Originally published September 21, 2018.
"This being human is a Guest House. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice. Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whatever comes because each has been sent as a guide from beyond." - Rumi
You may remember me telling you about my husband’s daily prayer: God, thank you for everything you’ve given to me, taken from me and left me with. His addiction had cost him a lot – a marriage, jobs, friends – and yet he was grateful. Addiction was a guru for Doug and he learned life lessons from things (good and bad) he lost along the way. Those losses helped to shape him into the human being he is today – generous, direct, compassionate — a work in progress.
Over the last year, Cancer has been my guru. What started out with six little words — I’m sorry, but you have breast cancer — propelled me into the next chapter of my life. After three surgeries, eight rounds of chemo and 20 rounds of radiation, I am now cancer free. I am grateful to my amazing team of doctors and nurses, but I realize that healing also “takes a village” outside my medical community. I’m approaching my first “Cancerversary” by reflecting on some of the nuggets I came across on my path towards healing.
1. Trust your intuition. No single approach to cancer is right or wrong; but there is an approach that’s right for you. To find it, I had to block out the other voices besides my own, and find my own truth. Once I was diagnosed, many people offered me comments and advice. Some of them had never experienced Cancer, some had no medical expertise — but they all meant well; they came from a place of love. Some suggested that I not have surgery as it spreads the cancer. Others suggested homeopathic treatments such as CBD oil are better than chemo. The hardest were those who said, “My sister-in-law had cancer … but she passed.” Listening to other people’s advice led to a lot of second guessing for me, and could have been harmful.
We are all different. Your breast cancer is likely to be different from my breast cancer. So my path will be different. I accepted that my doctors and nurses and oncologists had my best interests at heart, and so I built my path from there.
It’s hard not to overreact when you hear your diagnosis. I scrambled to unearth anything and everything that might help my healing. Herbal supplements, vitamins, essential oils. I bought them all. What I should have done is talk to my oncology pharmacist, who told me homeopathic products aren’t a cure-all. I knew that. But I let fear seep into my head and didn’t trust my intuition. As a result, I have a small fortune of vitamins, herbal supplements, essential oils and other over the counter healthcare products in my kitchen pantry.
2. I first read about a cancer posse (personalized support group) in Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips just after being diagnosed. I needed to find my Tribe, love them hard and let them help me. Fortunately for me, the Universe shepherded the right people into my life at that very moment and they each lifted me up through some of the most challenging days of my life. My posse was all cancer survivors; they had walked the walk and they knew.
3. There’s scientific evidence out there that says a body heals eight times faster with exercise because exercise floods the body with oxygen, rids it of toxins and spikes endorphin levels (a.k.a. internal happy pills). I deeply believe that my yoga practice as well as my weekly spin classes (thank you Bob Nemo at Psycle Therapy!) played a HUGE role in how I handled my chemo and radiation treatments over the course of five months. I didn’t always cycle as hard as I would have liked or teach the more strenuous yoga classes, but I did it!
4. Anyone who’s rooted in Recovery knows the saying; “You have to give it away in order to keep it.” It’s called stewardship and I believe it holds true in Survivorship, too. For me, there is nothing more uplifting than interacting with a long-term survivor. Their stories comfort me. A few decades ago, most people felt the need to keep their cancer a secret and once treatment was over never speak of it again. Thankfully, many more survivors today want to share their own stories of how they were touched by Cancer. Right after I talked about my own Cancer diagnosis, many yoga students quietly spoke to me about how they — or their mothers or husbands or sisters — had battled and beaten cancer. Each story helped my spirit glow so brightly that my dark and despairing thoughts quieted. And their stories inspired me to launch our now annual NamaSlay Cancer event.
As you read this, I hope you always choose to honor your own story, whether it embraces Cancer or not, because it made you who you are. My story is beautiful and crooked — just as it should be.
George Bernard Shaw wrote; “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one.” Funny how only God sees the bigger picture of our lives. Everything happens for a reason. Everything turns out as it should. Just Slayin’!