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  • Writer's pictureChaitanya Prabhu

Dying and then waking up: Tantra and the Metaphor of Illness

Mother with her children dressed up for Halloween

How often have people died when they were told they had been diagnosed with cancer?! How often have you thought of people as doomed when you heard they have cancer?!

You just got the call with news you hoped you'd never hear. Cancer. What now? Everything feels like it's spinning while you try to process this life-changing diagnosis. Breathe. Take your time. You've got this. While everyone handles a cancer diagnosis differently, there are some practical steps you can take to empower yourself on this journey ahead. This guide will walk you through the day-to-day of living with cancer - from telling loved ones, to making treatment decisions, to taking care of your mental health. You are stronger than you know. Let's tackle this mountain together, one step at a time.

Tantra is about technique: what is the technique of living? Once you realize that, then the technique of dying becomes clear!

Understanding Your Cancer Diagnosis

Once you receive a cancer diagnosis, it can feel overwhelming. Cancer is the worst metaphor of illness! But knowledge is power, so take a deep breath and focus on understanding exactly what you're dealing with.

What type of cancer do you have?

Learn whether it's classified as benign or malignant, what stage it's in, and how aggressive it is. This helps determine the best course of treatment.

How was it detected?

Understanding how the cancer was found in the first place helps you monitor for any recurrence or spread. Did you notice symptoms? Get screened as part of a routine exam?

What are your treatment options?

Talk to your doctor about possible options like surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, or targeted drug therapy. Discuss the pros and cons of each to determine the right approach based on your cancer type and stage.

What's the outlook?

Ask about the survival rates and prognosis for your particular cancer. While statistics can't predict your individual outcome, they provide a general sense of how most people with the same diagnosis fare.

Build your support team.

Having a strong support system will help you get through this difficult time. Tell close family and friends about your diagnosis so they can offer comfort and help. You may also want to join a local support group to connect with others in a similar situation.

Knowing the specifics about your diagnosis and possible treatments helps reduce fear of the unknown. While a cancer diagnosis is life-changing, try to stay positive. With the right approach and support, many people are able to overcome even serious cancers. You've got this! Focus on learning, ask questions, and work closely with your medical team to develop the best strategy for your situation. Together, you will beat this.

Building Your Support Network

Connect with Other Patients

Reaching out to others going through similar experiences can help alleviate feelings of isolation and provide empathy. Search online for cancer support groups in your area or disease-specific groups. Don't underestimate the power of connecting with people who truly understand what you're going through.

Tell Family and Friends

Let close family and friends know about your diagnosis so they can offer support. Be open and honest about your condition and any needs you may have. Your true support network will step up to help drive you to appointments, bring meals, or simply lend an ear. Accepting help from others allows them to support you in a meaningful way during this difficult time.

Seek Counseling or Therapy

Speaking with a counselor or therapist trained in helping those with medical issues can help you cope emotionally. A professional can provide advice for managing stress and negative thoughts in a healthy way. Don't hesitate to ask your doctor for a referral to counseling services.

Rely on Your Medical Team

Your oncologists and nurses are there to treat you physically and provide information, but they can also offer support. Don't be afraid to ask questions, express fears or concerns, and lean on these professionals. Let them know if you need extra resources to help you through treatment. They handle cancer every day and can connect you with additional help.

Building a strong support system will help lighten the emotional burden of your diagnosis. Don't isolate yourself. Connecting with others who care about you will help you stay positive on the difficult road ahead. Accepting help from those who offer shows them you appreciate them, and allows you to focus your energy on healing.

Managing Your Emotions

Learning you have cancer is tremendously difficult emotionally. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions arise—sadness, anger, fear. It’s normal and part of the process. Some tips to help you cope:

Connect with others

Talk to people who care about you. Call a friend or family member, join a support group, or see a counselor. Sharing your feelings with others in the same situation can help alleviate the isolation. Let your close ones provide comfort and a shoulder to cry on when you need it.

Practice self-care

Make sure to schedule in time for rest and activities that you find meaningful or soothing. Do some light exercise like walking or yoga, read a book, garden, or pursue a hobby. Taking good care of yourself will help you better handle the emotional ups and downs.

Seek professional help if needed

Don't hesitate to see a mental health professional if you are having trouble coping with your diagnosis or treatment. A therapist or counselor can provide counseling and coping strategies tailored to your unique situation. They can also help with conditions like depression or anxiety that often accompany a cancer diagnosis.

Your emotions may feel like a rollercoaster at times. Be gentle with yourself and remember that it's a normal reaction. Connecting to your support network, practicing self-care, and seeking professional help if needed will help you find the strength and coping skills to navigate this difficult time. Staying positive and maintaining hope will also aid your recovery and healing. You have the power to influence your emotional state—use it.

Focusing on Self-Care

When dealing with a cancer diagnosis, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and neglect your own wellbeing. However, self-care should be a top priority right now. Make sure to set aside time each day to recharge and renew your strength.

Get Plenty of Rest

Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night, and take naps when you need them. Your body requires extra rest to heal and recover from treatments. Lack of sleep can weaken your immune system and slow your recovery.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Focus on nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water to help your body function properly. While your appetite may decrease during treatment, do your best to maintain your weight and get proper nutrition. Ask your doctor about supplements or a nutrition plan tailored to your needs.

Exercise Regularly

If you are able, get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Walking, yoga, and light strength training are good options. Exercise provides physical and mental benefits. It releases endorphins to improve your mood, reduces stress and anxiety, and helps combat fatigue. However, don’t overdo it and be sure to get your doctor’s OK first.

Connect With Your Support Network

Spend time with people who lift your spirits. Call a friend, join a support group, or see a counselor. Let others help out by bringing you meals or running errands. Staying socially connected and sharing your feelings with loved ones will help alleviate depression and make the challenges easier to bear.

Taking good care of yourself during this difficult time will help you maintain your strength and emotional wellbeing. While cancer treatment should be a top priority, self-care is also vitally important to your recovery and overall health. Make it a daily habit and you'll be in the best position to fight this disease.

Navigating Day-to-Day Life With Cancer

Daily Routines

Focusing on your normal daily routines as much as possible can help provide stability when life feels uncertain. Wake up and go to bed at your usual times, eat meals at routine times, and try to keep up with hobbies or social activities when you're able. However, be flexible - some days you may need extra rest. Listen to your body and don't push yourself if you're not feeling up to your normal activities.

Work and Finances

If possible, try to continue working during treatment. However, talk to your doctor about any job modifications or time off you may need. You may also want to look into disability benefits or temporary leave options to help with finances. Make sure to stay on top of medical bills and insurance claims to avoid extra stress. Ask friends or family for help keeping records organized if needed.

Side Effects

The effects of cancer and treatment can impact your day-to-day life. Common side effects like fatigue, pain, nausea or digestive issues may flare up at times. Have medications, heating pads, antacids or whatever provides relief on hand for when you need them. Staying hydrated, eating small meals and light exercise like walking can also help reduce discomfort. Inform your doctor about any side effects that concern you or disrupt your life significantly.


Having a strong support system will help get you through this difficult time. Talk to family and friends about your diagnosis and treatment so they understand what you're going through. Let them know specific ways they can help, whether it's bringing meals, running errands or just lending an ear. Make time for social interaction and intimacy with close ones when you're able. Counseling or support groups can also help work through relationship challenges.

The daily ups and downs of living with cancer can feel overwhelming at times. Focus on maintaining as much normalcy as possible, listening to your body and relying on your support network. Make the most of good days, be kind to yourself on bad days, and remember - this is only a temporary part of your life. You have the strength and resilience to navigate each day, one step at a time.


The journey ahead won't be easy, but take it one day at a time. Keep your loved ones close and let them support you through the hard days. This is just another chapter in your life story - focus on each moment, find the silver linings, and know that you have the strength to get through this. It's okay to feel overwhelmed or afraid, but don't lose hope. Take good care of yourself, do what brings you joy, and remember that you're never alone. We're all rooting for you. You've got this.

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