It was that unimaginable moment when I sat down in the doctor’s office, and heard the words, “You have cancer”. A range of emotions rushed through my head and my heart dropped. What could I do? Would I suffer? Would I survive? How would my illness affect those I love? Is there life after death? I’m already exhausted, and I hadn’t yet left the office. It was time to either sink or swim. How could I do this?
Without question, there were many emotions that came with the prognosis and aftermath of cancer, and the denial, anger, and finally acceptance. Where would I go from here?
I met cancer head on with whatever treatments were available to me. And, whether going through treatment or after I was told all was clear, I moved forward taking one strong step at a time. I knew it was important to be honest with my feelings, and that to surround myself with others who could relate from personal experience to what I was experiencing was invaluable. To share emotions and openly and honestly express one’s self was good therapy. If I suppressed the negativity, I’d never completely heal. Point me in the direction of the nearest support group. When I was dealing with things that were too intense to share openly, I did so in the privacy of a journal, on the canvas I painted, or in the music I made with my Native American flute. My song would be carried in the wind to a higher place where my faith reassured me it would be heard.
When anniversaries came that reminded me of my diagnosis or intimidated me with fear of the future, I retreated before stepping forward (into that office for my annual checkup), took a breath, closed my eyes and thought positively. After all, healing and forging ahead begin from within. Yes, the treatment in whatever form comes from an outside source, be it a bottle of medication or radiation session. But I realized so much depended on me and my strength, my convictions. I embraced the idea of mind over matter, that how we think affects the health of the mind and the body. I was diligent in exercising to make me strong, and monitored my health to keep me that way. Follow up tests and appointments – I didn’t miss anything that kept me well.
I knew it would be okay to feel some sadness and guilt at all the life’s changes I’ve gone through or, that others around me have experienced because of my cancer. But I knew it was those loved ones who helped me leave guilt on the side of an unknown road. It’s not that I rushed things. Healing completely is a gradual process. But at some point I had to let go of what had already happened, what I cannot change, and look to the future. If I continued to struggle, I’d have to be honest that I could not and should not make this journey alone. There are resources for anxiety and depression treatment, and I did not hesitate to use any of them that I believed would help.
Finally, in the 55 years I have been on this Earth, I discovered the importance of having a passion or cause that is near and dear to your heart. There is no medicine as strong as feeling a deep sense of purpose that there is much left to do. In other words, have a reason for living. I happen to rescue cougars (something I wanted to do since I was a little boy). Without me, they would not be able to live a life of peace and happiness, surrounded by heavy doses of love and affection. With me (and my loving wife), they’d be just fine. I created good energy, improved conditions and healed all around me, and through such acts, I healed myself.