Updated: Mar 15
“...cancer is a messenger telling you that some element within you - emotional, spiritual or physical - is not in harmony.”
The Metabolic Approach to Cancer - Dr Nasha Winters and Jess Higgins Kelley
I have heard many people describe or refer to cancer as an invasion, an enemy from outside invading our bodies and threatening our survival. This suggests a random act of bad luck when in reality we know that a cancerous tumour is produced by our own bodies, it’s an outgrowth or a symptom of something else that has gone wrong.
Following my cancer treatment, I heard myself say “Now that’s finished, I want to get back to full health”. However, what struck me in that moment, in light of everything I had learned through my cancer experience, was that I’d never had full health in the first place.
Without addressing what was missing or misfiring within, cancer and I were on a course to potentially meet again. To not do everything to avoid a second round with cancer would be an insult not only to my own sacredness as a human being but to everything I had learnt in the first, and what I was determined to be the last encounter with cancer.
So I made a choice, I chose not to go back.
Most of us don’t know how our bodies work holistically i.e. the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions of what makes us human, let alone what we can do to prevent, mitigate and heal from disease.
We live in a mainly disease treatment rather than prevention world. I’m incredibly grateful for the healthcare that I have access to, which so many in our world do not, but from what I’ve learnt through my cancer experience, I’m seeing how dependent and disempowered this model actually makes us. A 2016 report in JAMA Oncology found that 20–40 per cent of cancer cases and about half of cancer deaths could potentially be prevented through lifestyle modifications. Rather than learn what creates dis-ease and correct it, we assume good health until something goes wrong.
Please, I’m not saying that we ought to attack or blame ourselves for getting cancer, but we are more equipped to prevent or heal from disease than we know, we’ve just never been taught how. When I received my cancer diagnosis I was in the fortunate position of having incredibly supportive friends and family, but the ones who helped me the most were the ‘critical friends’, my mentors, the ones who asked the difficult but critical questions, and held me tight as I worked out the answers.
What I learnt through this experience and the love of others, is not only does happiness not come from ‘out there’ but my pursuit of it was actually killing me. It was killing me because whilst I was busy filling my life with ‘things’, I had only succeeded in papering over the cracks of my despair, and that by ignoring the signs my body was desperately trying to communicate to me, I was rendering myself sicker by the day. My body was accumulating the scars and damage of my emotional, spiritual and mental battles and neglect. These battles were real but I went to extraordinary lengths to keep them hidden from others. And although I did a good job of hiding my inner dis-ease from others, I felt the pain of it every day.
Cancer was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. With the support of trusted people around me, I was able to look more closely at the things I’d tried to suppress and this helped me to accept that although I could keep things hidden from others, the effects of my dis-ease were real. As Bessel A. van der Kolk expressed so well in his book The Body Keeps the Score,
“As long as you keep secrets and suppress information, you are fundamentally at war with yourself…The critical issue is allowing yourself to know what you know. That takes an enormous amount of courage.”
I’m not grateful to cancer but I am grateful to it as a teacher, and to a community of people and mentors who helped me find the tools within myself to choose a different future, they taught me what courage really is. Courage is facing reality, whether you like what you see and feel or not, and choosing how you are going to respond. It’s saying “No” to the stories you’ve told yourself and others, it’s trading ‘My Truth’ for absolute truth and choosing to work with and not against what is natural.
Cancer was the catalyst that enabled me to truly begin to heal, not just from cancer but from years of self-abuse, neglect and damage. It’s a journey I’m still on but I’ve never felt more whole than I do now.
“Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” ― Albert Einstein
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