Can We Live a Happier Life? by Dr. Zeev Gilkis interleaves understandings about happiness, brain, mind and how to live a better and happier life with a personal story of a diversified career, interrupted by an advanced stage cancer, the battle, deep meditations, and discovering the answers. It contains many short stories and original illustrations exemplifying the understandings and making the reading more fun. It is also a very practical book.
If you want a happier, healthier & more successful life, better relationships, understanding the relevant processes in the brain, using intuition in management and also in daily life and better decision making, this is the book for you! Being happy is a choice!
EXCERPT FROM THE CHAPTER 2
Some 14 years ago I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, stage three out of four, which had probably been developing for years. The symptoms were there, but when one doesn’t allow himself to imagine such a possibility, he disregards the signs. Suddenly, my self-image changed dramatically, from a healthy person to one having an advanced stage cancer. The odds did not look good; my father and both of my mother’s brothers died of cancer. All three stories were quite tragic, which was more or less all I knew then about the disease.
Once I accepted my new status, “I have cancer”, I moved on to the action mode (see Chapter 20. “Stop Worrying and Start Living”, the life philosophy of Dale Carnegie, later in the book). I began studying books and the Internet intensively, and went for numerous consultations. I decided to undergo neo-adjuvant therapy –a combination of radiation and chemotherapy (yes, both chemotherapy and radiation, simultaneously). This is a preparatory regime which is meant to increase the odds of successful surgery.
Chemotherapy mainly attacks fast-dividing cells, a property of cancerous cells. But there are also healthy cells which divide quickly, and harming them, causes unpleasant side effects. Radiation therapy is a local treatment directed at the cancerous area. When it reaches the cancerous cells, it destroys many of them or impedes their further advancement. However “on the way”it also traverses through healthy tissues and may damage them as well, leading to more side effects. After these two preparatory processes, the probability of successful surgery is much higher.
Decisions were made, there was a plan. Before beginning chemotherapy and all this “CRBN”war (Chemical, Radiological, Biological and Nuclear) against “that thing”deep inside my body, I went to Hararit [a mountain community in Galilee, its residents engaged in transcendental meditation] for a few days, to be alone with my thoughts. It is good to be alone with our thoughts from time to time, although I don’t wish anybody such circumstances. Since the Siddhis Course (a type of advanced meditation, see the Meditation Chapter, 19), I grew to love this place which is my favorite to introspect, reflect, meditate and think about life.
I took notes of my thoughts about life and death and the meaning of life. Recently, when I browsed through these notes, I was surprised at how morbid they sounded. I couldn’t free myself from thoughts of my funeral. I realized that we are all here on borrowed time and no one lives forever. The cancer caused me to realize how finite life is. My thoughts were morbid, but at the time I had no idea how all this will end. For my father and uncles there was no happy end. In addition, the statistics were against me. Currently the probability of surviving a colorectal cancer stage three is around 40%, but at the time it was only 30%.
I returned from Hararit stronger, determined to face the cancer and to fight it! I’m not going to surrender, I’m declaring war! But not just a “conventional war”(although the radiations and chemotherapy weren’t exactly a conventional war either). In addition, I underwent all available alternative medical treatments: Chinese medicine, thermotherapy and even sound therapy. Thermotherapy or hyperthermia is a type of cancer treatment in which body tissues are exposed to high temperatures created by focused radio-waves. Research has shown that high temperatures can damage and kill cancer cells. Concurrently some cooling is applied to the skin in order to prevent burns. This therapy is usually less harmful to normal tissues.
A good friend introduced me to two researchers who had found that in animal trials on rats, amaranth showed a very strong anti-cancer therapeutic effect. At that time amaranth wasn’t available in Israel, so I had to order it from Prague. Unfortunately the supplier stopped responding after a severe flooding there. These were difficult times for me. The chemotherapy was disgusting and both chemotherapy and the radiation caused unpleasant side effects. I received the chemo through a port-a-cath, which was implanted under the skin, on the right side of my chest – a convenient “site”where it doesn’t interfere with anything important.
On the internal side, the catheter connects the port to a vein. On the external side, a tubule attaches to a larger container, containing “the drink”–the chemo-drug. Under the skin, the port has a septum through which drugs can be injected and blood samples can be drawn numerous times. This smethod provides less discomfort than the more typical “needle stick”.
There are several advantages to the aforementioned method: the drug (poison?!) flows slowly and uniformly throughout the day and night, as opposed to a daily or weekly dosage which have to be much higher. In this way it’s much easier for the body to “live with it”and fewer side effects are caused. Also the external container can be conveniently attached to the belt, enabling walking around without constraints. In times like that, new thoughts suddenly appear, about the life before, the possibilities “after”, appreciating what we have and swearing that “if I survive I will….” Indeed I made some important promises to myself.
I began to understand what is more important and what is less so. The roots of many of the understandings presented later in this book commenced at that time. It is hard to appreciate happiness, when everything is going well, at least on the external level. In such a time we dive deeper into our mind and soul. After finishing the “preparatory stage”–chemotherapy and radiation –came surgery. The operation was quite long, lasting for many hours. Biopsies were taken and sent out for pathology, in order to confirm clear margins. Clear margins mean that the tumor has been removed and that it is surrounded by a rim of healthy tissue free of cancer cells. This process ensures that the likelihood of a residue of cancer cells is low.
The surgery was successful! Following the operation, I underwent another series of chemotherapy, this time prophylactic, just in case any cancerous cells survived somewhere in my body. Since then I go for a yearly checkup, which appears to be OK. Maybe the crazy pace of life I was living in: Highest priority given to work and career, trying to achieve as much as possible (and beyond…) and a lower priority given to a healthy life-style, the cancer was the warning I needed.
However it was quite an expensive message. These were nine months of struggle, ups and downs, one day optimistic and another day pessimistic, not knowing how it will end. These extremely intensive times are forever imprinted on my mind and have had a major influence on my approach to life: Always seeing the half-full glass, better understanding of what really counts in life and my attitude towards everything.
All these understandings, which began then and have developed during the years through self-search, introspection, studying and thinking, have led to many conclusions about various aspects of life. I am happy to share these understandings, conclusions and practical solutions throughout this book. Today I am healthy and happy, probably much happier than I was before and eventually found the time to write”
Can We Live a Happier Life?! by Dr. Zeev Gilkis is available on: