Friday, January 23, 2015

Survivor Stories: Top things to know about recovering from cancer- Justina Hurley

This month, Cervical Cancer Awareness month, we are pleased to share the stories of cervical cancer survivors. This post was written by  Justina Hurley and appears with photos on the That Health Site website. Justina is an Irish writer and BioEnergy Therapist based in Southern Ireland. 

Cancer isn’t all bad..

This is just my take on this and I’ll explain more about all of this below but for a short list:

  1. Less tolerance
  2. More connection to day to day life pleasures
  3. Past interests and even career choice can completely change
  4. Friends and family become very important
  5. Learning to live at peace with a ticking time bomb makes you very zen!

Recovering from cancer isn’t as straight forward as many would think.

For friends and family who help you through, the worst part for them is hearing about it and being there while you undergo treatment and / or surgery. Then, when all of that is over and once you have had that first post operative or post treatment all clear, everything all goes back to normal again…for them.

However for me that’s actually when it all began!!

I’ll explain… I knew I had cancer for a long time before it was diagnosed. I’m a bioenergy therapist and I knew something was very off in my system, I was even sure that that problem was in my cervix but smear after smear showed an all clear result.

I was tested on average every 6 months as I had been exposed to DES in the womb, and despite the bleeding, the pain and the constant symptoms, every smear was clear. I even had an ultrasound which showed an all clear and yet the symptoms were ongoing. Finally on holidays I had a really, really bad pain, this time like a knife ripping through my insides and another bleed.

It was a defining moment as I absolutely knew, despite all tests, that this was cancer. As soon as I got home I was tested again. This time, probably due to whatever the knifelike pains had done in my system, the result showed full blown adenocarcinoma. Strangely enough I was relieved. At last my feelings were being proved right!

The cancer was unfortunately quite progressed to a 1B1, but was still operable and I wasn’t going to need chemotherapy or radiation. I felt so lucky though, as I knew it had been there for quite some time and that it had stayed as confined as it had was nothing short of a miracle. I can only think that all the healing and sound therapy I had been doing for my clients had somehow rubbed off on me. That, and a diet rich in turmeric, ginger and chilli maybe!!

Where I live we are so fortunate to have one of the top surgeons for kind of surgery I needed – a radical hysterectomy. So while everyone else around me was worried and anxious about procedures etc., I wasn’t. I felt really positive and I had a real sense that this could have been so much worse.
The years of training in healing and spiritual practice kicked in too, proving that when the chips were down I found an inner reserve of trust that literally kept me in a state of real calm, grace and optimism.

The added bonus for me though, was that I got a real appreciation for the one thing that I had struggled with down through the years – namely the real experience of physical life!

In healing, in writing and in my childhood I tended always to drift to the wider world of spirit, universal consciousness or whatever term you choose. It is a wonderful connection to have and for me the world has been and always will be a part of a much wider multidimensional reality. But all the time I was aware that on a level I didn’t quite ‘get’ the physical life part. My preference was for what I called the wider world, physical life…meh! was fine but narrow….

So maybe subconsciously I chose the lesson of cancer to give me a push in one direction or the other. All outcomes are perfect. I truly believe that, as what is happening is happening only because on some level a part of me chose that experience. And we all die, so that’s not the issue really. But it’s a bit different when you have it brought to you that yes we do all die, but right now the exit door might just be approaching a lot sooner than you thought.

Then just to make sure I was getting the lesson, a slight mix up when waiting for a test led a doctor I didn’t know to misread my file and more or less imply that things were much worse than I thought!! Wow! The emotions even surprised me! I went from fear, to terror, to upset and then kind of grabbed onto my inner practise and felt my way back to peace and acceptance. It wasn’t pleasant but it was the final kick in the proverbial I needed to really get the life bit!

Something gelled in me. I felt a shift where yes the acceptance that ‘all outcomes are perfect’ was still there, but a real 100% desire to live and to fight for life kicked in.

Life became shinier, more immediate and more real. My awareness and connection to the wider world hasn’t changed, but the connection to this life, to this body is much deeper and more thankful and more understanding of why the time here in this amazing body suit is a real privilege and not one to be wasted.

So this gets me back to my five points from above. When the dust settles and the process is supposedly over, well it’s not actually over for you. In some ways it’s just beginning, but in a good way.

If there has been surgery or treatment, when that is over there is a part of you that can come out of survival mode. If you had an experience like me whereby I really felt like I was carried through everything by grace, then the hands that carried begin to coax you back to standing on your own two feet again.

Then the real work begins because you have changed and while everyone else goes back to normal, you stay changed and in that change, there will still be patterns in your old self that still need undoing.

What changed for me:

1. Less tolerance

For all the reasons I’ve said above, there is just no place for nonsense, for insincerity, for anything fake in fact any more.

I always think of an example my spiritual teacher gave where, for example, someone chops off their own finger. You’re concerned for them, you want to help and so you help them have it put it back on, help them to get through all the reasons behind why they did it and so on but as soon as your back is turned they chop off the next finger, and the next and the next.

“Now,” he asked, “how many fingers do you stay for? At what point does compassion stop and enabling or even destructive codependence begin? When should you walk away and what is stopping you.”

Well, before my cancer awakening (as I like to call it) I was really a 5 or 6 finger person. Not so bad that I’d stay for the whole 10, but still using too much of my energy to give where the giving was really just an act of throwing my own energy away. Now I’m gone at the second finger! Once is a cry for help, twice is maybe needing to bed the learning in, but after that there’s a choice that is not mine to make, push or force.

And this applies to me too. Perhaps to me most of all. All the things I used to postpone or fear or just say I’ll get round to it when I have more time are brought into sharp focus when you might not have that time. Time becomes precious and so I’m becoming even more intolerant of any behaviours in myself that hold me back.

In some ways maybe it’s made me less easy to be around as I just see anything that I don’t want to do as a waste of this precious time. It feels like a second shot at life or even a new life and time to get rid of old patterns and habits that I don’t want in my life any more. It’s not easy and is an ongoing learning but I’m working on it!

 2. More connection to day to day life pleasures

Life becomes more vibrant, well at least it has for me. Sitting in the sun, coffee with friends, the birds singing, working with clients, all the little things have become the big things. They have become the real pleasures and while there are still things I want to do and achieve, the feeling in the moment, the really being in the now and experiencing the now is what counts.

As ultimately it’s my body that went through the ordeal, I now have a much greater appreciation for it and for what it can withstand. How often we look in the mirror and criticize and complain and want to be thinner, fatter, prettier and so on. Now I’m loving the “body suit” and accepting it for what it is with all its quirky bits and imperfections.

Even the changes post surgery are a marvel to me. Who knew that one hormone could change so much! Life without ovaries is really different and to witness the changes in my own body is at times challenging, but always intriguing. And I have to honestly admit that I’m nothing short of delighted to be free of years of painful periods and endometriosis, so sorry womb but I don’t miss you at all!

3. Past interests and even career choice can completely change

It’s hard to put this into words but it ties in a bit with less tolerance. The balance between doing what you love and earning a living is a real one, regardless of circumstances. So that is still there but now I just can’t do anything I don’t love, even if that means less income.

So I let go of all the work that I did just for income and now only want to do my bioenergy work and write here for this site and my own creative projects.

Do I worry still about income and all of that? Of course. That’s an old pattern and hard to fully break, but I’m much happier now to roll with what comes and just keep doing what I love and trust that it will work out.

4. Friends and family become very important

I say I was carried though my whole journey by grace and love, but a huge part of that was the amazing support of friends and family. For anyone reading this who has a loved one with a cancer diagnosis, then don’t run away from talking about it and don’t be afraid to have fun. My friends were beyond supportive.

My healing friends sent healing, my medical friends almost came into the surgery with me, and my other friends were just there in every way they could be.We went out, had day trips, ate, drank, laughed. And I am aware that they all have busy lives but they took the time out to be there for me and I will always be grateful for that.

I am aware too that while I didn’t get into fear or worry and I can honestly say that even though I had my moments (see section 5!) I didn’t really have that much fear. However I know my immediate family did and again their friends rallied round and supported them and this helped me, as one thing that did happen, for me anyway, is that I couldn’t get involved in how anyone else was reacting as I knew that to stay on top of things I had to stay 100% away from all the negative associations with cancer.

So I was probably annoyingly positive! But it was how I felt and I do understand that at times I must have seemed unfeeling about the worry my family were experiencing but I just couldn’t take that on board and stay on top of things myself. All my energy had to go on being and feeling positive and on undoing the energy pattern that got me into the cancer situation in the first place.

5. Learning to live at peace with a ticking time bomb makes you very zen!

I’m not superhuman and did have moments of real fear along the way, but thankfully very few. I’ll discuss dealing with fear in another article. But I’m not naïve either. Just because I don’t want to allow the energy of cancer to have another second in my system, doesn’t meant that it won’t return. I don’t want it to and I believe it won’t, but it could, I know that too. However you can either worry about that all the time or ignore it completely or you can find a space in between.

I imagine it a bit like being in a room with a bomb in the corner that has been deactivated as far as everyone knows but which can’t be moved. Now you can spend every day hovering around that bomb and continually checking to ensure it won’t blow or you can just see it as an ornament in the room, surround it with some nice soft cushions and maybe a potted plant and voila, you have an interesting room feature that you can live with and come to appreciate for the little reminder it continually sends that life is a gift to be appreciated. That’s my zen bit and my space in between!
Living in the sense that ‘right now I’m fine'; that’s where I have to stay. There are of course continual medical checks and each one that is OK adds another nice cushion to pad that bomb and decorate the feature in my room.

I’m grateful for my bomb and the little message it sends. I’m getting used to its continual presence but I don’t want it to explode ever again!!

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