Cancer’s Silver Lining

“You have cancer.” Those three words are probably the most fear producing in the English language. Reactions to them can be anything from shock and disbelief to shear terror. Not very many people would think “oh good, now I can change my life”. I do know from working with cancer patients for 22 years that it can be a challenge and a blessing at the same time. It can stop you in your tracks and change life as you know it in an instant. And after the dust settles, you may never look at life the same way again.

I learned a myriad of lessons from clients who had cancer but most of all I learned about living. When one is faced with a diagnosis of cancer, ordinary life stops and It is replaced by doctor’s appointments, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. We forget that we had a life before cancer, we will have a life after cancer, and that we can make conscious choices about how we want to live the rest of our life. The development of cancer provides many people with the opportunity to examine their life: what works, what needs to change, what is important to them, how they want to spend their time etc

We are indeed spiritual beings and sometimes we forget to follow that inner voice guiding us along our journey. Life gets in the way of fulfilling our innate purpose and calling. What dream has the soul placed in our heart that we are ignoring? Where are we focusing our attention needlessly instead of nurturing ourselves? What is so out of balance in our daily life that we neglect our own spirit? Where did I get lost? These are valid questions to be explored and perhaps answered. When we lose our direction on our path the universe has a way of nudging us back into balance. Sometimes that nudge comes in the form of an illness.

It is well documented that there is a mind/body connection in healing. Our thoughts and feelings impact our immune system which in turn affects our response to treatment .In counseling there are several questions that can be asked to facilitate a conversation about “what next”. “Are you happy with yourself”; “Are you happy with your relationships”; “Are you happy with your job” are examples. It has been my experience that people are resilient. They have resources and strengths that they can tap into to change the areas of difficulty in their life. What they decide to examine and possibly alter is up to them. Perhaps they are in relationships that are unhappy. They can work on healing them, forgiving themselves and others. Perhaps they are out of balance in their profession: they work as an accountant but they really want to be an artist. They can take art lessons and explore that experience without giving up their livelihood. The possibilities are endless and it is worth the effort to bring life back into balance and joy back into living. All it takes is an open mind, an open heart, and a willingness to participate fully in ones capacity to change and grow.

In 2010 I had my own nudge from the universe. “You have breast cancer” the doctor said calmly. My reaction was shock and disbelief. I listened to my options and after it all sunk in, I knew what I wanted to do. All those clients had been my greatest teachers, and this was my wake up call to make some changes in my life. I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, grandmother, friend and counselor. I gave to everyone in my life and I had taken the back seat. It was now time to create more balance in my life, to make time for me. I still give to all the people in my life and I cherish the time I choose to share with them. What has changed is the amount of time I take for me .I am a spiritual being walking a path of service to others, never forgetting that I too need nurturing in my life. I travel a little more, I have massages, I meditate regularly, I read several books a month; I do what I need to help me stay balanced. Since my diagnosis I have written several children’s books and several more are in development. I always wanted to write but could never find the time. There is no time like the present. This is my silver lining in having cancer.

There are those of you out there who are dealing with your own cancer challenge. Could it be that the universe is whispering to you, nudging you back on your path, asking you to examine the choices you are making in your life? If so, you may want to explore the possibilities and find the silver lining in your cancer experience. Open your mind and heart and see what happens.

Linda West

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