“Here’s the real paradox: you can’t change anything until you love it and you usually only want to change something because you don’t love how it is.” Brian Andreas
Cancer. This word most likely has more than a neutral meaning for most of you. Some of you have had it and some of you know someone who’s had it. Many of you have lost someone to it. And for most of you, this word brings fear and loathing. You might wonder who is crazy enough to admit to loving such a horror. I am. Since we’re shooting down this rabbit hole together, I might as well clear up my stance on cancer.
I do know I will be treading on some very delicate toes. I will not speak for others, but feel it is important to look at this word from a few different vantage points before we race to war on that word.
The first time I went through cancer, I didn’t actually go through it. I edged around it, poked needles at it and feared it because cancer is scary and uncomfortable. That cancer did go away, but the message that it was supposed to impart on me was lost. I doubled up on my veggies and went bankrupt on supplements, because those were things I could control. And the fear of the unknown lurked behind every corner. If my doctors didn’t know how I got cancer the first time, how could I prevent it from coming back?
When this cancer came knocking, I unraveled my feelings one by one. I walked with my fear, hearing its worries. I held hands with death, understanding that it would always be a part of my life, but it wasn’t reminding me of its presence to scare me. Death was simply showing itself as a reminder of how important living is. When I finally came to cancer, we sat across from each other and I stopped running and started listening.
Cancer told me that she was simply a messenger. The message was that there was something very broken deep inside of me and it was time to fix it. She told me that I had to go deeper, that this wasn’t a surface issue. I had to look at my soul and spirit and let them out of prison. Let them breath, let them sing. She explained that I wasn’t waking up to all the other internal red flags and external symptoms my body sent so she was sent as the ultimate wake-up call. Behind this message are very deep roots, traveling back to places of old pain.
When I say that I love cancer, I don’t mean it in the way I love maple syrup. That sticky goodness can get on any item on my plate and make it infinitely better. Fingers, sausage, coffee; it is welcomed and adored. The love I am talking about is similar to how I feel about giving birth. It pushes you to the brink, tests your every ability and everything else fades as you focus on the task at hand. And if all goes well, the gift you’re given at the end is more incredible than ever imagined. But that ending is beyond our control, isn’t it? We do our part and let a higher power do the rest. That is how I see cancer.
Cancer understands that I do have to kill the messenger, but that to do it in fear or panic is running the wrong way. So, I am trying to love this cancer to death. I am trying to understand her, and meet her halfway. And when she feels like I have absorbed the message she sent, I imagine we will part ways peacefully.
The messy middle of all of this is that I still hate cancer sometimes. I still blame her for all that is uncomfortable in my life. As I peel the layers back, I find myself coming to a place of complete loathing for her. I don’t like what she makes me look at and deal with. And she stares back at me quietly until I realize that hating cancer is hating my body. Because these cells that have gone haywire are still my cells. They’ve simply forgotten how to communicate. And in these moments of miscommunication with my body, anger ensues. I now know when anger is coming and resign myself to just being. I take a bath, sleep, read a book that has nothing to do with health and healing. And eventually, I come back to peace. Eventually.
Oh, and did I mention that this cancer prefers to be called Helen? True story. In a meditative state, I was conversing with her and she would prefer not to be attached to a name that causes such fear. She prefers to make this message personal and how better to do that than with a proper name. I’m sure this gets me a VIP membership to the front row of the crazy club, but I feel like I’m in good company. The crazy ones are the most fun.