When I got the cancer diagnosis about three months ago, the whole thing was aligned in such a way that I felt I had no choice but to accept the oncologist’s recommendation of chemo for 6 months. I have two young children and there was not an instant when I considered other options. The diagnosis was confirmed on a Monday and I started chemo on the Wednesday. My sixth chemo treatment was significant in a number of ways, not just because it marked the halfway point in my proposed treatment plan, but also because I had a happy appointment with The Prof last Friday.
I’ve known myself for the last couple of weeks that I don’t have cancer any more in my body. There may be a few floating cells around but I’m not carrying a cancerous burden now. The Prof is of the same opinion (although a PET scan next month will confirm). The strain my body is now under is from the chemo therapy.
I was at a qigong retreat last weekend in Athlone. It was wonderful to be immersed in the goodness of the space and the wisdom of the qi master, Yuan Tze. He spent most of the Sunday morning speaking about Trust. Trust with a capital T. He pointed out that Trust is innate in newborn babies. Fear is also innate and wired into our nervous systems. Depending on our early life experiences, our bodies and brains may get used to over-using our fear mechanisms. We may be quick to react to situations that aren’t actually dangerous but remind us of a dangerous moment from the past. In many of our western lives, we live in safety but also in a heightened state of alertness, anticipating what could go wrong. This puts the body into an almost permanent readiness for fight or flight, and over the years, we literally get sick of the stress this puts on our mind and body.
Trust is not the lack of fear as such, because we need to be able to use our fight or flight instincts at appropriate moments. It is different to Hope, which implies uncertainty. Trust and Hope are related and they share a root in a spiritual outlook that has faith in goodness. Living in Trust is knowing, in every cell of our system, that everything is going to be okay. Even if death is the outcome, we can cultivate a perspective that brings us peace and acceptance. Imagine living from that place, how relaxed your mind and body could be. When the body is truly relaxed, it enters into homeostasis, which is the balanced state at which it naturally heals itself, realigning all the pathways and systems for optimal efficiency. Our bodies are not designed to be sick. They are designed to be healthy. We are designed to be healthy on every level, just like the beautiful flowers that nature is showing us during the summer.
As I was listening to Yuan Tze speaking about Trust, what was coming up for me was the question of whether I will choose to finish out the recommended 12 chemo sessions. I feel that choice is back in my hands. My body has been so graceful, so accommodating of the treatment so far. I could not have asked any more of it. Apart from very mild nausea, manageable fatigue and thinning hair, I have had no side effects. I love my body so much for its intelligence and for its background processing of chemical interactions with the minimum of fuss. It has not caused me one moment of grief so far. My understanding is that this body-grace was facilitated by the fact that I accepted the chemo on every level – spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. I had no resistance to it, so it wasn’t taxing.
Having questioned The Prof on Friday about the necessity for 6 more treatments even without cancer in my body, I have renewed my decision to continue the chemo until the end of the process. This is a huge thing to ask of my body. And part of me becomes fearful when I can see the chink of doubt in my thoughts. This is where Trust comes in. I must continue to cultivate Trust.
Trust in my decision.
Trust in my body.
Trust in mySelf.