“Okay, you had a cancer diagnosis, you underwent treatment, it’s over. Now it’s time to get on with your life”. As if nothing else has changed. Yeah, right!
I am a Registered Nurse, a Wellness Coach/Cancer Guide. The physician I worked with as a research coordinator had made the above statement to me. When I responded to him by stating I felt the need for more time in order to process the whole experience and look at some mind-body-spiritual issues that were coming up for me, he was less than understanding. He just didn’t have any sense of what I might be talking about. He just wanted me back to work. But, I refused to take any of that personally! He just wasn’t at a stage that would enable him to see the deeper meaning; that is, beyond the medical model. He didn’t understand the concept that ‘dis-ease’ can stem from a spiritual disconnect; I knew I needed to feed my soul!
The ‘current medical model’ had betrayed me. I had had regular annual women’s exams (PAP smears). My physician of 20 years knew me well. He knew I was ‘into’ integrative, or complementary and alternative healing. But, he took it upon himself to tell me my PAP smears for the past several years were all normal, when indeed they were not. I found out later when I requested my past records, that each test result was a little more threatening. He had decided I didn’t need to know anything until the result became a cancer diagnosis, “because there was nothing to do for the abnormality until it became time for a hysterectomy”. Well. That was not an accurate assessment, even in the western medical model! He had even gone against the recommendations for follow-up of my early diagnoses outlined by the very hospital he was affiliated with. And, I was angry!
Yes, I had reason to be angry. But, I knew that anger would only serve to worsen my health unless I could find a way to forgive. Not forget, but forgive. I am aware research shows anger, frustration and depression can lead to and worsen diseases such as heart disease and cancer. And I was afraid!
I read that to be free, we must view fear as something to overcome, not something to be defeated by. I was determined not to be defeated!
I made the decision to do everything possible to overcome fear and worry by having faith in goodness, and trying stay in the moment rather than catastrophizing the future. Courage or fear is a choice. It’s not something that just happens; I chose courage! Healing is learning to trust life again and I needed to be able to trust once again. Healing is seeking harmony and balance in one’s own life and I looked to restore the balance within myself.
As a nurse and Cancer Guide, I had gathered a wealth of ‘life tools’ that I have shared with others in healing crisis. Now, I needed to focus on those tools myself.
I took more time off work than the surgical recovery called for and it was one of the smartest things I ever did for myself! I went on retreat for several days. My needs were met, but I also had all the privacy I wanted and needed to get in touch with my inner self. I played and laughed by myself, I cried, I screamed. I went for long walks. I rode a bike. I sat. I meditated. I did Qigong and other relaxation and breathing techniques that I have taught to others over the years. I stayed in the moment. I connected with nature and that fed my soul! When I wanted nurturing, there were loving people nearby who responded appropriately. I had support around me who listened to my story. It is important to tell our story, it helps us heal! There is research that indicates we increase our immune activity by telling our story!
As a Wellness Coach and Cancer Guide I had wanted to start a cancer retreat center and share the tools I had gathered over the years with others. Now, I felt the need for such a retreat for myself; I needed to set a strong intention to personally make use of those tools and begin my healing journey. By doing so, I found the true essence of healing!
My road back to health became one of the most empowering experiences of my life! I practiced a heart healing meditation that puts focus on positive emotions and intention to feel those positive emotions in your heart. As the research indicates that anger worsens disease, it also shows gratitude heals, that it increases the immune system. Positive emotional states have positive effects on our body and mind. Our interpretations of our life experiences affect us physiologically. Gratitude is associated with appreciation. Stop and smell the roses…slow down, pay attention, appreciate what’s in front of you. Gratitude is enduring, sustained thankfulness; the ability to notice, appreciate and savor the elements in one’s life. To be grateful means to be grounded in the present moment, and to be grounded in the present moment means being fully alive in your body.
There is a strong link between mind/body/spirit and healing. Energy goes where attention flows! I began to focus positive ideas, because positive ideas bring positive qi (energy). I was aware that as this energy gains momentum, it is capable of killing bacteria and malignant cells and increases resistance to disease. As I taught others to do, I began to set aside just twenty minutes a day to dwell on that which was positive in my life. I would take a walk, tune into my senses; what was I feeling, smelling, seeing, hearing? I would refocus; what was working in my life? What did I appreciate?
I was fully present to what was good in my life and took the opportunity to express gratitude. The research shows this simple practice does improve the quality of life and I used it to improve my health! I started a ‘Gratitude Journal’; each day I wrote down 3 things I was grateful for. Sometimes it was difficult to convince myself to feel gratitude when I was feeling sick or sorry for myself. But, soon it became an easier habit and I found I was noticing things more and more throughout the days that I wanted to remember to write in my journal as something I was grateful for.
Today, I am well past the ‘magical’ 5-year post-cancer milestone and remain cancer-free; I feel very blessed! I know my personal cancer experience was an epiphany; it gave me a profound appreciation for every single moment and a deeper level of understanding and wisdom that I feel called to share with others!
My husband and I own a beautiful Cancer Retreat Center on the paradisiacal Big Island of Hawaii where we have the opportunity to share peace and love and healing techniques such as Qigong, Reiki, meditation, guided imagery, mindfulness, nature and laughter with others who have been touched by cancer. We hold Cancer Retreats in Bali, Indonesia twice a year. The next Cancer Retreat, called “Heal the Pages of Your Life Story” will be held June 19 -23 at the lovely, peaceful WakaMaya Resort in Sanur, Bali. Both local residents and international visitors are welcome. Our next Group Healing Through Cancer Retreats in Hawaii are September 12 & 25-28 . Participants are welcome to bring a partner/support person with them. Personal healing retreats are available throughout the year.