In April of 2016, at the age of 54, I was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer which had been discovered following a hysterectomy. Friends felt sorry that this had occurred on the back of my 30-year marriage ending in 2014, however, I can say in all honesty that both the separation and the cancer have been blessings on so many levels. Without a doubt, over the course of my marriage, I had become voiceless and powerless, and was not living my souls purpose. As such, the universe, in its own unique way, found a way to get me moving! The Cancer? Well, I have every faith that they have something special in mind for me regarding that as well.
In searching for greater meaning after a cancer diagnosis, it’s natural to begin questioning everything about your life, and what lays beyond. What was the purpose of my life? Where am I going after I die? Is there a God? Why me? Given how healthy I was feeling prior to being diagnosed with cancer, I’ll admit being stumped by the prognosis. To be honest, I was a little angry at first, and drafted a lengthy letter to God asking her to ‘please explain”. That moment of self-pity lasted all of 20 minutes, then I was back to calm resolve. Why me? Well, frankly, why not me?
After 6months of chemotherapy, I still feel as physically healthy and happy with my life today as I did prior to the diagnosis, so I simply can’t feel attached to anything negative concerning the cancer. Am I ‘fighting’ this? Well… no…. and yes. Let me explain it this way……. There’s a quote I love by Mother Teresa …
“I prefer to walk for peace rather than march against war.”
Both statements are seeking the same end result, yet there’s a significant but subtle difference in the energy behind these two sentiments. And that’s how I feel about working through my cancer healing journey. To fight against my cancer simply sounds like a struggle. Chances are it was my internal struggling during my marriage that lead to my cancer in the first place. Why would I want to struggle further? So, I’m walking peacefully and calmly towards doing what is necessary to heal, whatever that might be.
What I do know is, that in the 18 months after separating from my husband, I felt driven to fully trust in a higher power. Driven to let go of the illusion of control. I had been learning to be comfortable in a space of simply being. With certainty, I can say it’s what bought me to feeling at peace with my diagnosis, and ready for the work that would now be required to move through the healing process. That might sound like I’m in denial about my diagnosis and prognosis, yet I’m truly feeling positive. I’m not attached to the past, having done all the necessary emotional healing to bring me to this space of love and forgiveness. Nor am I clinging to the future. Since my marriage breakdown 2 years ago, I have moved from strength to strength emotionally, and even the cancer diagnosis hasn’t been able to shake me or bring me down.
An Opportunity to Be a Truer Version of Me
If anything, the death sentence I’ve been given has highlighted how much of my life I have wasted on silly insecurities. How much time I wasted not living my dreams, and not sharing my gifts with the world because I feared what I had to offer wasn’t significant, or not being prepared to risk failure. I feared the judgements of others. There’s a determination now to be everything I am meant to be, and to hell with anyone who tries to stand in my way. Hang on a minute! …… The only person ever standing in my way was ME ! Cancer has been a blessing. An awakening which has opened me up to stepping into my true self.
Funny enough I thought many friends would “drop off” the radar once I had cancer, but I have found that I have been the one who is more selective about who I surround myself with. There’s such a desire now to only be surrounded by people who I love and with whom I feel a genuine connection. While I was close to my family, there was not a truly deep connection with some, and I now have been given the chance to form more meaningful relationships with them. How joyously rewarding that’s been and it’s allowed my heart to open further! Of the many friendships in my life which emulated the co-dependence of my marriage, I have willingly and lovingly let these friends go. Everything about my life now is taking on a feeling of being more real than it has been in the past.
Throughout my life I have endeavoured to practice what I preach. Most assuredly, my peaceful approach to life and death now is a product of the spiritual work I have already done around death and dying. First through my Buddhist beliefs. Second through the workshops I facilitate on Coming to Terms With Death & Dying (and practicing what I teach in those workshops). And third, my spiritual beliefs regarding life after death, and the love that I know is waiting for me there on the other side. On some deeper level the soul yearns to return home to the source.
In relation to my Death & Dying workshops, I often wondered if I would truly feel at peace when my time came. Afterall, it’s easy to preach something when you have no real experience with it. Well, I can safely run my courses now knowing that I have credibility! See… there are blessings to be found in everything!
A Buddhist Perspective on Dying
Buddhists believe that its important for us to be at peace emotionally, spiritually, and physically, at the point of death. On that basis my Death & Dying workshops have centered around the practice of love, forgiveness, and gratitude as a preparation for the inevitability of our demise! Thus, I endeavour to live a life centered around love and forgiveness. On a daily basis I’m filled with a sense of gratitude! Mind you, I’m human, so I err sometimes, and it can get ugly. However, if it’s true that my time has come, well, quite honestly, I’m ready. I feel at peace in my heart, and grateful for all that life has sent my way.
Buddhists also say that we spend so much time trying to fight off death that we actually miss living in the present. The fact is, death is a part of life. It’s inevitable. When you fully acknowledge and accept the fact that death is a part of life, its amazing how completely content you feel. It becomes much easier to move into a state of presence.
I once attended a Spiritual Care for the Dying workshop at a Buddhist Hospice. We were told that no matter what your religious/spiritual belief, it’s important to believe in it fully. Truly fully. There’s a great deal of peace and comfort that comes at the end of life if you firmly believe that your “God” is waiting for you. Certainly, I had my own spiritual beliefs at the time of attending the course, however in such a setting I did for a moment question the strength of my faith. Not any more.
(If you’re hungry for a deeply powerful Buddhist perspective on dying and death, I highly recommend The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, written by Sogyal Rinpoche. )
A Spiritual Perspective on Dying
I remember the movie Angels staring Meg Ryan and Nicholas Cage. Meg, a surgeon, commented “You know, we fight to save lives, but sometimes I wonder who we’re fighting with“. Bingo. Spiritually speaking, I believe our time of death is already predetermined before we are born. No matter what you do, when its your time – it’s your time. That doesn’t mean you should be reckless with your life. While you might not have control over when you’re going to die, you do have control over the quality of life you experience while you’re here. Don’t waste it.
An unexpected diagnosis brings home the truth that we simply can’t know what lay ahead, so why do we spend so much time focusing our attention on a future in which we have no control? I am now simply at the next phase of my life here and now. The cancer has created so many blessings, and perhaps if I didn’t already have such strong spiritual conviction, I may have missed recognising these beautiful blessed gifts.
Asking The Big Question… Why Am I Here Anyway?
The ultimate goal in all our lives is to be happy. Learning to Love. Practicing forgiveness and daily Gratitude. Serving humanity and the planet with the most genuine of intentions. That might seem like a big task. It actually starts with learning to love yourself and learning to experience joy, by doing what makes you happy. Doing that from a space of true loving intention, by default you naturally begin to radiate that love outwards to all those that cross your path. You quite naturally have a drive to serve humanity. It’s really not that complicated. However, it is by no means an easy task!
You can rest assured that no matter what the future holds, I’m moving forward. Always forward. Between you and me, I’m not planning on saying my goodbyes just yet – I don’t care to be considered a statistic!
I now feel as though my future of inspiring and assisting women on a deeper level is about to take shape and I’m finally on the way to fulfilling my souls purpose. What a wonderfully loving and empowering journey this is!
A Final Word on Support Networks During Cancer and Chemotherapy
An important factor in the journey through cancer and chemo is your support network. In fact, this is applicable in any situation. The most amazing support group made up of family, friends, neighbours, and community surrounds me at all times. Being a fairly solitary and private person, the attention being focused on me after my diagnosis was overwhelming at times to be honest. Having always been so self-sufficient, it’s been an interesting exercise in surrendering control and allowing others to care for me. It’s humbling let me tell you! Another blessing….
People from all manner of spiritual/religious faiths send me love, healing, and prayers on a daily basis. The intention behind all of it is LOVE. A most powerful healing energy if ever there was one.
Sadly, not everyone has a support team around them. If that’s you, I would suggest you avail yourself of local cancer networks, or start a group of your own in your local area. There’s no reason to take this journey on your own. Reach out. In fact, you can reach out to me. I’m here for you.
Much love on your journey… whatever and wherever that might be.