#113 Having a Strong Will to Live

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Have you ever considered the difference between not wanting to die and having a strong will to live?

In today’s show, I talk about what that difference is, why it’s important to understand, and how you can strengthen your will to live.

It’s very easy to get caught up in so much fear of having cancer that you don’t even realize you’re missing out on the excitement and fullness of life.

Creating that awareness and instilling some simple practices that help you focus on your will to live can make life so much better regardless of how long or short it is.


The Will to Live




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This is Laura Lummer, the breast cancer recovery coach. I'm a healthy lifestyle coach, a clinical Ayurveda specialist, a personal trainer, and I'm also a breast cancer survivor. In this podcast, we talk about healthy thinking and mindfulness practices, eating well, moving your body for health and longevity. And we'll also hear from other breast cancer survivors who have reengaged with life and have incredible stories to share. This podcast is your go-to resource for getting back to life after breast cancer.

Well, hello, and welcome to another episode of the breast cancer recovery coach Podcast. I am your host, Laura Lummer. Thank you so much for downloading this episode. And for listening today. If you are a repeat listener, thank you, thank you, thank you for coming back over and over again. And if you're brand new to the show, I hope you love it. And either way, I would really, really appreciate if you can take the time to leave a rating or and or a review for the show, you can do that wherever you're listening, just scroll down to where to the bottom of where you're listening to the podcast, it's super easy, especially if you're on a smartphone to just hit the stars and type in a quick rating. It does so much for the show. And I really, really, really appreciate it. So thank you to all those who've already done that. And I thank you your support means everything to me. And with that said, I'm going to jump right into this show.

So I received an email the other day from one of my business mentors. And in that email, he asked, What is the one thing that just kills you to watch your people suffer with?

And I knew immediately the answer immediately came to my mind. And it's struggling with living in fear and self-judgment. I guess that's actually two things. But that's what came to my mind. So that it not only came to my mind, then but it's on my mind a lot as I think about how to come up with more effective coaching programs and do better podcast with better information to help you see that these two things this living in fear, and practicing self-judgment, just are just bandits of life, they undermine your life and your happiness, without question every time.

So fast forward, it's that same day. And I was reading a book that a friend of mine gave me that's called kitchen table wisdom. I love this book. It's written by Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, r e m e n. And it's a collection of short stories that have happened to her throughout her career as a physician and oncologist. And these are personal experiences she had with patients and with other physicians over the course of her career that either led to her own growth as a person, or she witnessed other people's growth and healing. And it's just such a great book. I mean, it's really, really powerful.

So I'm reading this book, and I come across this one line that says, what we do to survive is often different from what we may need to do to live. And that really hit home with me. Because in my work, I talk about how the warrior mentality that we adopted during treatment is important to us at that point in our experience and in our life as survivors. And it's also important to our loved ones who are always looking for hope through us. But when we carry that warrior mentality from treatment into life after treatment, it doesn't work. It doesn't work, fighting, fighting, fighting all the time, trying to fight fear, the fear of recurrence, the fear of doing the wrong thing, eating the wrong thing, drinking the wrong thing, putting the wrong thing on your skin, putting the wrong thing in your hair, we get so caught up in the fear of something going wrong, that we don't even realize we're just spending our lives running from death and cancer. And that's just living in a state of self-preservation, rather than embracing the fullness of life.

So the definition of self-preservation, I looked up and it says is the protection of oneself from harm or destruction. It's the instinct for individual preservation, the innate desire to stay alive. Now, that's important, for sure, right? We don't want to be harmed and we do want to stay alive.

But isn't there a difference between staying alive and living a fulfilling life?

I think there is. I think there's a very big difference. And I think the gap between self-preservation in living fully is filled with fear and anxiety. It's filled with all the thoughts of all the things that haven't happened but might happen. It's full of all the doubt about past decisions that cannot be undone. And all the research that Google can provide to reinforce that fear and that doubt.

So let me ask you a question. Why do you think it is that when you go to that Google machine, you search for the worst side effects, and the worst outcomes you could be facing, rather than searching for people who've survived and healed and lived amazing lives, going through the same thing that you're going through?

Think about that for a minute.

It's one thing to be informed and to make informed decisions. But I cannot tell you how many women I speak with, who have a weird pain or symptom, and then spend hours on the computer freaking themselves out about what it might be what it could be when there's absolutely no evidence that there's something to actually worry about. That is living in survival mode. And that is living with fear as your constant companion. And that's the place I'd like to see you move away from.

So let's talk about how you can move from surviving to living fully, from not wanting to die, to wanting to live your best life. In an article published by Stanford medicine called the will to live the author's talk about women who are newly diagnosed with cancer, and those who were outliving their prognosis. And they said, their will to live means and this is a quote, they really want to live, whether or not they're afraid to die, they want to enjoy life, they want to get more out of life, they believe that their life is not over. And they're willing to do whatever they can to squeeze more out of it.

Now, that is an awesome starting point, making the decision to be forward-focused, to have dreams and to have a vision of your future self, and focus on the thoughts and the actions that move you toward those things, and toward that vision. So let's talk for a minute about what gives you a strong will to live, and what you may need to do to move from surviving to living fully.

So the first step is pretty much a no brainer, right? You need to decide what it is you want to live for. Now, for those of you who may be in a relationship, or may have children, your first response is probably I don't want my kids to grow up without a mother, I hear that all the time. Or I don't want my significant other to be alone. But I want to challenge you to go much deeper than that. I want you to think about why you don't want your kids to grow up without a mother.

Do you want to share your life experiences with them as they grow?

To help them through their learning and their struggles and to share in their successes?

Do you want to witness their accomplishments?

Do you want to be at their wedding?

Do you want to take pictures on prom night?

Do you want to see your kids fall in love and graduate from high school?

What is the underlying Why? Why you want them to have a mother in their life?

Do you feel the difference in that emotion just by changing that thought or that statement?

Why don't you want your significant other to be alone? Hopefully, it isn't because some women I know who say, well, they'll never be able to figure out how to feed themselves without me. But why do you want to be there? Do you want to travel to Italy with them? Do you want to be there to see what they look like as they grow old? Do you want to share the experiences of your family with them? Do you want to experience the freedom of doing whatever you want to gather when you retire? And connecting to that real, why? It brings a greater sense of purpose and it strengthens your drive to be there for the things you value in your life. And this is a great list to make.

What are the things you value? You know it's not unusual at all. Sadly, it's not unusual for me to have a conversation with someone who tells me that the idea of having a purpose in life eludes them, and it makes them feel like they're kind of left on the sidelines of life. You know, they're kind of an aimless soul, because they can't nail down this big purpose the big capital P.

So if that's you, I want to lighten your burden a little bit You don't have to want to be the next Mother Teresa or the next Google CEO. Being the best person, mother, daughter, friend, sister, that you can be, that is a purpose. Bringing a smile into the life of every person you encounter, or at least most of the people you encounter. That's a purpose, making the most out of each day of your life until you're 82. That's a purpose.

So here's another exercise for you. Every day, set your timer for five minutes, whether it's in the morning or at your lunchtime right before you go to bed, write out your to-do list. And I mean, your life to-do list.

Okay, so let me give you some examples. So you understand what I'm talking about. Here are some examples from my own, I write this list. Every single morning, I have a journaling exercise where I write my five gratitudes, I write my 10 goals, and I write my life to-do list.

Here are a couple of things off of it. Go to a yoga retreat in Costa Rica. See, my youngest son and my daughter graduate from college. They're both students now. See Niagara Falls, I really want to see Niagara Falls, go to the Galapagos Islands, see the aurora borealis, spend a night in the underwater Hotel in the Maldives. Take a culinary class in Italy with my youngest son, because he's an amazing chef. And we love to cook together, we've cooked together since he was big enough that I could sit him on the kitchen counter and show him how to cook.

So those are just a couple of things that are off of my three-page long life to-do list. And oftentimes, when I'm writing that list in the morning, I think, oh, there's something else I'd like to do. Or maybe I just saw something recently that I thought, oh, that would be cool. And I added to the list. And I'm easily going to be in my 80s before I can even get to everything on that list. And I'm okay with that. Because it gives me that much more of a reason to take care of myself of my body. Because I have a lot of things I want to do and I need this body to get me there and carry me through it.

So let your list be big and unrestricted. Don't question if you can afford the money or the time, just write it and see how exciting it is to have the vision of a full life. And notice how many things are written on your heart, when it comes to writing them down to your heart's content without limiting yourself. And I asked you not to consider any limitations when you write that list. Because we're so good at limiting ourselves. We're so proficient at saying I'll never be able to do that. Or I'll never be able to afford that. Or I'll never have the time for that. But this life To-Do List isn't about how you're going to do things. It's only about what you want to live for.

Leave the HOW out of it, and let the HOW to be up to the universe on how that's going to happen.

You know, spending the night in an underwater Hotel in maladies, I think is like 25 grand a night. I don't have 25 grand a night. But you know what, I'm not gonna worry about how it's gonna happen. I just know I want to have that experience. I mean, how freaking cool would that be? Unless you're like my youngest sister who would be absolutely terrified because she's terrified of the ocean. And for me, that would be unbelievably magical.

So when you have the things you value or dream about writing in the form of a life to-do list, now you can ask yourself, What am I doing today to move towards that future vision of my life?

And some days, it might only be that you're holding the vision. And that's good enough, that's fine. Some days, it might be that you're going to put your Starbucks money into your trip fund instead of into a coffee. Some days, it might be that I'm going to look up pricing for the dream I have. So I can write getting that amount of money into my life to-do list.

Again, it's not about the HOW it's just about what it's about the WHAT you would like to live for. But one thing that's happening when you're focused on your future self and your future life. And your reason for living, is that you're not focused on what if I get a recurrence? Because I'm pretty sure I feel very confident in saying that getting a recurrence is not on your to do list for your future life.

Now, does that mean that you won't get a recurrence? Of course not. There's never a promise of that. But it means you get to live fully now and make the most of every day regardless of what your future holds. So when you start thinking like a person who has a full and purposeful future, you start acting like that person. And you start feeling like that person. When you're thinking like a person who lives in fear of recurrence, there's no way you're enjoying your fullest life. There's no way you're excited about your future dreams and visions because you probably don't even allow yourself that luxury. Or if you do, you probably cut it short with statements to yourself of well, that would be great. But what if I get cancer again? And if you said that to me, I would ask you, is that what you want? And if not, why are you thinking about it? I mean, you can think I want to eat a healthy, mostly plant-based diet so I can feel good and have the energy to enjoy whatever comes my way. Or you can think I want to eat a healthy, mostly plant-based diet, so I don't get cancer again.

Now, which one of those statements gives you a better feeling, one is based on the will to enjoy life. And the other is based on fear.

Jennice S. Vilhauer in her book thinks forward to thrive says that the act and this is a quote, "The act of creating more details around an image of something you want, forces you to generate more mental activity, which increases your drive or motivation to attain it. " And this is a great book, by the way, I think I've mentioned it in another show before, but if not, I'll put a link to it in the show notes for this episode, which you can find at thebreastcancerrecoverycoach.com/113.

So let me give you a personal example that I'm sure you can relate to about how focusing on the detail of something makes you and drives you and motivates you to attain it. Okay, this is a silly example. But I think you can definitely identify it.

So there's a restaurant that's about 20 minutes away from my house this Mexican restaurant, I love Mexican food. And they have a dish that I have never had anywhere else. And trust me, I've eaten at a lot of Mexican restaurants. It may have been on the menu somewhere, but I never saw it. It's called tacos gobernador, and it's spelled g o b e r n a d o r, Gobernador. Oh my god, these tacos are the most delicious thing I've ever tasted. It is shrimp and melted cheese and green chilies. And I don't even know what seasoning is in it. It's like my mouth is literally watering just telling you about it all this podcast right now.

So I love these tacos. I don't even know what else is on the menu because I ordered them the first time I went there, and I get them every single time I go back there absolutely delicious. And so going back to Miss. Vilhauer's example, in her book, when I think about those tacos, or they pop into my head, I start imagining, Oh my god, how delicious they are. The tortillas I think are cooked in some kind of butter or something. They're crunchy and delicious. And the inside is just this melted gooey mix of fabulous cheeses, and perfectly sauteed and cooked shrimp. And I want them when I think about them, I want them and I figured out a way to get them. When they're on my mind. I think oh my gosh, I have to have that taco tonight. It's like nothing else will satisfy that urge once I have fixated on tacos Gobernador. And I'll figure out a way to get to that restaurant and get them.

Now, I bet you have had a similar experience with some kind of food or drink or pair of shoes or something else at some point in your life. You love it, you want it, and you figure out a way to make it happen.

Now, if that works with the little things like food, don't you think it'll work with other things, bigger things in life, like life itself? Of course, it will. And it does. The article that I mentioned earlier, the will to live says that each of us has the capacity to live each day a little better. But we need to focus on both purpose and goals and set into action a realistic daily plan.

It goes on to say this is a quote, "Be bold, be venturesome and be willing to experience each day to the fullest to enhance your enjoyment of life. As long as fear suffering and pain can be controlled. Life can be lived fully until the last breath." Unquote. That my friend is the goal right to live only until the last breath.

So your homework today is to decide what living fully looks like for you. And it's different for each of us and whatever it is for you. It's perfect because it's yours. Don't judge it, or compare it to anyone else's life or desires. And remember I said, there are two things I'd like to relieve you of living in fear and self-judgment. And I realized that moving away from both of those things takes will and effort and practice because it isn't easy. But I also know that you can do hard things, because you're here listening, which tells me you have already done some very hard things.

Now, I would love, love, love for you to come to my Facebook page, just find me as Laura Lummer on Facebook, the breast cancer recovery coach, or join the free Facebook group that's called the breast cancer recovery group. And come and share some of your future visions with me and with our community. Because when you do that we can support each other in making the will to live even stronger for all of us. That's what we're here for. We're stronger together, moving away from fear, moving toward the strong will to live, and the future vision of your life.

All right, my friend, thank you so much for listening. And I will talk to you again next week.

And until then, be good to yourself and expect others to be good to you as well.



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