This was first published in Health Triangle Magazine following a podcast interview I did on this topic on UK Health Radio recently. Many thanks to Robin Daly, the presenter of the Yes to Life show, for doing the interview and his brilliant editing of this article.
When people discover that they have cancer, their initial reaction is typically “I’m going to die!” You can often see those same words written in the eyes of their loved ones; and it’s true. Life will never be the same again.
My take is not to hand power over, but to use a person’s energy to feel their experience, get the message that cancer wants to give them, and then allow cancer to pass. Thank the messenger for doing its job, then let it go.
It’s not about “think positive then everything will be okay.” It’s more about focusing on what you want to grow, rather than on what you want to go. How do you want life to be on the other side of this? What is life trying to tell you? What needs to die in order for you to be who you really are and live a truer life?
It’s an honour to sit with a cancer client and ask them how they’d like their life to be after the cancer has passed. I ask them “If this cancer was a gift, if this was the biggest catalyst in your life and the lives of those around you, then what would you want to achieve? How do you want life to be on the other side of this?” Then I get them to focus on what they want to live into.
This leads to a review of what’s been working in their life and what hasn’t. We look for patterns that may be repeating and identify the causes, so that new perspectives can be gained and changes made. One of the most common issues or patterns that comes up is that of avoidance. What have you been avoiding in your life? It’s almost like life says “You’ve avoided boundaries, you’ve avoided intimacy, you’ve avoided conflict, now try avoid this”.
Another common issue is receiving – receiving love, receiving care, receiving space. This is especially true for people who are used to being the strong one, the helper, the one in control that others turn to; and now the shoe is forced on the other foot as life says ‘in order to experience love, you need to receive as well as give.”
It might be about expressing, communicating or simply sitting with past issues, so that they may pass.
I’m not saying that changing these things will definitely bring about a cure, but I believe it certainly helps to let whatever needs to pass, pass, so that there’s space for this person to ‘exist’, enabling the cancer to pass through.
Strangely, another thing that I have enjoyed with cancer clients is laughter: at the past, fear of the future, pain, embarrassment, or unfinished business put into perspective.
A healing journey begins with crisis; then it becomes about getting healthy again.
We sit with pain, panic, devastation, guilt, the life-or-death decisions that need to be made. But whatever happens, you simply can’t go back to your old life.
My ex-cancer clients are all much better at living life here and now, rather than running from the ghosts of the past or trying to control the fantasies of the future. That in itself is a huge gift.