Have you ever had a challenge that required you to live life differently, to show up in a whole new way?
Well, these past 10 months brought several major challenges that made me do just that.
In September a silent stroke changed my voice. Fortunately I had no other symptoms or physical problems. I simply woke up one morning with a different slowed-down voice, not sounding like me. No one else could hear the change but the next week I passed out hiking, that ultimately got me to the doctor. Yet it was the changed voice that led to getting brain scans and a diagnosis of a right hemisphere stroke.
Getting such a diagnosis -- a stroke -- is shocking. What would I do if I never sounded right again, or what if another one struck, what work could I do if I couldn't teach or talk? I was scared. In fact, every night when I attempted to go to sleep, I was terrified! Would I wake up in the morning, totally changed, or would I not wake up. I'm part of a spiritual group and eventually I reached out to them to pray for my peace and being free from fear. Not sure what I believed about prayer, I knew I needed to stay connected and share what was going on with me. Two things surprised me: my sleep improved immediately. And many people said that my reaching out was an act of courage, that they couldn't have done that, but now they saw how it helped all of us. WOW! My asking for help helped others.
As one who believes that any challenge can be an opportunity or lesson, I had to ask myself what did I have to learn. Besides to open my heart, surrender to what was going on, try to stay out of fear I had to trust divine timing, to not push ahead when I wasn't ready. I also asked my cells what they needed from me to prevent another stroke. Yes, I do talk to my cells when I'm really afraid. Either they told me or my intuition told me to let go of some of the bad lifestyle habits I had. Eat much less sugar and get away from my computer to exercise more. I got some speech therapy and learned to exercise my lips and tongue in ways I didn't know were possible. I looked pretty weird doing these in my car.
After several months my voice improved and fear lessened. Just as I began to sound like me and my energy was returning, another medical challenge -- the possibility of liver cancer. Needless to say this was a major shock. After all, how can I, a health educator, have both a stroke and cancer, where had I failed to do the right things? Yes, I blamed myself at first, yet what this challenge made me do -- was to call upon every aspect of healing I had ever known or known about. Again I asked myself a few questions:
• Is there a possibility that it's not cancer?
• If it is cancer, can I turn it around?
• What strategies could I use to diminish the fear?
• If it is a disease condition or not, what do I still have to heal?
In fact, what could I do now in this not-knowing phase? I reflected on the symbology of the liver in Chinese Medicine knowing that that gives us another perspective. In this system, the liver is the seat of anger, so a personal question -- who and what was I angry about, what about me was I angry about.
What I didn't do throughout this process was Google "liver cancer" or ask experts my odds. Just naming a disease can be stress provoking. As much as I could, I let go of the fear and held to the possibility of it not being cancer. And a few good friends helped me stay with the possibility.
Again I asked for prayers, for inner guidance and found myself diving deep inside to those emotional and spiritual issues I never wanted to look at but I knew needed healing. I knew from my past work with people with life-threatening illnesses, that healing is always possible even if physical cure is not.
A few years ago I wrote a book called Secrets of Your Cells so opened it to reread what I had written about healing and cancer. Every day I engaged in a number of healing rituals and meditated a lot more. I even practiced some imagery, something not done for years. Interestingly, the week that this cancer scare began I was asked to write a book chapter on imagery and cancer.
The month was indeed traumatic and loving. People offered to help me, visit me, pray for me. And I became more steeped in the love from my family and friends feeling gratitude for everything. So I went through the medical experiences of CT scans and MRI to be told it was likely liver cancer. A physician friend suggested I rewrite the scan reports on how I wanted them to read -- of course, no cancer. And then the fearful biopsy.
To me almost any challenge can be met with the gift or lesson of it. When looking at the possibility of life shortened unexpectedly, we may ask what's left to do or how do I want to live -- besides love my children and grandchildren more and be more loving, kind and joyful, I recommitted to my life intention from many years ago -- to bridge science and healing offering new possibilities for adults and children.
I hesitated sharing my vulnerability and reflections so publicly yet I am learning that what we each do sometimes opens doors for others. Fortunately this story has a happy ending. The doc called me the day after the biopsy to say that the mass in my liver was benign, it was not cancer.
Did everything I did turn around the diagnosis? Was cancer ever or never present? Of course I will never know. What I do know is that we each must tune into what feels right for our own well-being and nurture our spirit in every way we believe in, be willing to change and to trust and ask for guidance.7 Keys to Healing
- Let go of Fear or lessen it as much as possible.
- Create time daily to be quiet, listen, meditate, whatever calms you.
- Love yourself as much as possible
- Don't listen to other people's stories or negative beliefs.
- In the non-knowing phase don't research about the potential condition. (My daughter was told that the kind of liver cancer I likely had would kill me in 6 months to a year. Fortunately she didn't tell me but it certainly didn't help her carrying such fear around)
- Discover gratitude every day.
- Believe in the possibility of full healing.