“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill
Getting well from cancer was the hardest thing I have ever done. It was also my biggest “wake up call.” Oprah once said, “Difficulties come when you don’t pay attention to life’s whisper. Life always whispers to you first, but if you ignore the whisper, sooner or later you’ll get a scream”. Cancer was a symptom of how out of touch I was with my own body. Looking back, my body asked me on several occasions to change my behavior but I just wouldn’t listen. Finally when it screamed from the pain of cancer, I paid attention.
Some say getting cancer is a gift; I won’t go that far, but it was a valuable teacher. My lesson was a painful one though. My family says I’m one of those people who sometimes need to learn things the hard way. Maybe they’re right, but this time I got it. There is no going back. My life has changed forever and for the better.
Just think how many people sleep walk their way through life, always doing what they are told by others, without questioning anything. The past three plus years I have done a lot of self-reflection. I questioned everything and threw away those beliefs that never belonged to me, but were given to me by someone else. Growing up with an alcoholic mother who thrived on chaos taught me to keep the peace, even when it was detrimental to my well being. How many relationships and jobs had I stayed in far too long because those “anxious” feelings felt familiar? I was a victim and didn’t understand that I had the tools inside me to change that. By changing my views and attitudes, the kinds of people I encountered became different. It’s like I gave off a vibe that said, “Don’t mess with me.” Abusers stayed away.
Cancer gave me permission to put my needs first. For the first time in my life, others took care of me which was hard at first because I was always the caregiver. Now I take time out for myself everyday; before that, going to bed at night was the only time I had to rest. My days are still busy but I strive to find balance. If someone asks me to do something, I make sure I really want to do it. I stopped multi-tasking. Doing too many things at once just led to mistakes and for me not being “present.” I spent way too much time in the past, worrying about the future and not enjoying the present moment. My astrological sign is Libra and it’s all about balance. My life had been out-of-balance for decades and it took a life crisis to change that.
Post cancer my life still has some ups and downs but I deal with the “downs” differently, meaning I no longer “freak out” when things don’t go the way I “think” they should. What usually happens is that things go better than what I expected anyway. If I get out of my own way, I always land on my feet. The word “should” is no longer part of my vocabulary. Ok, it is, but not as often. “Should” is to restrictive. It doesn’t allow for other possibilities and these days my world is full of possibilities.
Now I choose to listen to my inner voice, my intuition. It tells me when to slow down and seek balance. Daily meditation and yoga keeps me grounded if things feel uncertain. Staying calm and centered helps me make better decisions.
Who knows if I would have eventually figured out a better way to live without having the cancer wake up call. It doesn’t matter anyway, but what does matter to me, is that I figured it out before it was too late.