.

In each case, there can be sleepless nights, with worry about recurrence, or leaving family and friends much sooner than expected because you’re dying. Worry about physical and cognitive abilities not returning quick enough. When will the pain end? Or, does pain mean cancer’s back? When will energy return? Then there’s worry about relationships that have changed during the cancer experience. There may be worries about income, employment, insurance. Worries how hair will come in—Oh, please keep it the same as before—or not. The list goes on. . .

Worry doesn’t help anything. We all know that, but it’s habit. Even if you’re strong willed, when you’re tired, filled with drugs—chemo, radiation— the mind takes the path of least resistance. That’s where habit and the subconscious mind play hardball against the conscious mind. It may be hard at times, but if you’re fed up with worry, find a mantra. Use a short phrase. A word. A prayer. Whatever works for you. If you’re mind goes back to worry (and it will), gently bring it back to your mantra. The mind cannot think two things at once. You are in control.

The purpose of a mantra is to keep your mind focused on something else. In India, elephants are given a stick to hold with their trunk as they walk through the crowded markets. The stick keeps the elephant’s trunk occupied, and out of the vender’s fruit baskets! The mantra becomes the elephant’s stick. (You being the elephant.)


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