Cancer can bring us to our knees, but it can also exalt us to a place of incredible personal and spiritual growth where instead of just surviving, we are thriving. We can be brought to a state of expansion and awareness that would not have happened without the wake-up call of cancer. That’s what has happened to me. I’d like to share with you some of the gold I have mined from my amazing cancer journey:
1. WAKING UP TO MY DREAM – I first found out I had uterine cancer just before my 60th birthday. Having something growing in my uterus at the time of such an important birthday made me wonder, “What wants to be born into my life?” I realized that I had been stagnating – I’d done the same work for 27 years and was no longer inspired by it. I’ve always wanted to do inspirational writing. That was my dream. I would tell myself, “Someday I will write.” Cancer kicked my ‘someday’ into ‘WRITE NOW!’ It shook me awake and compelled me to take a risk and live my dream. I began writing a newsletter sharing the incredible lessons learned and gold mined from this journey. Is there a dream you’d like to give birth to?
2. GROWTH OPPORTUNITY – I believe that life is all about our personal growth and all about love. I see this cancer growth as a growth opportunity and I want to get the most growth I can from it! I’ve asked myself, “What can I learn from this cancer? What wants to be loved here?” I see the tumor as an energy blockage and I asked myself, “How am I blocking my energy?” I realize that the belly and pelvic area of my body have sometimes been unloved parts of me. I haven’t brought a lot of breath and awareness to the area. I’ve felt shame about some of the bodily functions there. I’ve also blocked chi and aliveness there by clenching in fear. I am now breathing fully into this area, ventilating it with healing energy. It has got my full loving attention. I’m talking to these parts of my body as if they were my beloved children. Is there a part of your body and emotions that you haven’t loved?
3. A ‘GOOD’ CRY VS. A ‘BAD’ CRY – When I found out that the chemo and radiation treatment I recently received didn’t eliminate the cancer, I felt scared and sad and had many a “good” cry. A good cry is when I feel the feeling fully and allow the energy to pass through without putting spin or story on it. This allows it to move through quickly, like a rain shower, and I feel clear and cleansed afterward. A “bad” cry is when I’m circling the drain in a sad story, in a tailspin, like a dog chasing it’s tail of woe, round and round I go and ‘poor me’ down the drain. A bad cry is very draining!
4. BEFRIENDING THE FEELING – Sometimes I am gripped by fear. When that happens I move toward the fear by bringing my awareness to my body, noticing physical sensations such as shallow breath and a tight stomach. Then I name the feeling, saying, “I feel scared.” No spin, no story, simply, “I feel scared.” This automatically helps me breathe more easily. Next I bring loving kindness to the fear, my compassionate witness talks to the fear, saying, “I know that you’re scared. It’s okay to feel scared. This is scary. I’m here with you. I love you. I’ll take good care of you.” More breath and more expansion happen.
5. IT IS WHAT IT IS – One of my greatest learning in all this is to accept that this is what’s happening. Accepting isn’t giving up; it’s coming into harmony with what is. It’s letting go of the contractive energy of regret and resistance, and coming into the expansive energy of surrender. That expansive energy leads to a state of grace where guidance and solutions appear. It’s a state of flow where everything I need comes to me. It’s a state of wholeness and oneness with all that is. It’s a state of being where healing can happen. The words healing, health, holy and wholeness all have the same root.
6. THE HEALING POWER OF PLAY – Singing, dancing, laughing and smiling creates endorphins, enhances the immune system and puts us in an expansive state. Reverend Michael Beckwith says that praying and playing are the same energetic. Chinese healer Chunyi Lin advocates that smiling generates healing love energy. He has a great acronym for SMILE: Starting My Internal Love Engine. Play is also a powerful shift tool when we’re stuck in negative patterns. When I notice my cynical attitude is taking over, I play with it. I give it a name, Cynny, and I exaggerate her grousing. I let her rip! This brings her out of the shadows, into the light, into wholeness, and I expand into the playful, prayful state of grace. We can find humor in anything, even cancer!
7. THIS ETERNAL NOW MOMENT – Knowing that my time here may be limited has galvanized me into the present moment. I want to be fully alive while I am alive, fully here and now. I’m seeing the world through present-moment baby eyes, brand new, drinking it all in. My husband Tom and I look into each other’s eyes, really seeing each other, feeling the eternity of the present moment. When I find myself thinking about the future and worrying, I affirm, “Present moment, only moment.” When I’m fully in the present, time actually expands and it’s beautiful. In truth, right now is all there is. I am here now.
These are some of the gifts that can be found in the wound that is cancer. I think of my tumor as the burr under my saddle that woke me up. I feel more vividly alive and on purpose than I have ever felt before, and I have cancer to thank for that. I encourage anyone who is on a cancer journey to mine the gold from the experience and then share it with others.