For those who think I am too Pollyanna, I want to talk about the blessing of cancer.
WHAT??! Yes, you read that right.
Those who know me know that in 2010 I was diagnosed with an early stage of breast cancer. This threw me for a metaphysical loop. Up to that point in my life, I confess I had had an unusually blessed and healthy life. I had not been expecting this curve ball. It completely stopped me in my tracks. It forced me to slow down and take stock of my life. I not only had to figure out the course of my treatment, I also felt this need to know why this had happened. Not only did I want to know what may have caused the mutated cells to multiply, but what was I to do with this experience? In my belief system, things happen for a reason. I wanted to figure out what that reason was.
One thing I realized was I was a writer with an educator’s bent and so it made sense for me to write about my experience. This I did in a blog called The Breast Blog. (http://thebreastblog.wordpress.com) I wrote not only about my physical symptoms, my clinical experiences, and treatment decisions, I wrote about my feelings, my dreams, my therapeutic processing, and my metaphysical musings.
One particularly powerful process occurred in the office of my friend, Betsy. She and I had been exchanging body/mind psychotherapy sessions for a couple of years. In one particular session, I knew I needed to look for meaning in the “death dreams” I had been having. In one dream, for instance, on a blackboard in an office was the word “Deceased.” There was something written after that but a structural column was blocking my view. When I took a step to better see the board, I saw that my name was there, listed as one deceased. In another dream, a character I knew to be me stepped outside a door and was promptly attacked and killed by a wolf.
I won’t go into all the details of this therapy session here (I do go into more detail in the other blog in a post called “The D Word,”) but ultimately I realized that cancer was a gift because it caused me to examine my life more thoroughly. Was I happy with my life? Was there anything I would choose to do differently if I were to receive the gift of a longer life? What changes did I need to make not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually?
As a result of this cancer scare, I finally eventually realized what it was I wanted to do with my life. Or perhaps more accurately, I began to give myself permission to do what, deep inside, I really wanted to do. I began to realize more fully how I had had a bad habit of feeling the need to do what others thought I should be doing, rather than what my spirit longed to do. I began to realize that only I knew what was best for me and my spirit. And it was my responsibility to listen to my spirit’s longings.
I firmly believe that often we find ourselves ill because it is our spirit’s way of forcing us to be still, rest, and take stock. I believe deep inside us, we know what we long to be doing. We just have to have the courage to actually do it. Cancer and other life-threatening illnesses can be a powerful catalyst for acting more courageously.
What are your dearest wishes and dreams? My fervent prayer is that you give yourself permission to follow your dreams. Please don’t wait for cancer or a heart attack to propel you on your path. Start taking baby steps now. Or if you’re really, really ready, take the leap. Claim the life you’ve always wanted for yourself.
May you live your wildest and most precious life. Now.