Updated: Oct 22, 2020
My landscape has drastically changed as I write my post this morning. I'm in California for the time being working as a private teacher for a family whose children are doing remote schooling. As we move throughout the school year, the landscapes will continue to change. But for now, this is home.
Last month, we stayed in Sag Harbor, Long Island. Nestled away from the suburbs and city life, the nights were well...dark. No lights aside from the few houses on the country road. One of the last evenings there, I happened to finally look skyward. What I saw took my breath away: the most brilliant and dazzling display of stars. In awe and deep gratitude, I thanked God for it all. I was here, alive.
There is always light in the darkness. We just have to learn to look up.
I thought back to where I was a year ago. For those of you who are following this story, my wellness journey did not include chemotherapy, surgery or radiation. At this point last year, I was four sessions into my immunotherapy (Herceptin and Perjeta). After 3 treatments, two of my four breast tumors were already gone and the other two, 50% smaller. Lymph nodes back to normal. Amazing!
I believed it wasn't the medical treatments alone. I had made a radical diet change and took an army of supplements. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine with Malerie Giamo, Reiki and emotional & spiritual healing-all part of the path (and still today!) Everything was working in tandem.
But my body was demanding one thing that gave me the greatest struggle: REST. Before the cancer, I hated resting. I was a doer, constantly in motion,
expecting more and more of myself.
I loved the creative, entrepreneurial part of my work, but the nagging sense that I was never doing enough, plagued me. Rest only happened when I exhausted myself enough that my body could take no more.
Stress and Cancer
Everything changed with cancer. The immunotherapy treatments left me with extreme fatigue, which my oncologist found unusual and attributed to my medication sensitivity. Looking back, I wonder if there was more. Our body is our most intuitive physician. Mine needed this rest in order to heal itself and slammed on the brakes. All I could do was take it easy. I had no choice.
As a single woman, I was left with the inability to work. It was a terrifying place to be in. There were times when I worried more about money than my own health.
How You Can Help
I know without a doubt that years of overworking, stress and financial worry contributed to the breakdown of my immune system, which inevitably led to disease. Having lived with extreme and prolonged stress is a common factor in cancer patients. This is why it is imperative to support cancer foundations that provide direct assistance to those in need.
Unless you have lived through a cancer diagnosis, no one can truly understand the emotional and financial devastation that far too many face. It's difficult to get funding from large national cancer foundations. Due to the daunting numbers of women with breast cancer, funds run out too quickly. It's far easier on a local level. But they too are limited in their gift allotments. These foundations need our help.
After my diagnosis, I was truly blessed with those who relieved me of financial burdens. This includes family, dear and generous friends, and wonderful local organizations such as the Josette Beddell Memorial Foundation and The Karen Nakon Foundation I will be eternally grateful for all their kindness and support,
Rest, Girl, Rest!
It was the first time in 30 years, that I could truly focus on myself and total healing. I had extensive emotional healing to do-and my eternal busyness had kept my away from much of that pain and sadness. Even though the unraveling was hard and comfort with stillness-unfamiliar and sometimes scary (letting go takes courage), I look back at that time in my life as special.
I was with me.
Of course, I endured sad times-mourning the fact that I couldn't work for more than 20 minutes on the computer without being exhausted. Missing my work with children. Missing my old energy-something I will never take for granted again. But the sadness was short lived. The sorrow of having had cancer, came later. I refused to feel sorry for myself. I had work to do in order to truly heal from cancer. My energy had to be channeled in the right places.
During that time, I experienced deep spiritual awakenings and clearings- finally beginning the process of learning to love and come home to myself. I enjoyed life by reading book series, watching funny movies (essential for healing), snoozing with my cats, learning to slow down.
But not always.
God Shops Secondhand
It's hard to undo our nature, and there were many times where I fell back into my over- productive, crazed ways. In one instance, I knew I was reaching my limit but wanted to squeeze in one more errand. And God was waiting. There on the shelf of my favorite secondhand shop, I was stunned to find:
And yes, I bought them ( I didn't dare not!)
But it didn't stop there. In my post Facebook Friending Mother Mary, I write how Divine Mother Mary became an integral part of my journey. It became all too common for me to repeatedly pull the "Rest" card from my deck of 44 cards. I would often wail, "Not again!"
(I still get this card now). But the message was clear.
Each of the beautiful cards written by Alana Fairchild and illustrated by Sophia Cloud, connect to a passage from the guidebook. A selection from the passage on rest:
"I know how hard you have been trying, how much work and effort you have been summoning. Even if you judge yourself for not doing enough, I see how much struggle you have been enduring, how much you have been trying to overcome. You will succeed. You are capable. But even the earth requires retreat and rest in order to replenish and continue with time. For now, Beloved, it is rest time. Be with me. Suspend your activity and your judgement and let it go....Many of us have been taught, and still believe, that effort and striving are the most valuable behaviors, and if we aren't yet successful, we just aren't trying hard enough..."
Coming Full Circle
My body is still healing. Rebuilding itself. A new life. I've taken much of what I have learned with me into this next stage of my journey. I know I am fortunate to be alive and to have healed as quickly as I did. I don't ever want to take that for granted.
I believe the emotional patterns take the longest to heal. Rest will always be a constant reminder for me. But I am kinder this time. More gentle. And as the sun pours through my window, know there is a beach with calming waves, waiting just for me.