THE BLOG
10/29/2013 11:38 am ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

5 Huge Lessons From Cancer and Divorce

The minute I heard the words, "I don't want to be married to you anymore" I believed my life was over. I had been married for 20 years, had two kids, a beautiful house, and I was living the dream.

In that one moment, my whole world came crashing down. My fantasy of forever collided with what had just become a reality of never.

I spent the next three years picking up the pieces of my shattered dream, while trying to make sense of where things had gone awry. It was a crazy, surreal ride and I never thought it would end.

Shortly before my marriage ended, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, which I beautifully navigated and survived. After hearing those fateful words from my Ex shortly after my diagnosis, it would have been easy to slip into a victimized state of why me?

Somehow, I managed to draw on what my cancer journey had taught me, and I decided to turn my marital dissolution into another opportunity for transformation.

Both experiences offered me very precious life lessons and skills that I wouldn't trade for anything. I knew that looking anywhere but inward for what I needed would not only be futile, but draining and disappointing as well.

Trusting my internal world and my body to help me heal felt counterintuitive, since both had already betrayed me, but I knew deep down that it was the path I was destined to take.

At the end of the day, both of these experiences rudely awakened me to the power of my spiritual self, and the magnitude of self-actualization as a byproduct of trauma.

I never had the intention or goal of being a "survivor." I only wanted to siphon what I could out of the devastation and disillusionment I was experiencing, and to spin it into gold for my own personal benefit.

I did this by designing a special path that I illuminated with my own wisdom and personal discovery. I am in the process of putting my experience to the page, which I hope to publish soon, but in the meantime here are the five huge lessons I learned from my two biggest life challenges:

Trauma is an everyday phenomenon
I believed that once I was married, my life would just coast. I hadn't really had too many challenges prior to my cancer, so I was ill-prepared when I received the news, and definitely shocked when my marriage came to a screeching halt. I now realize that challenges and trauma are around every corner, and that they are simply part of being human. This realization allows me to live fully without fearing things I can't control.

The spirit is stronger than the mind and body
There are only a few challenges in life that hijack your mind and body at the same time. Both cancer and the end of my marriage challenged both my thinking and my physical makeup. When I couldn't rely on either of those things throughout my experience, I turned intensely toward my spirit. This remained unbroken and untouched, and my soul was a sacred shelter I could always count on.

Fear is a waste of time and energy
I spent a lot of time fighting fear in my early 20's and 30's. I was afraid of loss, getting sick, dying, my children becoming hurt or ill and yes, losing my marriage. I know now that fear is a joke, and that it offers absolutely nothing other than stress. Of course I still feel fear at times, and certainly did when I came face to face with these challenges, but my fear is like an old friend I don't really want to be around. I give it very little time and space when it surfaces.

Presumption and fantasy are the same thing
This is a tricky one, but important. Presumption is just another word for fantasy. When you presume that you are safe from bad things, or that your marriage will last forever, you are fantasizing about something you wish to be true. There is nothing wrong with fantasy, and presumption is a natural byproduct of being human, but they will lead you down a short road to denial which is where the set up for shock and disappointment develops. Never presume anything, and be sure your fantasies are grounded in reality.

Perspective is everything
When tough things happen in your life, you have many ways to perceive the experiences. Just know that your perspective completely shapes the way you see things, and ultimately how you feel. Your feelings drive your behavior, and your behaviors shape your experience of the world. This is not about being "positive," it's about being honest and real with how and what you are seeing. Perspective is your greatest tool that's available to you every day.