I woke up in San Diego after two days at the International Integrated Cancer Summit and this title popped in my head. What strikes me is how I am surrounded by what Dr. Bernie Siegel would call “Exceptional Cancer Patients”. I met such beautiful and amazing people here. I was blessed to sit next to a beautiful woman at our dinner, a Physician specializing in Internal Medicine just diagnosed with a very large breast tumor. She surprised me when she said that on day one of her diagnosis, “I knew that this cancer was going to be the best thing that ever happened to me.” Did she will this on herself? Absolutely not! She recognized this as a gift, a big wake up call, a loving message from her body to do something different, a cry to nurture and to heal her own body. Many believe that this is at least 50% of the secret formula to healing; most say it is absolutely essential if you want to survive and thrive. This is a very strong woman who cares for two children, aging parents, a husband and her patients. Her body is telling her that it is now time to care for herself.
Another very beautiful woman, also with breast cancer, said she was almost giddy when she got the diagnosis, for in that moment, she had a spiritual awakening. She had long been a devout Christian but had stuffed her emotional self. She had also been dealing with a twin sister’s diagnosis of bone cancer in addition to everyone else’s needs. She didn’t know how to use the word “No.” In that moment, in the realization of her own mortality, she heard a common psalm (I will care for flesh and bone) and she realized the message that she needed to stop being a people pleaser. Oh yes, how clearly I understood her!
I often felt like whatever I did or gave, it wasn’t enough. I remember driving my daughter to the cancer clinic one morning, running late and the anxiety and tension was so high in the car. I used to have the mantra, ‘there is never enough time’. We even called it Lisa’s Law as I would say, “Everything takes three times as long as I think it should” (forgetting how often I did the work of three people!). In this moment I remember hearing Dr. Deepak Chopra’s words, “Thinking there is never enough time is the quickest way to a heart attack.” I reframed my thinking and said, “Take a deep breath, ‘Yes, there IS enough time”. So what if we are 5, 10 or even 15 minutes late? Life will go on, you will still get your juice and your treatment…, We will live. We can either enjoy the journey, the beautiful journey, or fret and worry about what we are missing.
It’s not what happens in life that matters as much as how we respond to it.
It is often in the rough and the fire that we find the diamond. I have often felt guilty when I did something special for myself. I could buy my children expensive (even designer clothes) but could not spend money to pamper myself without anxiety and guilt. Often, the more I want something, the harder it is for me to buy. It is easier to put others needs first. You don’t have to stop and look inside. It’s easier to take a pill or a magic bullet than to take an honest personal assessment. It’s easy to get stuck in a victim role (a surefire way to prevent victory). When my daughter’s cancer returned, despite the efforts we made together, I had to surrender. I gave her everything that I knew and could at the time, and yet it wasn’t enough.
I was so desperate to fix my daughter that I forgot about myself. My adrenals were shot and I was later diagnosed with PTSD. I was spent - physically, emotionally and financially. This feeling of hopelessness and helplessness we face when we cannot “fix” another. I had to learn two things. First, it wasn’t my job to fix Dana, only she can do that. There are so many ways to heal from within; and seeing and hearing so many others who are thriving even after stage IV cancer diagnoses is truly inspiring. As a caregiver, I need to remember, the more I push, the more resistance I will meet. My fear definitely interfered with and affected our healing as well as our relationship. More importantly, I don’t need to “fix” my daughter because she is not broken. I’ve since learned and was reinforced last week, how cancer is the body’s way to communicate with us, challenging us to make vital and miraculous changes…truly a gift. If 95% of cancer can be prevented with diet and lifestyle changes, isn’t it time to take an honest personal assessment of diet and lifestyle? My mission is to inspire you to discover how fun this can be. BTW, I’m on my way to start the day with yoga dance.
We live in a culture where women are supposed to be caregivers; we take care of everyone else’s needs first: spouse, children, employer or employees. We love our spouses, our children and our jobs, but we forget that we must love ourselves first and foremost. If not, we find ourselves feeling empty. Where is the joy on Christmas morning when we are too exhausted from single-handedly living up to unattainable expectations?
We often feel ultra-responsible for others. I learned about co-dependency while working within the twelve step program and discovered the very clear distinction between being a “caretaker” and a “caregiver”. A caretaker takes on responsibility from others and therefore takes away the gift or the opportunity of the lesson learned from the other. Yes it feels good to give, we love to give, but we can become addicted to giving when we do so at the expense of our self. A caregiver gives what one has to give. A rich life has much richness to give. A depleted self can end up giving fear and resentment.
Finally, we can choose to live in a world of fear and lack or in love and abundance. What loving thing will you do today to fill up your bucket so that it can spillover to others?
With Love & Gratitude for all of the richness in our lives,