Patience – What It Takes to Regain Wellness

By Barbara Cunnings-Versaevel

In this day and age, there is an expectation of instant success, gratification, and recovery from illness. Truly, how realistic is this expectation. As I’m moving into recovering from the flu, I am in that gray area where you feel well enough that you want to get things done, but your body simply cannot accommodate your intention.


This feeling of disconnect can occur when going through recovery from cancer. There is that initial treatment phase where you have surgery, radiation and chemotherapy or any combination of these treatments. You recover and the world waits for you to bounce back and pick up where you left off before cancer. However, your body is not ready to do that and may never be able to go back to where it was before cancer.


This calls for patience – tons of patience. I am the first one to recognize that this is difficult. All my life, I have wanted life to unfold quickly. When I think back, it never did. It happened as I lived my life day by day doing routine activities that eventually led to achieving certain goals I had set. Yet as soon as I had reached one goal, another was set, and so life goes on.


The Journey

This process is called life’s journey – not a destination. The same with cancer – recovering is not so much putting cancer in its place as a supreme inconvenience so we can move forward with our life plans, but rather a process of discovery of life’s deeper meaning. Cancer is different than a broken bone or removal of an appendix or something repairable by surgery. Cancer has its root in many areas of our way of life making the journey back to wellness a holistic venture.

As we uncover one area of dis-ease in our life that has led us to this place, in changing course and following this lead, we discover other areas of dis-ease that need attention. It’s rather like peeling a onion, one layer at a time, until we come to the source, the root, of the issue.


Patience to Dig

Patience is required to dig through these layers and uncover what is real and what is superficial and non-essential. A quick answer – a quick solution – would be wonderful, but it just doesn’t happen that way. Our body, mind and spirit need time to process and sort through these areas of our life that we are unearthing. One area may acknowledge a part of the solution which the other parts of our being need time to understand and assimilate. We may find ourselves rejecting the information showing up. Rejecting it because it would require change – change in many ways but mostly in our way of being. Change is never comfortable. Being honest with ourselves is never comfortable either.


Worth the Journey

I totally understand this whole process as I’ve been through it many times over the years since cancer. I often say to people it takes work, great courage and fortitude as well as patience, but it will be the best work you ever do. Most people never get the opportunity to uncover their authentic self – their root or source. Life can be so busy that we live on the surface doing what is necessary to be employed, raise a family, keep a roof over our head, and food on the table. Cancer cuts through all of this and dives a person right into the thick of figuring out what life is all about.

Life is fragile. Cancer destroys our innocence about death and dying. It is right in our face. We are no longer able to shove it aside so we can live as if we are immortal. The gift of cancer – an awkward way to look at it – is the brutal awakening to a reality we would rather not face. In looking at death, however, we learn to value life. All of a sudden, ordinary happenings take on magical and nostalgic meaning. Priorities are now clearly defined. Values are shifted. It’s an opportunity to create the life you were meant to live.


Healing from Cancer is Healing a Life

The work of healing from cancer then becomes less focused on looking for a magic bullet or cure, but rather figuring out how to heal a life that is out of balance or not in sync with your true self. Cancer stops you in your tracks so you have to look at these issues. Some do. Some don’t. Some get second opportunities to learn the lessons when cancer reoccurs.

In reality, life is always offering opportunities for learning. We just don’t pay attention to most of them and carry on as usual. Cancer is hard to ignore. It calls us to take a good hard look at what we are doing with our lives.

Will others in your circle or family be on your same wavelength – likely not. They just want the nightmare to be over and you to recover your normal self. This means that your journey of discovery can be lonely unless you seek out other souls going through cancer who are on a similar path. This is where you will find automatic understanding and support.


Patience – It’s an Ongoing Process

As in setting goals, recovering from cancer and moving into the journey of discovery is an ongoing process. There will always be challenges that are unexpected. New circumstances show up which require adaptation. Life shifts. Change is the constant. Therefore, the focus is on your ongoing and deepening discovery of your inner self in relation to the world around you. It will unfold as it should, not as we necessarily want it to unfold.

There is a saying ‘Lord give me patience, but please hurry’. This describes me. Each day I work to remember that life will unfold. That patience is my friend. That as I work through life day by day, answers will appear often where I least expect them to show up.


With this attitude, I cherish life as an adventure that I can engage in every day. Cancer may not necessarily take you or I out of the game of life. It could be any number of circumstances that will eventually bring us to that point. In the meantime, we can enjoy each day for the gift it is, resolve to make the best of each day, and learn to live in the moment. Stop to breathe and enjoy the view on a walk, appreciate the kindness of a friend, the loving lick of a pet, the beauty of a sunset, and the gift of knowing we have another day to live when we get up in the morning.


We can strive to have the patience required to live a full life regardless of our circumstances. Some days will be better than others but therein lies the lesson. It’s the learning and striving to realize our best self. In doing so, we grow by conquering the many challenges along the way. We become stronger and wiser.


To patience, the great teacher,


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