The unexpected blessings of a cancer diagnosis
All my life I have been striving to find myself and which vocation it is that lights me up. I have always yearned to find something I so passionately love to do that would give my life a sense of meaning and purpose. I have chopped and changed what my “career” or “life purpose” is countless amounts of times but I realise in retrospect that it’s all about the journey not the destination (cliché but true).
I went from studying international relations to backpacking in Europe to feeling certain I wanted to become a journalist to then wanting to become a lawyer. I worked incredibly hard to get the grades I needed to transfer into a law degree, completed my first year studying law, completed an internship at a law firm, which then offered me a paid job. At the time felt like everything was perfectly falling into place but the universe had other plans for me…
It all came to a crashing halt when I was diagnosed in December of 2012 with stage 3 Hodgkins Lymphoma. Receiving this diagnosis was like an out of body experience but it still warms my heart to remember the depth of the love and support I had around me to get through it. The only thing that mattered was getting back to a state of health physically, mentally and emotionally.
Cancer is a disease that debilitates you physically but for me it was even more so mentally and emotionally. After going through fertility preservation (IVF), biopsies, blood transfusions, blood tests, 12 rounds of chemotherapy was given the "all clear" but then was left with debilitating fear of relapse and anxiety.
My inquisitive nature and love of learning empowered me to transform the pain of this experience into the beginning of a new life and a new version of myself. I was catapulted me into a whole new world of holistic health, healing, spirituality, self-enquiry and self-discovery. Researching, reading and consuming all the information I could to give myself and my body the best chance at a full recovery.
Despite my inspiration and determination to do all that I could do to take control of my physical health, my mental health was still taking an absolute beating. I was doing all that I could to eat the perfect diet, move my body, meditate but as a highly emotional and sensitive person whenever I felt triggered or upset I would then panic that the stress and the “negative” emotions would reactivate the cancer cells in my body. While this may seem irrational, it was and sometimes still is a genuine fear of mine. I needed to address the fear and the anxiety of relapse and so I signed up for an 8 week mindfulness meditation course. What a complete game changer this was for me.
The introduction to presence, acceptance and gratitude in the NOW freed me from so much debilitating pain and anxiety about the past and fear of relapsing in the future.
The healing, peace and liberation I was gifted through this spiritual practice and philosophy sparked the biggest desire for me to continue to learn more about it and shout it off the rooftops to anyone wanting to free themselves from suffering and yearned for some peace and acceptance in their lives.
Ironically, the thing I feared most became a reality and only six months after I completed chemotherapy for the lymphoma, I was diagnosed with a tumour in my thymus gland. I cannot express with words the depth of my despair, disappointment and sadness. I was completely broken down and absolutely devastated. The doctor advised that I have it surgically removed however I decided that I wanted to heal myself through natural medicine.
While I completely respect and appreciate the benefits of western medicine, I just could not keep poisoning or cutting out parts of myself and needed to face what exactly I was doing in my life to be causing this to be happening to my body. “Bad luck” was not an acceptable answer for me to make peace with this disease reoccurring in my body after the second diagnosis. And so I went on a very strict and expensive diet and supplement regime with a naturopath and within two months the tumour had shrunk by half it’s size. Over the years, the tumour has continued to shrink down in size and has remained stable, which continues to stir up confusion and disbelief from my doctor at my annual check-ups. I get told “I don’t completely understand it but just keep doing what you’re doing”.
Everyone’s health choices are their own and I am not here to preach about natural medicine as everyone must follow their own intuition and do what feels right for them. What I do want to say is that you always have a CHOICE. When I decided against the surgery, my doctor reacted with a huge fear-driven response. I was up against a HUGE amount of resistance and fear from most of the people in my community however I needed to follow my gut and listen to my body and do things in the way that felt right for me.
I am deeply saddened when I hear of people given “incurable” prognoses that remove any sense of hope or belief in the healing abilities of their body through the power of the mind alongside alternative or natural medicine.
I need the world to know that there is ALWAYS hope and I want to empower everyone to connect WITHIN to pave their own individual path towards health and healing without taking on the fear and closed mindedness of others.
I am by no means advocating against western medicine and I respect everyone’s choice to treat illness however they desire. I am wanting to shine a light on a system that is at times denying people of the hope and belief that they need to heal THEMSELVES. I truly thank god for the movement towards integrative medicine that I pray will better bridge the gap between the two worlds.
The 4 biggest lessons from my cancer experience:
1. You are not a victim of your circumstances.
2. You have the power to CHOOSE what you think, believe and focus your attention on, at all times.
3. You have the ability to observe your pain and triggers and decide how you respond.
4. True soul empowerment is not needing anything or anyone outside of yourself in order to feel loved, worthy, successful or fulfilled.