Patience – It’s Part of the Journey

by Barbara Cunnings-Versaevel
When we’re first diagnosed with cancer, there is this urgency to fix this problem. Make it go away. Since we can’t go backward, fast forwarding to ‘cure’ is our most immediate go-to thought.

However, life doesn’t seem to work that way. This thing called cancer is unlike many other types of illnesses and afflictions. It strikes at the very heart and soul of us – those places that others don’t see.

The Journey

Moving into our journey – and it is a journey – is a process. Yes, there is the treatment and surgery phase. In our minds, we’re truly hoping that this is the magic fix and life will go back to normal. We are well.

However, there is more to the journey than surgery and treatment. I still recall the wise words of my surgeon. He said “You will heal from the surgery and treatment fairly quickly; however, the emotional healing will take much longer’. How true!!

I recall the first phase of this journey as being very time-consuming. It was filled with doctor’s appointments, treatments, recovery time from treatments, and rehabilitation. I had no head space for the rest although I was starting to understand the significance of the surgeon’s words. I felt lost in a sea of emotions totally unrelated to the physical aspects of my situation.

Fear Factor

Why? There is the fear factor – fear of dying. Cancer is a life-threatening disease. More people are now surviving – and for longer periods of time – surviving and moving on to lives they never imagined. However, in the moment, I was worried about not being there for my son, who at the time was only 14. I wanted to see him grow up, get married, be a Dad. There was no way I was ready to have my whole life journey end at this time. I remember this burning question ‘Is this all I get?’ It definitely wasn’t enough. I needed more time – I had more life to live.


So, the journey began. Not being a very patient person, I wanted all the answers like right now! But answers came in stages. I’d read some, learn some, and then have to practise it for a while. Meditation was one of the first. My first attempts were abysmal. I was only able to sit quietly for a few minutes, then the fidgets set in and my mind started running circles. It was three weeks before I even got a glimmer of what meditation might offer. My lesson here – the thing I resisted the most and had the hardest time adopting was what I most needed to learn. It took every bit of patience I had to stick with the process, but it worked – in time. Even today, I have days when my fidget person kicks in and I just can’t settle into the quiet place inside.


Nutrition was another place that required patience. I thought I was eating well. On closer observation, though, I noticed areas that needed adjustment. Over the years, I’ve read many theories on what is best for those going through cancer and tried most of them. Some worked, some worked moderately and some not at all. Our body chemistries are all so different. There are the basics – eat lots of fruit and vegetables, grains, less dairy, less meat and by all means, as much organic as we can afford. However, within these guidelines are many variables. It takes practise and changing old habits to adopt new patterns of eating. Over a lifetime, we’ve gotten into routines of shopping and cooking – our favorites. Plus being busy doesn’t always allow for experimenting. Fatigue and taste buds gone amok don’t encourage much experimenting either. But as you journey along, you will find new ways eventually. With patience, that word again, you will find that the old doesn’t taste as good as it used to taste. The other issue is you don’t feel as well on the old foods. Your body has changed along with your way of thinking and being.

It’s a Process

What I’m getting to here is the fact that healing from cancer requires patience and time. The urgency in the beginning becomes a way of life – learning to live differently. It will always be an evolving practise of reading, experimenting and adopting new ways. As you heal, your body will change. So, more adjustment is required.

This is the time when you might want to look at this as an adventure. In truth, all of life is an adventure. There really aren’t any hard and fast rules of how you should live. It’s something that you will discover as you go along finding what fits with your personality, your lifestyle and your body.

The other thing is healing from cancer is never a one step process. It’s a series of adjustments, discoveries, missteps and successes. There is no magic bullet that will magically take away the cancer. I know that’s not what you want to hear. It’s my observation that this society – our culture – wants the quick fix. Just give me something to make me feel better so I can get back to life the way it was. This way of thinking is supported by our family, friends and employers. You’ve had treatment, are recovered from the physical aspects, so now you’re better. Let’s get on with life. You’re good to go.

I’m sure most of you have been exposed to these comments. However, you’re not the same person you were before cancer. Do you really want to return to the life before cancer?

From experience, I can share that you will always be on this journey. The reason is you are engaged in a life journey – a journey to heal your life and in the process give your body a chance to heal. Most people don’t get the opportunity for second chances – the chance to make significant changes and truly find the life they were meant to live, not the life they fell into because of circumstance.

This takes incredible patience to work through the chaos of overwhelm, fear, change, and discovering your new you. At times, it’s tedious and frustrating because the answers are not always glaringly evident. They are often hidden in many steps of unveiling through reading, chance conversations, mistakes, and finally, a light bulb will go off in your head. Ah – now I get it. Insight and patience go hand in hand.

I have a saying that is posted up in my office given to me by my husband. “Lord give me patience, but please hurry!”

I’m sure that may resonate with a lot of you. In moving forward with an open mind, courageous spirit, inquisitiveness and curiosity as well as a good dose of humbleness, a wondrous wealth of wisdom unfolds.

In the coming months, I’ll be sharing the process of wisdom unfolding as it has evolved for me in my upcoming book ‘The 7 Hard Truths About Cancer and Healing: Insights of a Long Term Cancer Survivor’.  Out of the chaos of information overload have come some startlingly simple and not so obvious truths about healing gleaned from the many books I’ve read, conversations with other long term cancer survivors and  healers both traditional and complementary, personal experience, and lessons learned the hard way.

Here’s to patience, learning, and healing.


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