Second in a series
While educating myself about the traditional medical approach to “fighting” cancer, I also searched within to discover what I knew and felt about the disease. Within a week of my diagnosis, I spoke with Carol Burling, program manager of Pathways Health Crisis Resource Center. Ironically, I had been one of their providers for over two years; now I sought support as a participant. One specific suggestion Carol had was to consider Katherine Pohlman’s Health Coaching sessions.
Katherine helped get my head and heart around the reality of having a cancerous tumor. A discovery I made was cancer’s passive-aggressive nature — it stealthily takes over your immune system, preventing the immune system from identifying cancer cells as unhealthy and dangerous. I saw the parallel between the passive-aggressive nature of cancer and the nature of my personal and professional relationships.
My pride had gotten the best of me. A favorite NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) tool of mine is reframing. I believed I could reframe my perspective of others’ manipulative behaviors and still remain healthy and whole.
One must also let go of the anger, pain and loss, or even find a safer, more nurturing environment to live and work in. As Bruce H. Lipton states in his book The Biology of Belief, our environment has a great impact on us. I had allowed others to tell me what I needed to do, how to do it, and who I needed to be. Then when I was successful I was frequently undermined for having succeeded.
In 2011, I came to the end of my creative rope and was quickly slipping off the end — mentally, emotionally and physically. Helplessness and hopelessness enveloped me and was exacerbated by sleeplessness.
Sleep deprivation took its toll. Desperately I needed a pattern interrupt; it came in the form of prescription medications — anti-depressant, anti-anxiety and sleep meds. Sixty days later I was mentally and emotionally stabilized — just as the pea-size tumor in my left breast was determined to be cancerous. Cancer was setting up its home base, preparing for its grand assault on my body.
The first weeks
During the first weeks while I had meetings with the surgeon and the two oncologists, I weaned myself off the sleep and anti-anxiety medications and reduced the anti-depression medication by half.
Feelings and emotions are two of my more developed intuitive senses; I had realized that the medications prevented me from accurately accessing these important senses. I now needed my intuition more than ever!
On regaining my intuitive senses, I could own my belief that cancer is a disease of resentment and helplessness. Cancer can grow when there are repressed and unresolved emotions. I took inventory and found plenty of suppressed emotions, many from childhood.
In my young world, there was little space to express and clear away my emotions. It seemed that others had a more difficult time dealing with life’s challenges. I became a caretaker, getting others through crisis only to have my own feelings and disappointments pushed aside. I stuffed them, not knowing what to do with them, not knowing the long-term ramifications of not cleaning house on those old repressed memories and emotions.
I no longer have the luxury to haul around that old baggage. One surprising hurt I uncovered was being too young to go on a Girl Scout trip to Canada; I needed to be 16 but my October birthday prevented me from going on that once-in-a-life summer trip. I was angry with myself for being too young. Give it up, girl!
Another pain came from being terminated from a job. Although, I had successfully grown the organization’s business, my continued success was thwarted. It didn’t matter that I had multiple times met and exceeded the company’s objectives (and their expectations), only to have the tools to do my job taken from me. Sometimes others don’t play fair.
Others may have power or influence over you and use it against you, much like cancer taking over your immune system. Ditch that disappointment! I have more important things to deal with right now — like getting over cancerous thoughts that spawn diseased cells.
Follow my heart
Freeing myself from these past losses and disappointments lightened my spirit. This gave me the courage to follow my heart despite the fear I see in others. When I say, “I have a cancerous tumor in my breast,” I now recognize three distinct responses: pity, fear, or encouragement.
Pity is a reflection of my own hopelessness. In the relatively new field of Pyscho-NeuroImmunology, it is believed that people who contract cancer have a hopelessness mindset. When a person responds to me with pity, I search for my self-pitying leaks and quickly bail them from my body lest I sink my own ship.
Those who fear cancer usually shrink away, avoiding contact as if they might catch it from me like a cold. It’s best to let them go; their fear will only muddy my environment. Be aware of environments that spawn disease.
I prefer encouragement, like my friend Sheila who said, “Cheryl, you are a phenomenal healer. Your experience with cancer will only make you a better healer. You may not know that right now, but it will. You’ll see!”
And if you are facing a chronic or life-threatening disease, you may want to consider finding support on your journey. I asked Katherine what a participant could expect from coaching. She said, “The person can more easily tune in to their inner healers. This, in turn, often facilitates greater clarity about issues and decisions they are facing. As a coach, I create and hold space, I am mindfully present, and I communicate authentically with a client. The client is free to explore and find their own way.” And this is exactly what I experienced as one of her participants.
Thanks for the vote of confidence. Encouragement from others is one of the great milestones on my healing journey.
Tim Thorpe, executive director of Pathways Health Crisis Recourse Center, shared this information when I asked him: “What are several ways Pathways helps people reclaim their lives from a life-threatening illness?”
“At Pathways, the overarching goal is to empower and educate those with life-threatening or severe chronic illnesses. Often we hear, ‘Tell me what to do’ when a participant first arrives; to tell them what to do, however, becomes very one-sided and does not allow the participant to recognize what is best for them from a firsthand perspective. So our response is not to tell them what to do, rather to guide them along the process of self-selection, assisting them in the process of choosing the various one-on-one or group sessions that they think may be right for what they are being challenged with physically or emotionally.
“During new participant orientation, I often tell participants that the first program they sign up for may not ‘part the curtains’ for them from a significant healing aspect; it may not be until the second or third service they take that they experience the physical or emotional shifts for which they are looking; but, within this shift, we can then help show them that they — not-us — found the place and methods that allowed the improved health shift to occur. This is the beginning to helping participants renew — and reclaim — their lives.”
For more information about Pathways, call 612.822.9061 or go to pathwaysminneapolis.org. Their friendly, supportive staff and volunteers will be happy to help you.