For Julia Dreyfus and the other 1 out of 8 women…

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Julia Dreyfus’ courageous announcement of her diagnosis, I share insights from my five-year healing journey.  Please pass on to anyone you know whose life has been touched by cancer:

5 Tips Upon Hearing A Cancer Diagnosis

…and the one missing piece of dealing with “the news”

May you be inspired to find “a path of hope” through this photograph that my friend Catherine Russell shot in Newburyport, MA.

Once you hear the dreaded “C-word,” and move beyond the shock and terror of a scary health diagnosis, there is another reality to face: your psyche has been forever changed. For many, a loss of innocence occurs, where you discover life as you knew it will never be the same.

Few people, even those closest to you, can fully comprehend the significance of this life-altering moment, and the psychological impact of facing mortality, perhaps for the first time.

“No one wants to hear about your cancer healing journey,” a loved one once said to me. “Start writing about happy things.”

Many people, fearing they could “catch” what you just “got” stay away, if not physically then emotionally. It takes a lot of stamina, courage and compassion to listen to someone wobble their way through a life-threatening disease.

A good friend who I met at the Mind Body Program for Cancer at Massachusetts General Hospital five years ago when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer told her grandchildren this: “I’m not contagious, I’m courageous.” I later asked, and was granted, her permission to share those brilliant words and insightful commentary.

Still, it’s been estimated that upwards of 96 percent of cancer survivors fear recurrence. Trusting your body to stay healthy requires a certain type of vigilance and continual reframe of thoughts, after you have been thrown such a huge curveball.

Sure, I am happy to be alive, and I no longer accept that gift lightly. I take risks to live in the moment, seize the day, and shake up my life in ways I may never have done before getting diagnosed.

I downsized to a small seaside community to experiment with my bucket list item of living in the city, as I had never done that before. I loved renting my condo in walking distance of bookstores, the ocean and local shops and boutiques. Then, I packed up again to move cross-country in an adventure of the heart—a choice I would have never made before cancer.

Simplicity and living from authenticity became my new priorities. As a result, I claimed myself as a creative person, temporarily living a Bohemian lifestyle, versus holding onto the picture perfect-looking, but outdated image of a suburban housewife raising two kids, singularly, post-divorce.

At the same time, I also committed to an extra level of care about all I think and do, what I eat, who I associate with, what types of environments I place myself in and the types of thoughts and beliefs I allow to enter my mind.

Some days, it has felt like a second full-time job taking responsibility for maintaining and improving my health. Yoga, hiking, participating in energy healing circles, learning to grocery shop and cook in new ways, meditating daily, and journaling are extra activities that make up my life now.

For all the effort, I have gained a new vibrancy for life. In some ways, it is sad cancer was my wake-up call to live from a greater sense of gratitude, love, and worthiness and do things I may have never done before my health was challenged. I wish I learned to step it up to a higher vibration of living an easier way. However, the courage and resiliency I acquired as a result of facing my health challenge head-on can never be taken away from me.

Yes, my psyche has been forever changed. On the plus side, I tolerate less trauma and drama and choose life every day. I still have moments of doubt about my longevity, for I’ve learned through being caught off-guard by a cancer diagnosis that there is so little control we have over our lives.

My positive actions of self-care continue to matter. Yet, there is a plan far greater than I can imagine or manage. A deepened faith has become my daily companion.

My health is my responsibility; my mortality is not. I surrender. That is the biggest leap of trust ever!

5 tips upon hearing a cancer diagnosis:

  1. Pause, retreat and ground yourself before making any decisions. Turn off your cell phone, stop discussing treatment options with others, and go within to ask for guidance. Center in love versus fear.
  2. Trust in your body’s innate ability to heal and align with others who hold that possibility for you.
  3. Focus on the end result of how you want to be living your life three, five, ten and twenty years from now.
  4. Start meditating daily, at least 20 minutes.
  5. Begin a spiritual practice whether it is going to church, praying, or reading the BibleThe Course in Miracles, or other consciousness-raising literature or philosophy.

For additional support in developing a mindset for LIVING, I invite you to check out my latest book in development, “Cancer as a Love Story” to be published this fall.

To reserve a signed copy of my book, be placed on the ANNOUNCEMENT LIST when the book is published, or to receive a handout of “The 8 characteristics of long-term cancer survivors,” email me at  

Please put the words “hope and support beyond cancer” in the subject line of the email.  I consistently will be sharing more about the latest in neuroscience, to help you learn leading-edge ways to train your mind to calm and heal your body.  

With love and hope,


May this second photograph below, of the butterfly in the garden, also taken by my friend Catherine Russell in Newburyport, MA, help you find light in the darkness of a diagnosis.

This blog of mine has been published previously nationally at Arianna Huffington’s new company, Thrive Global, and also at The Wellness Universe.


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  • Marj Elliott says:

    Thank you, Gail, for continuing to reach out to other cancer patients and survivors with love, compassion and wisdom.

    Your knowledge and personal journey can touch and help others’ lives so profoundly.

    • Gail Kauranen Jones says:

      Thanks, Marj: I am hoping that the focus shifts from the trauma of a diagnosis to the hope and possibilities for new health and new ways of being and thriving. Kindness and compassion heal. Instead of feeling helpless in supporting one another through life challenges perhaps we could stop instead and ask: What action of kindness or compassion could I do today? Blessings, Gail

  • Gail,
    The health and personal challenges you have faced have been tremendous..Many would buckle and be unable to rise to that challenge but you have! You have walked this path with courage, stamina and an unrelenting determination to not allow these challenges to get the best of you. You are a true warrior woman!

    And yes a true wellness pioneer – Among the first to explore the areas of healing that conventional medicine often skips, namely the mind-body-spirit connection.

    It would be good to remember that when anyone says “nobody wants to hear…” what they are really saying is “I don’t want to hear, I can’t deal with…” They are unknowingly revealing their own weakness and fear of being close to someone who might die or is facing life difficulties they could not surmount. When a person cannot deal with someone’s pain and blocks any connection to that person they are showing they cannot deal with their own pain or any disruption to the perfect little bubble they think they live in.

    • Gail Kauranen Jones says:

      Flo: Thanks for acknowledging my courage and tenacity. The bigger message is that we ALL have the ability to create a mindset for LIVING and thriving. Cancer is often a wake-up call to claim LIFE in new ways. To do so, we sometimes have to walk through some darkness (as you witnessed in my life journey) to release what no longer serves us moving forward in great health–mind, body and spirit. This type of inner work is best done with the love, support and compassion of others. I encourage all my clients–and those dealing with a cancer diagnosis–to surround themselves with people who CELEBRATE them. Hugs and blessings to you for staying with me through my sometimes very intense reinvention post cancer, Gail

  • Gail,

    I consider our chance meeting last month, which led to the opportunity to preview your upcoming book, “Cancer As A Love Story,” as a major blessing.

    Your book helped me climb inside the scary women’s world of breast cancer. I now have a better grasp of the dark side and limitations of conventional medical diagnosis and treatment… as well as the bright side and dynamic possibilities of launching on a new journey toward improved physical, emotional and spiritual health.

    Readers will discover both innovative ancient strategies as well as cutting-edge new alternative healing treatments to help win their battle with cancer. I know your book is destined to touch millions of hearts, minds and souls!

    • Gail Kauranen Jones says:

      Dave: Thank you for your thoughtful comments–and especially for providing a male perspective on reading about a woman’s journey through breast cancer. Blessings to you, Gail

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