On Monday 17th August I turn 41 years old. The months, weeks and days leading up to this day have been an extremely interesting journey for me. In April 2015 I joined the ranks of many other women and now walk the pink ribbon path alongside other strong, courageous women. I feel there is no point in keeping it all a secret now, although you may find I will not talk directly of the disease in my body and I would appreciate if we can all respect I do not wish to be lost in the story of it. I wish to educate and grow from it not wallow in the self-pity of it. This is a time of change, a time of opportunity, a moment of truth and I want to explore that.
I will say, it has been a difficult journey to date. As a psychosomatic therapist, yoga instructor and woman I have really been asking many questions revolving around life, lifestyle, health, womanhood and you name pretty much everything else. I understand on many levels why dis-ease exists in the human body. In fact I work with people on several of those levels. I am most interested in the emotion aspects of why we hold disease in our body so I am sure you can appreciate the depth of my own exploration of this process for me.
Explaining this disease to other people has been hard. With looks of shock and surprise, particularly when they discover what I do for a living I started to retreat deep within, at first not to explore my emotions but to suppress them even more. I have also been acutely aware of other people’s stories around this disease and with respect have chosen not to speak too often of my own experiences except in what I consider “safe” environments. So please do not take it personally if this is the first time you might hearing about this. I have fallen into protector mode for myself but also for others. Naturally this could be considered another form of suppressing how I am truly feeling. Woman are good at covering up their emotions by looking after others first. Lately though I have been taking a good hard look at myself, and I can say with all honesty I am doing okay on this path of opening up. I have my moments but instead of suppressing those moments of not being okay I have been embracing it and at times sharing it with those close to me.
I wanted to share with you all some of what I have been exploring about how I have been dealing with this journey. I am not sure I am fully ready to discuss my dis-ease or the full extent of what I am going through but perhaps you will discern that for yourself as you read some of my postings. I will say though – my journey is not the same as another woman’s pink ribbon journey. In fact I feel blessed because it was detected early and I have almost a 100% chance of cure. Actually I would say with all the emotional and personal work I have been undertaking and will continue to do I have more than a 100% opportunity to walk in this physical body for many more years to come. I know it as certain as I know that we are all connected as one - for this is my truth.
The path to this point has not been easy and I only share this very personal and private information with you all in an attempt to do what I like to think I do well and that is sharing life changing lessons through personal experience. Perhaps it is slightly egotistical of me to think I am pretty good at sharing my own life changing lessons but I believe action takes place based on an ego thought most times. And since I am someone who learns from other people’s stories than perhaps someone might learn from mine.
So what is it that I can share with you about the lessons of my journey on the Pink Ribbon Path? Where do I start? I think some I can share right now while others might require a post of their own. Here are just 5 that immediately come to mind:
Cancer does not discriminate
Cancer is a noxious disease that is not gender biased, aged biased or racially motivated. Cancer does not judge one person as more deserving over another of being affected by it. Cancer will not “get you” just because you deserve that sort of karmic retribution. Cancer does not care if you a kind person, if you eat organic vegetarian food or choose a meat based diet, whether you smoke, don’t smoke, drink or don’t drink alcohol. Cancer will not give you a wide berth if you have dedicated your life as a Holy person preaching the word of God. Cancer can touch anyone, at any time for no apparent reason. Cancer just is what it is….why can’t we just be what we are and not discriminate or judge another?
Words often have preconceived meaning
Even before being diagnosed with Breast Cancer I knew words are powerful. I even knew that some words have preconceived meaning for some people. This meant that I would often not own a name or a word for fear of offending a person or that word being perceived in the negative connotation. The word cancer is more often than not associated with pain, suffering and in many cases death. Cancer to me always seemed a “bad” word. I have been very cautious of using the word cancer and have personally had a hard time accepting that I have cancer. I am beginning to see cancer in an entirely brand new light. Yes cancer is not nice, yes cancer is a disease associated with death but the reality of it is, is that cancer does not necessarily mean the end of a person’s life and the form of Breast Cancer I have has a high rate of cure so to me now the word cancer has a new meaning.
It is a word to indicate strength, gratitude, love and of course at times pain but than life is full of pain. I will admit there has been a fair bit of emotional pain associated with my diagnosis but being philosophical it’s not the cancer’s doing that but perhaps more a result of the mechanisms of being human. Pain is a part of living life to its fullest so embrace live and every aspect of it. Words have meaning but living has far more meaning when we remove the preconceptions and expectations of life.
Our toolkits are invaluable in times of crisis
On the day I was diagnosed I found it very difficult to remain present. However I knew it was imperative that I hear everything that was being said. I can remember saying to myself “Breathe Deb just breathe, you got this. You can do this. Come back to one point – just breathe”. I took a few moments to talk myself through a pranayama exercise I regularly teach in my yoga classes and then came back to what was being said. I don’t say I remained fully present for the whole time but I will never underestimate the power of breathing ever again. Breathing has not been the only tool I have been regularly using over the last few months. I have been resurrecting tools from years gone by; discovering new tools and I think even inventing a few that probably never existed before. Too often we forget that we have an opportunity to practice what we preach to others, so for me this has been a wonderful time to use all my tools and use what I know for me. Always come back to what you know when faced with a crisis or moment in time when life seems hopeless or out of control. You will regain control and you will truly get to live the moment well.
You can find Gratitude in everything
After attending a psychosomatic mentoring group session based on the heart chakra, 7 days after I was told I had breast cancer, I decided to revisit my gratitude diary. During my darkest of times I had always found solace in writing five things I had been grateful for each day. I had forgotten the benefit and something that was said at that mentoring session sparked a memory. I decided to start my “Finding Space in Form” gratitude wall. It is amazing how often you can find gratitude in the most hideous of situations, light in the darkest of places. It is not always easy but gratitude can be found even if it’s as simple as “I have a bed to sleep in” – there are small children out there that sleep on wooden pallets in dirt. Having gratitude changes your perspective of a situation, of life, of everything. Seek and you will find.
Kindness is abounding
One of the most outstanding things to me since being diagnosed with DCIS has been the amazing abundance of compassion, kindness and heartfelt love I have received. At first this was from complete strangers. In the early days it was easier for me to talk to people I didn’t know so I reached out to Breast Cancer support groups and others who had some knowledge and experience in this area, so in some respects I wasn’t surprised to feel welcome. What I was surprised about was the unconditional wave of support, prays, understanding and empathy. As I have begun opening up to my wider network of friends, family and yoga community I have been overwhelmed with BIG love. Love from those I know has been extremely important to part of my own healing. On occasion I get a sense of fear, confusion coming from a person and a couple of times that sympathetic wavering into pity look which I had dreaded but overall there has been the most beautiful sense of kindness and support I never thought possible. I can only hope to share that same wonderful gift with other women living with Breast Cancer in the future.
So this birthday I will not just be having surgery I will go through a rebirth of self. All the journeying I have done to date is leading up to a death of sorts and this is an opportunity to rebirth myself in new ways, to grow and to be a better me.
I thought that I had traveled a long way and had grown in many areas of life including judgement, assumption, faith, gratitude and unconditional love but I have truly realised all of the growth until now has been an illusion of my own mind. For at this very present moment the lessons have just begun and my learning will continue as I trod the Pink Ribbon Path for many more years to come. I hope to share some of this very personal journey with you all as I peel back layers and grow in ways I know is available for all of us.