I’m sitting on my couch, trying to ignore the numbness in my right shoulder, the contstriction in my calves from the lovely hospital-provided compression socks, the pain from my incisions. I know that all of this discomfort is temporary, but I do believe there is some permanent change to come from my cancer experience. And in many ways, I am thankful for this.
Health and wellness have always been things I have desperately desired for myself. If you know me at all, you’ve probably seen the various health “phases” I’ve been through with diet and exercise, with spirituality and mental approaches to healthy living. You’ve also probably seen me struggle implementing any lasting changes in many of these areas. I would eat tremendously well one week, and I would be enthusiastically engaged in my gym routine, and then when the weekend came I would put away whole bottles of wine (followed by whole pizzas) to myself on evenings with friends. Or I’d smoke myself into oblivion (yes, I was an opera singing student with a significant pot habit) and eat the entire contents of my fridge. And the aftermath was always the same: I felt so terribly guilty and disgusting for allowing myself to behave so loosely around “temptation”, and would kick into MAJOR self-loathing mode. My self loathing mode looked a lot like military style punishment. My inner self talk was insulting (“pig”,” filthy pig “,and other niceties), and I would beat myself to a pulp with exercise, followed by starvation and the occasional purging because I truly felt so repulsive, disgusting, and at times, unfit for living. Most of my thoughts began with “you don’t deserve…” After I felt I had been sufficiently punished for my sins, I would try to resume my “healthy lifestyle”, always anxious and on edge, waiting for my inevitable failure, my inability to stick to anything (that’s what I thought it was), for the next time I stepped out of line and needed punishment again-that was my pattern with diet and exercise until very recently. I realize now that my black and white thinking around food and health was extremely rigid, founded on punishment rather than kindness, which made the whole thing very unsustainable-nobody can maintain that yo-yo lifestyle and be truly healthy. It’s madness. You might look like the picture of health on paper-I certainly did!-but if your thoughts look anything like what I just mentioned, you may want to gently ask yourself some questions. My inner dialogue was a reflection of a core belief that I was fundamentally flawed, that the essence of who I was was inherently bad and unloveable. This core belief is what prevented me from taking on self-care in a compassionate and loving way.
I think I mentioned in my first post that I’ve experienced a radical shift in my mentality around food and weight and exercise. It took a cancer diagnosis for me to begin the process of learning to love myself, and to make choices for my body out of this love. In some ways, that saddens me. It saddens me because it’s evidence of how deeply seeded these harmful beliefs were. It took something so awful and extreme for me to even begin to recognize my inner light, my compassion, my kindness, my loveability-all of these wonderful things that reside in each and every one of us. It’s quite tragic that it’s taken the horror of these last few months of hospitals and doctors offices, of dizzying blood work and MRI’s, of bone scans and major surgery for me to see some of the truth about my value on this earth. But in another sense, it’s quite beautiful that out of something so terrible, something so solid and strong and trusting is emerging. I am embracing this part of my life for all of the huge lessons I’m learning-lessons that I don’t believe I could have learned any other way. Not because I wasn’t trying… I absolutely was. Health and wellness were always so important to me but they were blocked by my own self hatred. I truly see my cancer experience as a gift because it’s allowed me to start to gently move aside my feelings of unworthiness to make room for the truth. I’ve come to see my cancer diagnosis as an almighty tap on the shoulder from God/Source/Spirit telling me “Hey lady, you’ve got some big learnin’ ahead, and some things in your life have gotta change in order for your to be your truest highest self. And I’m with you...”
People have been asking me if I will ever go back to eating the way I did prior to all of this (don’t get me wrong, my diet was never horrible, but it certainly was not what it is now-today, I consume a mostly raw, vegan, no grain or flour or dairy, nothing that comes in a package, plant based diet. At this point, I highly doubt I’ll ever go back to my pre-diagnosis diet. Today, I eat for health. My diet is one of the biggest areas of influence I have over my own health, so I believe doing everything I absolutely can in order to support my immune system is a necessity, especially now. I soooo wish I was doing these things as a preventative measure as opposed to after-the-fact, but that is all the more reason for me to continue on my path of health-and-wellness-centered living.
I believe my body had been crying out to me for a very long time, and for whatever reason-there were probably many-, I was unable to hear it. Probably because my inner Regina George (the name I’ve given to my inner mean girl, my super ego, the voice of my self hatred) was squawking away in my ear. I believe my immune system had been suppressed for years due to diet, frequent antibiotic use, anxiety, depression, and overall self loathing. Although I do not understand the exact science behind this belief, something inside of me knows that all of these factors in combination provided an environment for disease to flourish.
We are all constantly creating cancer and mutated cells in our bodies. In healthy immune systems, these cells are taken care of and discarded appropriately before any issue comes out of it. For some reason (and I’m beginning to come to some pretty profound realizations around this), my body was unable to do what it was made to do. I believe my cancer developed as a result of an unhealthy immune system, and I am doing everything in my power to rebuild my health from the ground up.
I’m in a bit of a pain killer-induced haze right now, but I will definitely be writing more on this topic, because I have a lot more to say…
Also: I have been happily reunited with my pup. She has been such a sweet little healer…
Until next time….