Last in a 10-part series
I dedicate the final article of this series to a special friend. May his brilliance, gentle spirit, sensitive nature, and creative talents remain an inspiration to others. Jacob Peckels, I loved you while you walked in this world and continue to love you knowing that you are in a peaceful place.
What have I learned from cancer, the stage 1 invasive ductal carcinoma in my left breast? It is a teacher. And it is not something to be afraid of but to attend to.
It is an indicator that one’s thoughts, beliefs, physical and emotional being, environment and circumstances are out of balance.
Finding meaning in my current experience
This past July I took a solo canoe trip, my 17th in the past 19 years. It is proving to be a profound metaphor for my life. My relationship with the spirit of my beloved Quetico Provincial Park (Canada’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area) is one of trust. Over the years, the park informs me as to where I will canoe. The southwest corner of the park lit up like a beacon and said, “Here is where you will canoe.”
This area of the park is remote, difficult to get to, and completely new to me. It was necessary to keep a close watch on the map and compass. Camp sites were challenging to find and portages were long, strenuous, narrow, and sometimes restricted by fallen trees.
This eight-day trip was the complete cosmos of my life. Paying attention to the weather, wind and the relentless heat of the sun was critical for my safety and well-being. Daily, I had to scout for the portages –passages — around dangerous rapids or to the other lakes. Each evening, I searched the shoreline for a place to sleep. In new territory one must stay alert and attentive at all times. My rewards were great scenery and a deep sense of spiritual renewal and continuity. I rejoiced in being able to physically accomplish the trip. Since returning, a new sense of strength is unfolding, one with deeper roots to a belief and faith that all is well in the world and in me. I am different. I am happier and more content than ever. Paradoxically, there is more uncertainty in my life, and at the same time, a greater peace resonates from within me.
For the first time since hearing Mahatma Gandhi’s statement, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” I now understand that when peace reigns in my heart, mind and soul, it will quell the inner struggle and subsequent illness.
Make decisions consistent with who you are
My wish to everyone reclaiming their health, whether the illness is emotional, mental, physical or a relationship with yourself or another (or all of these), is that you select the options and make decisions that are consistent with who you are — your highest and best possible self: that which is in touch with the Divine Wisdom that speaks truth to you, in you, and through you.
I thought this past year contained the darkest hours of my life. In its wake, a new level of life-giving energy is rippling through me. I can truly say that I am happy for signing up for this journey. It gave me the time to reach deep into my soul. Before me is a compelling future; what that is, is not clear. What I do have are an inner light and a quiet inner voice as guides. What more do I need? After all, if we knew exactly what was ahead of us, would it be necessary to take the journey? In unknowingness, we must be alert, focused, and attentively positive — for in doing so, we are guaranteed to taste the sensory richness of life.
As a “canary in the coal mine,” I say that there was something wrong in my thoughts, lifestyle, food intake, health approach, and relationship with the allopathic medical systems. I now see that true wellness was not my gold standard. It was the deer-frozen-in-the-headlights syndrome that allowed me to wait until I achieved a life-threatening illness before taking full responsibility for what is best for my health on all levels: mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Since taking this walk with cancer, I realize that I had succumbed to many toxic ways. Now I have reclaimed my health and see wellness surrounding me continuously.
Thank you for allowing me to describe this journey while being in the unknowingness of it. Cancer made me a dutiful participant. The following quote of a Yakima healer from Listening with Your Heart: Lessons from Native America, by Wayne Peate, M.D., describes the experience of such a journey: “I have a bright light I enter when I do a healing ceremony. In the scientific world, you go from A to B. When I perform a ceremony, the light goes up and down, sideways and all around.”Â
You have an enduring spirit, so live it, express it fully in the way that only you can. Who cares if you appear foolish, brilliant, or silly? Just be authentic and true to yourself — you will know by the feeling in your heart.
With A Grateful Heart
It does take a village to heal serious illness. I am grateful and thankful to the following people who have been on this journey with me.
Thank you to: Cathy Jacobson and Tim Miejan of the Edge Magazine, A heartfelt appreciation to Cathryn Taylor, host of Edge Talk radio, and SchaOn Blodgett, co-host of “On the Edge of… Everything” on Edge Talk Radio, for allowing me to share my experiences, stories and lessons. Thanks to Tim Thorpe, Carol Burling, and Katherine Pohlman of Pathways, Dr. Paul Westby, Dr. Nick Froehling, Dr. LeeAnn Minnaert, Claudia Epyolotzin, Janet Oliver, Paula Quinlan, and Tricia Vogelsang for your guidance and healing energy.
Deep appreciation goes to my loving and supportive friends: Lynn True, Al Bernard, Carolyn Young, Pam Thiltgen-Hester, Rebecca Jochum, Dr. Stewart Gorney, Dale Jones, Beth Harvey, Sheila and Christopher Cooke, Terry and Linda Nichols, Marie Starr, Sheila Reiser, Susan and Mark Spiers, and Valerie Lis. Peace and blessings to family members: Lois Hiltibran, Robert Hiltibran, Karen Salmon, Glen Hiltibran, David Richman, Peggy and Mark Richman, Stacy Laufer, Katelynn Richman, and my grandchildren who are the future. You have been some of my most profound teachers. Thanks to my readers and those who emailed and called me, especially Kathy and Robin.
I could feel the life-giving energy from all of you who held me in your prayers, and I am grateful to have received it. I am humbled by my clients who, despite knowing I was walking through my own darkest fears, trusted me to support, encourage and be with you on your journeys.