The Greatest Gift

Do you ever feel like you’re living life on auto-pilot? Just going through the motions, numbed out and questioning what life is really all about?

I can honestly say that this has been me for the better part of my life. Zombie land. Day in, day out. Until one day in 2015, I found myself in a crisis of seismic proportion. A shit-storm so big that I had no idea how to navigate through it or even fathom moving beyond it. The experiences and teachings of my life to that point had not prepared me for this. Enter stage left: a diagnosis of breast cancer, DCIS in my left breast.

And as I heard the breast surgeon repeat for the second time, “You have a lump, and it’s cancer”, my mouth went dry and I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. As tears streamed down my cheeks, I felt so alone as I feared my own mortality. I went straight into shock. I didn’t want to believe it. I wasn’t prepared for this news and nor was I ready to acknowledge that this could be my fate.

There is nothing quite like a cancer diagnosis to shake you to your core. I wanted to kick and scream but who would want to listen? I wanted to know why cancer had picked me. Why?? I wanted to deny its very existence in my body and worse, did not want to give this cancerous tumour any of my time to receive proper treatment or to heal.

The weeks that ensued were among the darkest in my life. Like waves crashing on a rocky shore, emotions washed through the numbest parts of me, waking me to the many stories that defined my life.

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”  Mary Oliver

As I retreated into my shell, feeling the gap of separation from loved ones widen, I took deeper dives into my being than I had ever ventured before. I started to question who I was, what was important to me, what inspired me and what I needed to let go of. I looked at the patterns that kept me comfortable on auto-pilot and the many labels I had chosen for myself so I could impress loved ones and succeed in the corporate world.

And the deeper my exploratory dives, the more I realised the layers upon layers of protection I had constructed. So many masks and bull shit stories to prevent the world from seeing who I truly was. Like I was some grotesque, unlovable witch too wretched and unworthy of acceptance. I had concocted quite a complex set of fairy tales about myself, none of them very close to the truth.

In February 2020, I went for my annual mammogram, five years since my first diagnosis. A different radiology clinic, a different surgeon, and another diagnosis of breast cancer. Left breast. This time, aggressive cancer. What the??

Once I got passed the shock and denial of a second diagnosis, I felt rage, hurt, grief, confusion, disappointment, shame… did I mention rage? Why me? Why now? Why again?

Call me crazy but I’m the kind of person that believes our body is a powerful messenger. It is constantly communicating with us through our tight shoulders, headaches, indigestion and so on. Physical symptoms show up when we aren’t in alignment or rather, when we are out of balance. Our body is always trying to return to its naturally balanced state. Messages usually start with a little whisper and if left unattended, amplify into a tap. And if the tap is disregarded, a slap usually follows in the name of a disease or illness that will stop you dead in your tracks. Something like breast cancer.

Unlike my first diagnosis in 2015 where I refused treatment and chose to soldier on with work and my life more broadly, my second breast cancer diagnosis with a much more aggressive cancer was the slap I needed to truly hit the pause button on my life and take what I’m calling my soul’s sabbatical.

And as I progress my way through chemotherapy treatment, I can feel the layers of my bull shit stories washing off of me. Letting go of the old egoic patterns that no longer serve me. Letting go of the stories I am so bored of repeating. Letting go of the titles I created that never really fit anyway.

I now find myself in the dark hallway between the doors of my old life before cancer and a new world after cancer. And as much as the hallway is lonely at times, scary and uncertain, it’s also quite exciting to consider what might be waiting on the other side for me. What do I want my life to look like? What is important to me now? Who are the people I most want in my life going forward? And what am I ready to let go of?

Life makes me laugh at times. So, as I make the journey from one doorway to the next, I can see that my cancer crisis is actually a gift. The greatest gift in fact. The perfect crisis has illuminated my truth; letting go of any remaining fragments of my false self to make way for the full expression of my unadulterated, true self.

Love and wisdom,

Cindy xx

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