Originally published in Fall issue of Breast Cancer Wellness Magazine, pg 38
When you are no longer motivated by fear; When you simply follow your heart. Doors will open where you thought there were no doors, and the energy of God will assist you. – Unknown
Raindrops fell softly on the cold window matching the tears falling from my eyes. The storm outside seemed to mimic the swirling commotion in my soul. How much more could I handle?
I pressed my face into the glass and stared out into the darkness as the silence of night surrounded me. It seemed so surreal to think that only a few months earlier on my 40th birthday in July, I had received news that the breast cancer had returned and was now throughout my body. Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. Happy birthday to me.
Then, as if fate decided to add some proverbial lemon juice to the situation, a few months later I found myself in a local behavioral unit recovering from a mental breakdown after discovering that the man I had been married to for 16 years was not the man I thought he was. Divorce soon followed along with additional stress, custody battles and legal bills.
A lightning bolt crossed the sky and I paused for a moment as a laugh of unbelief escaped my lips. Was this really the reality of my life?
My original diagnosis came on Halloween day in 2006. I was 31 years old and 5 months pregnant. Truly one of the scariest days of my life. After undergoing a mastectomy at 6 months pregnant and delivering a healthy baby boy, I had three additional surgeries and began chemotherapy with a newborn and two older children (ages 5 and 7) to care for at home.
During that time new emotions bubbled to the surface as surgeries removed body parts and placed foreign objects under my skin and through my veins. Everything was changing in the world I had known – physically, emotionally, mentally, financially and spiritually – and the saying ‘drinking out of the firehose’ took on new meaning.
I did my best to stay upbeat and support others during the time from my original diagnosis to the recurrence in 2015. But with the new discoveries of deception tied to an already failing marriage, it was too much for my soul to handle and my life literally fell apart.
I stepped away from the window and into my own personal hell.
People often call cancer survivors ‘warriors’ and tell us to fight – and I did ‘fight’ for a long time as that mentality is helpful when first diagnosed. But I never felt like a warrior when I couldn’t nurse my newborn baby or put my children to bed at night. I never felt like warrior when my entire body ached with severe pain from chemotherapy. And I was ready to give up the fight when fear, frustration and a feeling of failure lingered in my heart.
Perhaps you can relate?
If you can, you’re not alone. Recent studies have revealed that 96% of cancer survivors have unmet emotional needs that include depression, anxiety, PTSD, stress, grief, identity issues, relationship issues, fear of recurrence, spirituality issues, financial hardship and more.
While the medical industry is good at addressing the needs of the physical body, I believe there is a great void when it comes to binding up the hidden wounds in the soul. And that void is taking its toll on the happiness of survivors everywhere.
With the discovery of this lack of care tied to a strong desire to live, I set out on a personal journey to counteract all of my unmet emotional needs and find a way towards greater healing through study, discovery and application. But where to begin?
It’s been said that when you don’t know where to start, start with yourself and with what you already know.
I knew that there was a strong brightness of hope within me to live so that I could care for my three children. I knew what I had previously experienced during chemotherapy and did not wish to repeat. I also knew what I had learned over the last 9 years about other complimentary modalities that had proven successful on many occasions. And I knew that the human body was capable of healing in miraculous ways when given the right tools to do so. That became the basis of my research – discovering ways to heal both body, mind and soul.
After discussing my desires with my integrative oncologist, I began researching evidence based medicine – traditional and holistic – to find the best methods of treatment for my body. I read books, medical journals and watched TED Talks discussing how negative emotions linked to trauma are literally tied to the manifestation of physical dis-ease within the body. I spoke with other stage 4 survivors who now have a clean bill of health after choosing high dose Vitamin C infusions instead of, or in conjunction with, traditional treatment. I spoke with naturopathic oncologists who understood both standard treatments and other evidence based treatment modalities and how to blend the two for optimal results. I sought out licensed therapists skilled in emotional healing techniques to help me address the inner emotional struggles I was facing due to the current pending divorce and past life experiences. I began increasing self-care and minimizing self-criticism. I surrounded myself with supportive people and stepped lovingly away from any sources of negativity that challenged my desired peace including people, TV shows, news broadcasts, radio shows or social media groups. I prayed, meditated, fasted, read scripture and studied topics on faith and healing, then started to apply what I had learned. I changed my eating style to include more healing foods and minimized or removed foods that caused inflammation including gluten, dairy and sugars and researched herbs and supplements that could do the same.
I spoke life over myself and boldly declared that, in time, my body would be healed instead of absorbing others’ worry and fear when people learned that I had stage 4 cancer. But most importantly, I made the choice to change my mindset about what was possible – despite the overarching message from the medical community at large that there is little hope for those with stage 4 metastatic disease. I had learned that “the best way to predict the future is to create it” (Peter Drucker) so I also created a personal life vision for my future, because I believe “where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18).
In sharing this information, I’m keenly aware that every individual, every situation and every circumstance is different and that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach when it comes to overcoming cancer. I also do not want to give the impression that all of a sudden, presto-chango, everything in my life turned into a utopian state of eating rainbows and pooping butterflies as soon as I went down the path of personal discovery. It didn’t. My divorce was still in full swing during this time and I soon discovered that there are harder things in life than having stage 4 cancer – divorcing a narcissist being one of them.
Due to extremely severe pain from tumors pressing on my nerves, I began high beam radiation to ease the suffering. Some of the tumors did shrink during the treatment but others started to appear. CT scans revealed tumors in my spine, base of skull, right lung and lymph nodes but I continued to stand on sacred ground that healing was possible.
Prior to the recurrence, I had hosted Survivor Soul workshops and retreats to support survivors and discuss topics such as fear and anxiety, overcoming grief and healthy lifestyle. The positive feedback from attendees showed that the information provided was of great worth and people began asking for more. I shifted my focus onto greater self-care, serving others and living as if the disease was already gone.
In December of 2016, my divorce was completed (finally!) and my tumor markers immediately started to decline. Three months later, in March of 2017, I hosted the first annual Survivor Soul Conference near Salt Lake City, Utah and invited 18 speakers to address the unmet emotional and psychosocial needs that so many survivors are struggling with – including myself. Again the feedback was extremely positive with one attendee stating: “You really have impacted my life in such a huge way…I was in a pretty dark place feeling depressed and hopeless. Your event gave me back hope and most importantly helped me to realize my power again. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!”
Shortly after the conference and with increased confidence, I began weekly high dose Vitamin C infusions and again the tumor markers declined. Then on July 31st, 2017, two years after receiving the stage 4 diagnosis, my oncologist called to let me know that the most recent CT scan results were phenomenal. The cancer that had previously spread to my bones, lung and lymph nodes had been ‘resolved with no new lesions identified’. Today my body continues to show no evidence of disease (NED) and that tells me that there is hope for others in similar situations.
I’ve come a long way since that dark stormy night two years ago. Many of the desires and dreams in what I call my Soul Vision have now been realized – including the creation of the Survivor Soul Project. A global movement to address the unmet emotional and psychosocial needs that survivors face and to connect survivors with powerful tools, treatments and techniques that have the potential to greatly improve the hope, health and happiness in their lives.
I believe that my life has value; that your life has value. And that the worth of souls is great in the sight of God. I believe that hope is something that should never be denied or diminished. I have felt a shift in the vibration of the world as women in particular are rising up to stand on sacred ground and embrace possibilities that they never before imagined.
When you are no longer motivated by fear;
When you simply follow your heart.
Doors will open where you thought there were no doors,
And the energy of God will assist you.
My Soul Vision now includes reaching #onemillionsouls by 2020 to share what I and others have learned and I hope you will be one of them.
While storms may continue to rage overhead, I now have greater faith that ‘all things are possible to them that believe’, study, learn, and apply, and I have come to know personally that the worth of ALL souls is great… including mine.