BadASS Spiritual Awakening
Doc pointed out the other day that in my quest to give you the facts of my story in these first few posts, I have yet to regale you with the more emotional/spiritual side of my story! This time has been and will continue to be a great spiritual awakening for me! Much of my blogging here will also shed light on this part of my journey. I’ve decided there are no rules on this blog! I write what I feel compelled to write each time and know that those who need to read it will find it. I don’t expect that you will always agree with my approach or my perspective, nor do you have to. In the words of the Big Book of AA, “Take what you like and leave the rest.” Let the woo-woo-ing begin…
First a caveat: I am aware that the spiritual and emotional sides of my journey might resonate with or inspire some people and not others. So let me point out that not all cancer patients agree with the perspectives I am about to share and that is OK! Our journey’s are so individualized. Every single one of us does cancer differently, which is as it should be. We do what we need to do to survive, heal and fight. If my approach appeals to you, wonderful. If it does not, please do not be critical of me OR beat yourself up. Feeling guilt over cancer does not cure cancer! That said, if you are reading this blog because someone in your life has cancer, while I love that you may want to share my experience and I encourage you to do so, please do it gently and in a way that is less suggestion and more observation. “Hey, there’s this blog out there you might find interesting…” Many cancer patients do not like being told how to do cancer, especially by those who’ve never had cancer. Some cancer patients get offended when people without cancer tell them how to do cancer (whether you are well-meaning or not it’s a no-no).
Very shortly after my diagnosis, I read Anita Moorjani’s book Dying to Be Me, which was literally life-changing. Anita, who was dying of stage 4 cancer had a near-death experience (NDE) and came back completely cancer free. She chose to come back to share her experience and wisdom. I highly recommend the book if for no other reason than it is a book of hope and self-love!
The second pivotal thing that happened was I received a phone call from a friend who is also a therapist. He had a conversation with me about the mind/body connection to illness, specifically tumors and what their locations say about our emotions. For instance, colorectal tumors (according to his research) relate to anger and unresolved emotional trauma. To say this was a wake-up call is an understatement! I knew immediately that the information he shared was spot on for me. I literally FELT the truth in his statement and I was willing to accept it. I knew with every part of my being that the tumor in my rectum a.k.a. “Arnold” was somehow very much a manifestation of both my physical, mental and emotional state over the two years before diagnosis (the time it took for Arnold to grow big and strong).
Long story short, I was highly successful and had been living a life full of work, constant motion, travel, stress, socialization on steroids and chaos for years! So much so that I was begging for a break. We joke that I caused Covid because right around that time I said more than once that I needed at least a year off from everything! Whoops!
I also lost my father unexpectedly and tragically a few years before. I was still grieving and yes, underneath it all, angry. I am also a perfectionist with self-diagnosed ADHD as well as a highly sensitive person (HSP) and empath (someone who feels and takes in the feelings of others and the state of the world) who was really struggling with people and politics especially from March 2020, forward. I had become a human pincushion taking it all in. While my mind was tough as nails, my body unbeknownst to me was saying, “Enough is enough!” Enter Arnold.
You may be wondering if I took all this on and then felt guilty for making myself sick? NO! Surprisingly, I did not. Just as I didn’t blame the doctor who may have missed Arnold on my Colonoscopy back in 2019 (read my other article series, “The Making of A BadASS”), I didn’t blame myself either. I don’t know why. I guess I just knew it wouldn’t help my situation. I wanted to be well more than I wanted to be unwell.
At a very deep level, I understood that it was possible that Arnold may have at first been my body’s way of protecting me from emotions I simply couldn’t digest. But then, he went from protecting me to trying to kill me and that meant he had to go!
Was I mad? Angry at having been diagnosed with cancer? Not really. I was probably more numb and then sad initially. At first, I said things like “Cancer Sucks” (it totally does) and “Fuck Cancer” and I even have a huge sticker that says that on my car and by this time we had some very dark humor happening in our house as a coping mechanism. But then it was like someone turned up the light on a dimmer switch and I realized that any kind of negative thinking wasn’t going to make Arnold go away. In fact, it is what fed him in the first place, so I realized I had to learn to have compassion for him, and still kill him. Sounds crazy right? But that’s how it was. It was a shift in thinking that I believe formed my experience with cancer and certainly how I viewed it. Killing Arnold was a mercy killing. It was him or me. I chose me!
Don’t get me wrong I still think CANCER SUCKS and I still say “Fuck Cancer,” and mean it. Especially when I hear of someone on round 60 of chemo, or see it continue to ravage people I care about and when a friend or relative tells me they have been diagnosed. And yes, in that rare moment after a scan when I indulge in a “what if” backslide of overthinking. Internally though, it’s not said with the intention of anger but more with affirmation for what it is, a terrible, ruthless disease that deserves a battle cry. Make no mistake, I embrace the term “warrior.” “Warrior Princess” is fine too! 😂
You should know that I was not born Miss Positivity. While most people wouldn’t think of me as a negative person, I was never ALL positivity, goodness and light. My favorite shirt says, “I am mostly peace, love and light and a little go fuck yourself.” I am human and can be skeptical, judgmental and opinionated (still)! I considered myself to be a positive realist vs. an idealist. I also knew that positive realism wasn’t going to be enough to kick cancer’s ass. I knew I had to BELIEVE and TRUST with every part of my being that I could be cured and that I deserved to be cured, AND in order to believe that I had to adopt a perspective of relentless positivity and hope. So I did. I should say it wasn’t easy, but it kind of was. I won’t say I did it perfectly, oh hell no! Doing it took work and a lot of introspection, but for the most part, once I made up my mind that this was the path to healing, I committed 100%. It just felt right, for me. I’m not too proud to admit I’ve had a lot of help along the way and I am ALWAYS a work in progress!
So, at a certain moment during all of this, while I understood that there was a large and very real tumor growing inside me — I completely rejected the idea that I would die. I knew I had to purposefully CHOOSE LIFE and pull out all the stops medically, mentally, spiritually, physically and metaphysically to thrive and be cured. Did I know for sure that I would succeed? No. That’s where faith and the woo-woo come in. Just like Ted Lasso says, you gotta “BELIEVE.” I knew I needed help to believe that I had a destiny that did not include dying of cancer. Which to me meant that cancer happened for a reason and I’d better figure out what it was in order to take full advantage of that second chance at life I was about to get!
Thus began one of the greatest journeys of spiritual awakening I have ever been on and it continues today. I immediately hired a coherence therapist (this type of therapy was recommended by my aforementioned friend) and a Reiki master. I began meditating morning and night, and though I am not “religious,” I listened to a popular religious leader’s podcast focused on positivity and got good at taking what I needed and leaving the rest, I listened to hour after hour of cancer curing affirmations and DNA repair solfeggio tones like 528 hz. I was also approached serendipitously by a trance medium healer (from the Netherlands) who still works with me today. I wrote, I began drawing, and I decided to go public with my story so that my experience might be of help to others.
Another thing I did was get humble. “I can do it myself” is the family motto wrapped in the double helix of my DNA and yet, I had to become willing not only to ask for help from my partner and love of my life who would become my full-time care partner, but I also relied heavily on the faith of others to help carry me through. This is where having friends and family from all walks of life really helped me — And to those who choose to keep their diagnoses private I say to you — consider reconsidering! The people who know and love you need to feel needed, and sometimes a good thought or a prayer is the only way they can help. I fully believe that the hundreds of texts, cards, prayers, healing meditations, good thoughts, good juju, food and also thoughtful gifts sent my way helped me to get to a cure. (Accepting physical gifts from others can be difficult too, but I’ve learned that this is a love language that others often need to exercise.) I could literally feel love and encouragement daily from all these people! I also relied on the faith of others to get me through when doubt crept in. I have some friends who are very devout in their various faiths and I didn’t hesitate to lean on them and their unwavering faith. I was an equal opportunist at accepting love and grace from others. This is NOT a position I ever expected to be in nor would I have realized how important it was before cancer. I truly believe that my healing was a miracle and a culmination of a completely holistic (mind, body, spirit) approach which included traditional medicine. I also believe without a doubt that all the people I just referenced share in that miracle. I could never repay every kindness (thank goodness it’s not expected) but I can reciprocate with love and healing thoughts should they ever find themselves in a similar situation. I now am a part of a weekly healing meditation circle where I mention those in my life who need healing, and Doc and I keep a “Book of Healing” in order to do the same for others that they did for me. It’s a small way of giving back.
Before, during and after treatment I used Caring Bridge to keep friends, family and loved ones updated and I highly recommend it!
Truth be told I don’t know where I found the strength, humor and even positivity to endure what I went through. I can only tell you that when you are put to the test, you sometimes amaze yourself — I’ve seen it happen with so many of us. I just kept smiling, and Doc and I just kept dancing (literally). I danced before every round of chemo and most of the pictures from that time show me genuinely smiling. I don’t know where it all came from but I am glad it happened that way. I always say I have it better than some and worse than others. There is no comparing cancers or treatment protocols. There is no good cancer or no “better” side effects. They all suck!
One tool I used was that I never believed that my diagnosis was my prognosis, and I rarely if ever said “I have cancer,” rather, I often said “I was diagnosed with cancer.” or “I’m dealing with cancer.” There is a very big difference in those words in terms of what your mind and body hear. I believe our words are one of our most powerful tools!
I am so very grateful that I was able to look upon this part of my life as a stepping stone to a better way, better life, better me 🤞🏼 (still a work in progress every day). I’m not saying I’m perfect or that I did it perfectly. I did what I needed to do FOR ME! I did my best each day according to “The Four Agreements” (Don Miguel Ruiz). Everybody and every body is different and everyone has to do cancer their own way. My way isn’t the way for everyone. Just for me. And for me, I honestly believe there was a gift and purpose in it. There was a reason that I came to this place and was made to face my mortality. I very much feel like I’ve been given a second chance. Maybe the reason is this blog? Maybe it’s the people I encourage to get screened? Maybe it’s the spiritual path I am now on? Maybe it’s something else? I don’t have all the answers yet, but I am still and always seeking, and I am content with that for today.
There will be plenty more of these posts about my spiritual journey. Please SUBSCRIBE to keep reading and join me in the conversation! 💙
It’s the LAST DAY OF Colorectal Cancer Awareness month! 💙 Have you scheduled your colonoscopy yet? Age 45 and up and sooner if you have a family history!
I am not a doctor. I am married to one, but she’s the other kind thus all opinions herein are my own and should not be considered as medical advice. Please, do your own homework, make your own choices and consult your own experts!
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