Survivor Stories How to Cope - Survivor Meditation as a Path to Healing

Maya Harsaniova  Four years ago, I was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer. As with every cancer survivor, my journey began when I heard my doctor say those three words: “You have cancer.” Little did I know what these dreadful words were about to bring into my life. 

We live in a world that is busy. Instead of being appreciated for our values and who we really are on the inside, we instead are measured by what we have achieved and by our material success. We work, we study, we raise children, earn PhDs, and strive to create careers and accumulate money. Then a cancer diagnosis comes and just stops us in the middle of living our lives. It certainly stopped me. 

While fighting to live, I found myself looking back at my life and questioning my past choices and actions. Did what I was trying to accumulate in life even matter? 

Everyone who is facing their own mortality reacts differently. In my case, I turned toward spirituality. For me, spirituality is that hidden piece of myself that no one can see. It is something we uncover slowly, and only by searching for it. 

I started reading self-help and spiritual books, and I decided to learn to meditate. When I first started out, a regular meditation practice seemed almost impossible to achieve, as I often have difficulty focusing. It was important for me to find the time and, most of all, a quiet place to meditate. 
As cancer survivors, we’ve had to fight so hard for our lives, and now we must heal our wounds.So, I began to sit down, a few times a week, in silence and with my eyes closed. At first, I just let the thoughts flow. I saw them as clearly as a motion picture in my mind. It was difficult to not try to push the negative thoughts away or try to escape from them. I learned to watch them as they floated effortlessly before my eyes. Soon, the negative thoughts began to leave my mind. They simply disappeared. 

It was hard in the beginning. I’ve always been a bit negative, and I used to complain a lot. It was strange to be out of my old routine. It took me a few weeks to get used to this type of meditation, but I persevered and started to see results. When we start learning to observe our thoughts from a distance while meditating, we find the stillness. We find mindfulness, and we connect to our real selves. It is a challenging thing to achieve, and it takes practice. But I believe that the time we dedicate to meditation is worth it.

I learned from meditation that to find balance and mindfulness, it is important to stop amidst all that is going on in our lives and refocus our minds. As cancer survivors, we’ve had to fight so hard for our lives, and now we must heal our wounds. This is not easy. But, even if it’s ten minutes a day or just a few times a week, no matter what we do or how we make our living, meditation can help. It can help us find our “inner self” and the hidden resources we have for coping. It can help us see our lives from a different point of view. It can help make us happier.


Maya Harsaniova is a social worker and stage III breast cancer survivor originally from Slovakia and now living in New York, NY.

This article was published in
Coping® with Cancer magazine, March/April 2018.