In 2013, our dreamy life changed dramatically when my husband’s barber asked, “What’s that on your neck?”
David saw three doctors and had six procedures by the time we heard the five words that rocked our world, “You have stage IV cancer.” The lump protruding from his neck was a malignant growth that had metastasized from the base of his tongue. Four days prior, our thirteen-year-old son was diagnosed with Lyme Disease.
“What’s happening to our family?” I thought desperately, trying to make sense of it. Life was going along nicely, when suddenly our roles changed: husband and son became patients; wife/mother became caregiver.
So how is it the most challenging time of our lives turned out to be the most valuable, loving and precious? Here’s what we gained…
• I used mindfulness to soften my judgments and conclusions about having cancer. I stopped viewing my illness as a tragic event or failure. I invited allowance, grace and gratitude to my daily experience. New outlooks on living with cancer emerged: by not resisting what is, I felt less pessimism, pain and anxiety.
• What if living with cancer is also a gift and can lead you towards experiencing more gratitude and appreciation? What if hitting bottom is a unique opportunity to press the reset switch? This is your chance to reinvent yourself, embrace humility and practice self-compassion. Keep asking: “What else is possible?”, and be open to allowing new possibilities.
• If your goal is to heal your body, what choices are you making to support that goal? I couldn’t run, so I walked. I couldn’t lift weights, so I did yoga. I couldn’t eat, so I sipped nutritional shakes. I thanked my body for all it does, always listening to what it’s trying to tell me.
• During moments of adversity, who you are BEING is YOUR choice. Be aware that it’s something you actually have control of. Choose to put more attention on the things you can control: your breath, your serenity and your happiness. Your attention can hold only one thought at a time. Instead of focusing on fearful thoughts that make you feel worse, focus on thoughts that make you feel better. Look for the positives in major life challenges and make it a journey of self-discovery and transformation.
• Usually, caregiving conjures up images of stress and burnout. I decided to make it an opportunity for self-love and self-care.
• Visualizing myself staying calm, present and helpful, I tapped into a level of deep and compassionate love that previously, I didn’t know I was capable of.
• I felt grateful for my willingness to be a caregiver. As a result, I experienced calm and joy. I had moments of upset for sure, yet I always found things to be grateful for. I appreciate what life has taught me so far.
• Have you thanked your body? Your heart has been beating faithfully since the moment you were born, your lungs automatically bring you life-giving breath, and every breath you take in becomes a new beginning to each moment in the now.