Cancer is becoming a more and more common disease, also amongst devotees. Infact, it is becoming one of the main causes leading to death. Dealing now with this diagnose for the second time inspires me to try and share some little insights, hoping that it might help others who will be facing a similar situation.
As a rule, this diagnose of cancer is the most horrifying news to people, leading to utter bewilderment, depression and devastation. However, a devotee can nicely turn such material calamity into a wonderful opportunity – a stepping stone to spiritual advancement, to deepening our faith in Krsna, to intensifying our mood of taking shelter. For a devotee everything is auspicious and indeed Krsna’s mercy – even such diagnose of cancer. It is simply a question of our vision and consciousness. Let us clearly remember, sooner or later we will all have to leave this world – with cancer or without cancer. We might be nicely recovering from this disease, but then we might die of a heart attack, or get run over by a car. Having to change bodies is an inevitable fact of life in this material world. We have all done it already so many times – it is actually not such a horrifying thing. It is an almost mysterious transformation into another existence.
Nevertheless, it is our duty to maintain good health, since this body is a precious gift of Krsna so we can use it in His service in order to receive further purification and qualify ourselves to go home, back to Godhead at the moment of death. Thus such diagnose requires a mature and balanced outlook in order to be able to deal with it in a cool-headed way and with undisturbed mind.
There are unlimited factors which can lead to cancer. One of them for example is the high radiation in the air due to WiFi and mobile phone towers. A sensitive person can immediately feel the effects of such radiation. And there are so many other factors – most of them we can’t even avoid in these modern days, no matter how careful we may be. They are simply reactions to our modern ways of life, not following Krsna’s recommendations, and shortening our life span as it is predicted for the age of Kali Yuga.
Cancer manifests in all kinds of ways. There are localized primary tumors where the disease has not spread throughout the body. And there are secondary tumors or metastasis, which are a re-occurance of the primary one, by cancer cells spreading through the blood or lymphatic system and forming secondary tumors in various organs of the body such as bones, brain or liver, etc. Those secondary tumors come within a time span of five years. If a tumor appears later than five years, it is as a rule not related to the first incidence, but a new primary tumor. There are so many different types of cancer cells – fast growing, slow growing, more aggressive, less aggressive, and so many different stages of development. Some cancer cells are feeding on hormones, some don’t. There can be certain dispositions to cancer because of dense tissue of the organ which can have a tendency for calcifications, which can later turn into cancer. In this way cancer can develop wherever the body has some kind of weakness. So the topic of cancer is much more complicated and intricate than the shallow understanding many people have. Often we claim to know everything about cancer – through internet, the one-eyed Guru, without being medically qualified. And everybody is eager to give advice, trying to be the hero who cures the poor, desperate cancer patient. And sometimes people even get upset and offended, when their cures are not given any importance. It can almost be another way for our false ego to strive for recognition – by trying to be the savior who gives the magic cure to cancer..!
A good guideline is that we should only give medical advice if we have solid medical qualification, and if we are asked for advice. No need to give advice unless we are requested to do so. It is a highly personal matter, how we deal with disease – which kind of treatments we turn to in faith and conviction. It is Krsna’s way how He inspires us from within the heart or drives us along through the influence of the three modes of material nature, so we receive what we deserve and are meant to get. It takes a lot of time and energy when we as the patient have to educate all those well-meaning advisors who think they know the perfect cure, but have no real understanding of the topic. And as usual, in this material world we will find so many contradicting opinions and theories. This is how maya acts, throwing us into the deep and dark regions of bewilderment and making us lose sight of the actual spiritual perspective.
When the diagnose of cancer hits us, we experience a sobering wake-up call. It might take some time to come to terms with it, and accept the facts of reality. We might struggle with a tendency for denial – no, can’t be! How can this happen to me…?! And the mind and false ego object. One of the main challenges is having to let go of so many of our wonderful plans, and having to accept Krsna’s plan. And this is such a healthy and important exercise, since we will have to go through the same challenge when facing death. At that point it will be a more final exercise, whereas now it is a more temporary one, since Krsna will allow us again to make further plans – for some time. And we all have our attachments to our plans! Naturally, as a traveling preaching we are attached to our traveling schedule – all the wonderful places we want to visit in this world to serve the devotees. And because some subtle gratification comes along, we develop attachment to our plans. It is a challenge for the false ego to come to terms, that we will have to cancel all those wonderful plans and let go of them. The false ego certainly doesn’t like it, and objects. We might for some time keep ourselves in this hope and illusion, that we can still maintain at least some of our plans – until we realize that we will just have to let go, and accept Krsna’s plan…..! A devotee is grateful for the opportunity to go through such exercise again and again. Unless Krsna gives us repeated warnings, we can almost forget that time is ticking on, and is gradually running out. We can easily fall again into this illusion, thinking that death will never happen to us. Therefore Krsna is mercifully shaking us up…. As long as we hang onto our plans, there is intense anxiety: will Krsna fulfill our hopes and plans, or not?! Only when we let go of our plans, and truly hand ourselves over into Krsna’s hands, in the mood of saying: “Here I am, Krsna, I am Yours! I am ready to accept whatever You will arrange…!” Only then we will be truly peaceful, because only then we are truly taking shelter.
I have seen devotees getting angry with Krsna when facing such diagnose: “Why is Krsna doing this with me?! I have been serving and worshiping Him for so many years! Maybe He doesn’t even exist – otherwise, how is it possible that He gives me such a situation?!” And we might even lose faith altogether, and turn away from Krsna consciousness. Such response shows that we are not unconditional in our mood of service, but instead have a business deal mentality, trying to strike a deal with Krsna: “I will worship and serve You, and You arrange a pleasant life for me.” It is a mundane approach to devotional service. To be able to turn a calamity into an opportunity requires strong faith in Krsna. We have to have the ability to see Krsna’s hand behind each and every situation. This is what it means to be Krsna conscious: to see every situation connected with Krsna, understanding that He wants to teach us something. In CC, Madya lila 4.186. Prabhupada explains in the purport: “It is said that when one sees apparent unhappiness or distress in a perfect Vaisnava, it is not at all unhappiness for him; rather, it is transcendental bliss.” It becomes transcendental bliss, because Krsna manifests Himself more tangibly as we learn to give up our plans and hand ourselves over to Him….
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