When you hear the word cancer, it immediately evokes a feeling of impending doom. Most of us have grieved the loss of a friend or family member dying of cancer or the effects of it. I watched my mother beat ovarian cancer after 2 years only to die 8 years later from complications of chemo destroying 3/4 of her digestive system. A brutal 10 years of pain, surgery, colostomy bags, abdominal feeding tubes, and starvation (at 84 lbs) being her cause of death at age 54.
I was 25 in 1990 when she was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer.
My father was 50 when he was first diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 1997–I was 31. He’s since had two more recurrences and will be 77 this year. It was reasonable to have a robust fear of “the big C” through the majority of my adult life.
When I reached age 45, I felt victorious that I had lived longer than my mom had with no cancer. A sort of hubris descended when I reached age 54 and a half when I had surpassed my mothers age at death by one month with no sign of cancer. I was home free! Fast forward a whopping 19 months to that fateful shower discovery, then another month to December 18, 2020: the day of MY cancer diagnosis. DAMMIT! SERIOUSLY?
My arrogance of dodging the ovarian cancer bullet changed to fear, devastation and anger. I still had so much life to live!
I knew I couldn’t carry these emotions with me through the treatments and survive for long so I had to change my perspective on MY life and death.
I had to put away the vivid visions of my mom in constant pain and suffering and turn the fear into surrender. Surrender that aside from the medical treatments and lifestyle changes, my physical life was out of my hands. The Universe, God, The Divine were in control — not me. No amount of worry, attempts at control or tantrums were going to change the outcome in a positive way. I needed peace. I had to vividly imagine lying in my last moments. How would I feel in those last seconds? I wanted to feel peace for me and those who loved me. They were left to celebrate and reflect on my life and their roles. How could I give them a sense of calm and resolve? By living it myself — that’s what I came up with. I’ve been incredibly blessed to reside in the most beautiful soul community with teachers who helped me churn, burn, and fully surrender those aspects of my life where deep and traumatic wounds bled and diminished my sense of self and worthiness. I came out the other side with a confidence and peace in my soul, mind, and body I thought was utter bullshit most of my lost, painful and anxiety-filled life.
I, with the grace and love of my community, had made space for this unfamiliar peace and compassion where the emotional pain used to fill every ounce of space I would create.
The realization that I lived a good life and left most people better than I found them was something I could embrace and die with if this cancer was gonna be what got me. My life could be over and those who love me could live and love by my example and peace. By surrendering the fear and pain, I could make room for more life and unconditional love each day I was still alive.
My top 3 resources for mental health during breast cancer treatment:
1. I Am
I Am is an affirmation app both Natasha and I found separately. It may sound cheesy, but some sort of affirmation shows up on your phone screen daily. It truly helps my mindset.
2. The Wellness Journal by Clarita Escalante
Journaling and keeping some sort of schedule gave me a sense of being and a little control. I was able to get emotions out and read where I had been later. Clarita Escalante created these beautiful journals—as a pink sister, she knows what we need. It's a great gift for someone on any journey, especially cancer.
3. The Brahman Project
Brahman Kyrie is my spiritual teacher, and the mission of The Brahman Project is to provide spiritual education and support to anyone with a desire to break old, destructive thoughts and behaviors. Everyone has to find what resonates with their soul and life. This is what helped me.