Have you ever wondered what it takes to heal…really heal? To feel the magical, wonderful state of wellness? That was the question I asked myself in January 2006 when I received a diagnosis of breast cancer. The prognosis for my diagnosis wasn’t good.
Immediately my diagnosis had been made, the wheels of the cancer medical world set into motion; I sensed the urgency around me. Not only that, but on the other side of the world, on a small island off the southern coast of England my beautiful, gentle, loving Mum was dying because of her cancer journey. In addition to this, during the previous two years I’d watched two close family friends slip away from us because of their cancer journeys. Now it was my turn. Breaking this news to my two young daughters (aged 13 and 18) was the hardest task I’ve had to do as a mother. They’d seen death due to cancer treatments and advanced cancer already in their young lives. I promised them I’d show them that cancer needn’t be feared. I had no idea why I promised them that…fear surged through my body and mind.
I knew only too well the hold cancer has over us with the fear it instils and the limitations of medical intervention. I sought advice and listened attentively to oncologists, surgeons, a radiologist and my GP but I found myself confused; I was hearing such conflicting statistics linked to the treatments being suggested. Whilst I understood that the treatments being offered were designed to limit the proliferation of the cancer cells, I was also acutely aware of the long term damage my body would endure, the lack of certainty about my longevity if I were to agree to treatments and the lack of advice, support or even interest in keeping my body as well as possible whilst undergoing treatment. My gut reaction was beginning to pull in the opposite direction.
Cancer; ugly, fearful and threatening. Initially it hung over me, locking me into a paralysed state, cocooned in a bubble from which I watched the world around me continue in real time…I on the other hand floated, a side from reality, muffled; my life unfolding in slow motion – waiting to be extinguished. However, even in that state, something was stirring within; I was being awakened to the possibilities of life…and so began my quest to use the vibrancy life offered to see where it would take me.
My own journey into wellness had begun…although I hadn’t yet realised it! Its sobering isn’t it, the things we take for granted? I hadn’t realised how much complacency had set in to the way in which I approached life regarding my body’s ability to keep functioning. I put in very little effort and gave very little consideration to the support my body needed to enable it to be the best possible body for me and my health. Despite this I expected my body to keep functioning optimally even with the stress I placed on it.
During the preceding years I had gradually put on weight; I had become lethargic; I couldn’t be bothered much to engage with life and I went to bed very late and rose early because there was always so much to get done in a day – I was always functioning with a sleep deficit. My work (as a teacher) required (or so I thought) a very high level of commitment in terms of the hours I dedicated to the lessons I planned and the children I taught. My relationship with food was one of convenience and hunger satisfaction only…nothing more, nothing less…and exercise? Well, although I loved it, I simply didn’t have time or was too tired to bother! I lived an existence externally and internally I was miserable! Why was it that I accepted this state of being so readily for so long?
In realising the possibility that I had contributed to malignant tumours forming in my body, I wondered whether it was also possible to reverse a disease process. What would happen if I focused on the various dimensions that contributed to disease? (Link – See my article ‘Wellness – A
Definition’) What are these dimensions? Where would I start? Who would I seek advice from? This was all so new to me!
Much has happened on my journey into wellness since that day in January 2006. I’ve met many ‘Buddha’s’ on the way who have helped me understand better what wellness is and how it impacts directly on a person’s state of health. Buddha is a term that Dr. Paul Brenner used in the title of his engaging book ‘Buddha in the Waiting Room’. He chose to use this term in appreciation and honour of the wisdom he found in those who helped him, a logic-driven medical practitioner, transform his understanding of health, illness and healing. He discovered that despite his medical training, his understanding of illness and health meant something very different when equated to life. Many of his teachers were the terminally ill.
Despite the fact that on this day in October of 2018 I still have malignant tumours in my body, I am living more fully the vibrant life we should all be able to live. My body is strong; I am very well and the level of energy I have is such that I live a beautiful, busy, fulfilling, enjoyable life. Wellness helps me live in good health and it’s a wonderful way to live. This experience has driven me to deepen my understanding of the contributions that good nutrition, our physical vitality and strength, our spirituality (how we interact with, and understand our place and purpose in life and our world; the Faith that is important to us) have upon our experience of life and the effect our beliefs and perceptions have. My understanding has also deepened regarding how our relationships with others affect how we live our lives and the choices we make. Ultimately all this affects our experience of the lives we lead on our health, wellness and healing.
My understanding and appreciation about the contribution that wellness gives to our health and life is based on years of personal study; the doctors, specialists and nurses that I’ve consulted; the amazing people I’ve spoken to who have cancer, care for those with cancer or have, through other health challenges embarked on their own journeys into wellness. All this and my personal experience led me to become a Certified Health Coach which enables me to bring this understanding to you so that you too can explore the benefits of wellness in your own life.
Living with cancer is a roller coaster of a ride…if you want to get to know what makes me tick, what I get frustrated about or what floats my boat then I invite you to touch base with the thoughts I express through my blog.