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“You can do this, Nancy. Kick its butt!”
“It’s a freakin’ battle, girl … but you can do it. Just beat the heck out of it.”
“Don’t let that monster inside you win!”
Those were just a few of the proclamations from well-meaning encouragers reacting vehemently to my news that the biopsy showed lung cancer. They were scared; I was petrified. Even doctors and nurses stressed to me this was a combat zone. They spoke of the war that I would be waging, and the weapons I would have in my arsenal and their dangerous possible side effects.
A hostile atmosphere composed of hysteria, denial and fury alternately waxed and waned around me. I was in a daze those initial days, and the fog, lifting now and then, revealed horrors too deep to contemplate. They must have screwed up the results. This can’t be me they are talking about. We don’t get cancer in my family! One morning, a clueless nurse practitioner announced, “Ah, so you are the lucky one who gets to introduce cancer to your family’s genetic line.” I felt shattered.
The barrage of references to warring, violence and fierce resistance left me shaking in my boots. I know myself. I have spent years honing an attitude of peace. From my hippie days to becoming an ordained minister in a meditation church, peace and gentleness have been my quest. Although perhaps this fight mentality is effective for others, I knew it would not work for me. So, I got quiet.
I waited and listened for my inner guidance. I knew there must be a gentler way to approach this current crisis. Perhaps, letting go of the crisis idea was the first thing. Since the onset of my spiritual quest, I have always sought the lesson in every hardship and tried to learn from all my experiences. So, why not with cancer? There must be a lesson here. There must be something of value that this tumor is showing me.
I am not saying I didn’t feel betrayed by God and the universe, at the onset, but I was at least willing to hear the divine side. I quieted myself and began to listen.
The first and most audible statement came from deep inside my very own soul. “I want to live!” I have lots of purposes and dreams. I am not willing to leave before I have made at least one major contribution to this planet. And I wanted to experience true romance again. I wanted to play with my grandkids, feeling the joy of my grandmother role.
Considering my past trauma-filled life, this was indeed a revelation to me. I didn’t want to leave; I just wanted to be living a more joyful, easier existence. That was the first revelation, followed by countless others.
I gradually came to see this cancer as my teaching tumor – and eventually, as I prayed to release it with the help of chemo and the divine radiant energy of radiation, I even named it. Timmy, the teaching tumor, came and went, blessing me with many epiphanies.
I cannot answer for everyone’s approach to cancer. I cannot even begin to understand why some stay and some don’t make it. But I do believe that, for me, and most likely for countless others, the quickest path to healing is most certainly fostered by a peaceful approach.
I hope that this will help some patients who are scared, and cannot find one single blessing in all of this. The blessings are there. We need to quiet ourselves and allow them to come to the surface.