The Heroine’s Journey
"It's astounding how many people have been diagnosed with cancer. What is it 1 in 3? Astounding! I'm seriously beginning to wonder if we are now entering epidemic proportions. It's a bit of a mystery... These statistics are alarming and the last thing we want to do is give anyone false hope, but when it comes right down to it, there are only three choices-chemo, radiation or surgery. One's worse than the other. And once you've had it, there is a huge chance it comes back!”
I didn't know the group of women who were engaged in conversation at the fitness center today. I'm sure they were well-meaning and compassionate people merely chatting as they were preparing for a class. We have all heard similar fears expressed by others on different occasions. The story of yet another's recent cancer diagnosis, treatment, or loss of life is often a topic of discussion among the anxious, concerned, caring members of our community.
I considered interjecting to say that the number of triumphant people in this area who have overcome cancer is just as astounding, that the "exceptional" person with a cancer diagnosis and, in fact, most survivors, feel more secure, self-assured and empowered when they understand and participate in crafting a treatment plan. That there are countless "patients" who take responsibility for their own healing, participate actively in their care and are willing to investigate every alternative, natural and complimentary option that can assist them in the recovery process. I wanted to share that there is no false hope for the person who recognizes that the healthy part of them continues to fight, who acknowledges that only a small percentage of their totality has cancer, who knows that the rest of their being-their inner mental and emotional resources, their immune system, their very life force--is co-operating with their medical treatment. That's truly astounding!
I wonder if we can rise above the premise that those of us who are identified with a serious diagnosis are less fortunate than those who are not. Isn't it often our experience that what initially seems to be a tragedy brings the greatest good into our lives? A crisis calls for change; the call for action can be a positive, life altering experience. How you react to your health challenge is your choice. Many people who have been diagnosed with illnesses consider their situations to be inspiring opportunities for transformation on many levels, leading them to places of awareness, insight, and even mastery.
I contemplated gathering the nerve to share my personal belief with these women: that disease can be healed if we are willing to change the way we think, believe and act. That maybe all we need is a little shift in the way we think about ourselves, recognizing the great truth that we are the architects of our own experience, and that miracles can happen when we are open to literally "change our minds". By changing our perceptions, we can move out of fear and into a state of acceptance and unwavering belief in possibility.
But the sweetest thing about that moment was realizing that there is power and wisdom in remaining silent. Experience is the greatest and only true teacher.
Not very long ago, I had been diagnosed with cancer, and was caught in thoughts that were profoundly more cancerous than my pathology. Fear overpowered me. I anticipated the devastating impact this cancer would have on my kids, my husband, my parents, my students, my career, my finances. I contemplated my low tolerance for pain, the impact and risk of surgery, the best case scenario, the worst case scenario, the agony of long term suffering and the possibility of dying. And I replayed these thoughts over and over again. Then, in a fleeting moment of stillness, a new thought emerged: "I understand the appropriateness of this response, given the circumstances...but how is it working for you?" At that moment, I let it all go. Thank God.
And speaking of God... I did enter into frequent negotiations with the entire heavenly realm, usually at about 4 a.m. each morning!
Days later, as I was wheeled down an insanely busy corridor on my way to surgery, I prayed for a miracle. Suddenly, a woman whom I had never met handed me a card, and graced me forever with these words:
The heroine's journey through cancer requires toughness, resilience, patience and flexibility. During the process of coping with diagnosis, treatment, decisions, and adjustments to side effects, it may be difficult to imagine any benefits. But remember darling, you are not your illness. The essence of who you are is more than your body. Regardless of how you are feeling right now or even how others might perceive you, know that within your body is a free, wise, compassionate and powerful spirit. Trust this power and intelligence and follow your own healing abilities. Whatever is needed will be revealed to you. All is well.
A miracle had indeed arrived...and it came with instructions.
And now, I have promises to keep and several other teachers to acknowledge on the path. I want to pay tribute to a five-year old angel who embraced my life on a gloomy March morning at the The Kingston Regional Cancer Center. This wise little being invited me to put my faith in my "goodness rather than my sickness". I want to celebrate the life of a 77-year old self-made millionaire named Jim, a pilot, a fighter, a kindred spirit, a loving and gentle being whose last words to me were: "I'm rooting and praying for you Canadian." And then there is much I owe to a wonderful, intuitive psychic healer, a wise woman who taught me how to "communicate with my cells" through the joy of dance and music.
In future issues, I intend to share some of their stories, which I'm sure will serve as inspiration for us all.
Today is my birthday. I have reached the beloved age of 53. Ten months ago, after my ovarian cancer diagnosis, I truly had no idea what the status of my health, or my existence, would be on this day. Yet here I am, profoundly grateful, blessed and still recovering into new levels of well-being.
Today, I will not give the slightest attention to conversations of alarming statistics or recurring cancer stories. Rather, I choose to spend this precious day in quiet meditation, looking over this magnificent Grand Strand Paradise.
How fortunate am I to live and walk in Myrtle Beach…empowered by the incredible offerings of the passing waves and graced by the magnitude of an ocean of possibility Today, embracing a moment of peace and gratitude for natures healing gifts, feels far more appropriate than imposing my views on anyone. Everyone finds their own way. All is well.