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People often tell me, “It’s amazing how positive you are all of the time about cancer!” Lol…I love your story of me 😉 And perhaps you have not read my blog. Yes, I have found a way to navigate the cancer journey with peace, grace, humor, & joy. The entire experience has been and continues to be the biggest blessing of my entire life. And guess what? I still freak the f*ck out sometimes too!
Some of the biggest emotional rollercoasters have been felt during this past month AFTER I completed cancer treatment. This took me by surprise…I mean, I’m done – right? There’s NO cancer – right? What’s going on here?
When I was in the middle of chemo, I attended a cancer support group. With my bald head and tiny body, I shared that I was surprised at how well I was doing ~ I felt pretty darn good compared to the stories I had heard and my attitude remained clear and positive. Then the ladies said, “Oh…you just wait until after treatment. You’re going to feel horrible.” Then I went on to hear about how terrible their lives are, the side effects from treatment (which honestly didn’t really seem related to treatment), and how they live in constant fear of a recurrence. As I witnessed their suffering, I could see so clearly that it was in their minds ~ if they could just let go of these stories, this victimhood, they would have a happy life (insert spiritual arrogance here). Why can’t they just see this?
Well, I’ll tell you why. When you’re in the midst of suffering, you are bombarded with a sea of stressful thoughts, images, physical exhaustion, & BIG emotions. A dark cloud looms over you, covering your eyes, so that all you can see is crap here and crap there. You are blind and stuck in a shitty mental movie. How do I know?
I’ve been here. And I’ve come to realize that depression, fear, anger, resentment, loneliness, and disappointment are not a problem. Do you want to know what makes these moments unbearable? It’s thoughts like…
I should be happy.
There’s something wrong with me.
It will get worse.
These feelings will never go away.
These BIG emotions fluttered in and out after my final reconstruction surgery. They were also fueled by the fact that during recovery, I was feeling very disappointed with the cosmetic outcome and also developed an upper respiratory infection that was accompanied by an intense cough…I coughed so much that I threw a rib out of place and vomited a few times. I was whiney, annoyed, and just wanted to get back to my normal life. I didn’t want to do The Work. I didn’t feel like doing movement. I’d curl up into my bed and cry. And then came in the above self-judgment and stressful thoughts.
How do you react, what happens when you believe that you should be happy, when you’re not? I am even more frustrated, ashamed, disappointed. I harden inside and want to close myself off from the world. I see images of the “old Bethany” who was peaceful and free – where did she go? COME BACK!!!! I don’t see the possibility of a happy future.
Who am I, feeling this way, without these thoughts? I’m here for me. I rock me through tears, I ask others to hold me. I feel the support of the bed. I tell myself that it’s ok, you’re doing great, and this too will pass. I am so sweetly connected with myself. These BIG emotions are welcomed and I let myself fully FEEL.
One night, I experienced what one might call an “emotional exorcism.” I was sobbing, hovered over the toilet and vomiting. My body was shaking…I felt 100% completely out of control. There was no choice but to surrender into grief. Grieving for the changes in my body and my life. My husband encouraged me to keep letting it go, which I did for what felt like hours. I awoke the next morning and cried more. I went to Acupuncture and cried through that as well.
And then, a shift.
I began to feel lighter, relaxed, at peace. My smile and sense of humor returned. Life looks sparkley again. I feel like myself again. I have more energy and feel excited and hopeful for the future.
For me, these BIG emotions could not be bypassed. It felt important and necessary for me to really feel them. Let them have a life. Let them move through me. And now that I’m on “the other side,” I can go back to inquiry ~ identify what I was thinking and believing ~ and continue to become enlightened by suffering.
BIG emotions are a natural part of life and the cancer journey. Suffering teaches me humility, connection, self-care, and the power of the mind.
So to the women who I judged at the cancer support group: I am so sorry. You are entitled to feel however you feel. There is nothing wrong with you. How can I help?
There are many ways to deal with emotions ~ venting it out may be the best way for you. For me, it’s often not enough. Feeling my way through it and questioning what’s beneath it is how I find the most freedom. What works for you?
With love & gratitude for ALL of the cancer journey (and that includes suffering),
~ xoxoxo Bethany
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Related blog posts…
Mental Medicine ~ The Work of Byron Katie
Self-discovery while in Recovery
A Different Kind of Breast Cancer Awareness
4 thoughts on “Meeting BIG Emotions in the Cancer Journey”
I have been following you through this ordeal. You inspire me completely. I have been following Byron Katie through you. Life is so strangely weird. Thank you for putting it all out for here for me to see. Love you Bethany, Cindy (Jacobson)
Hi Cindy!!! I am so happy to hear from you! YES – life is weird. So are bodies 🙂 Thank you for your support and for following along the journey. xoxoxo
This so resonates with me! Thank you so much for writing about BIG emotions. The first of May I had to go to the ER with tummy pain that felt like childbirth contractions. They said it was acute diverticulitis, gave me meds, sent me home on clear fluids. But within a month I was back in the ER with the same pain.
Where I resonate is during the night before I went back to the hospital the second time, I had a night of extreme fear, BIG emotions. I was really sick to my stomach, and was lucky I could keep the meds down.
Dark thoughts came through, some of them I could notice, feel, allow to pass thru, but then another dark painful thought would stumble in and terrify me. I wanted to ask my husband to get up and look for the pain medicine they’d given me, but I was worried he would freak out.
So I stayed in bed, when I got up to use the bathroom, I would nearly pass out on the way back to bed. Sometimes I could stay with the pain and I’d feel huge relief, but then there’d be a BIGGER scary thought and I’d be in terror. One of the darkest thoughts was that I was going crazy, when I believed that thought that I’d totally lost contact with reality, all there was is pain. I was so lost.
When I woke the next morning, I sat on the couch to do my meditation, and instead just cried and cried. I felt my body was attacking me, it was so unreliable, so untrustworthy. But, my belly was still hurting, and so I went to the ER again, I knew I had to do that cos my belly/the pain was giving me clear directions. And … for the first time in my life, I realized I need to actually listen to my belly. I noticed it was in charge and so instead of relying on my thoughts/mind, I let it do the leading.
I love that you said you just stayed with the pain, and came back to do TW later Beth, I couldn’t stay with the discomfort either, I was spinning and whirling and all I could do was be just in the moment I was in, no other. I was so sad, so confused. Not even an ability to “notice.” I judged myself for this, and for a month I couldn’t do TW on any of this. Finally, about a week ago, when I did, I began to see more clearly, and I am so grateful, it’s pointed me so clearly to a place where my mind is no longer in charge, it’s given up to “life itself.”
Which reminds me, Beth, that since that night I’ve been thinking of the documentary “Life Itself” that I watched a year or so ago. It’s about (Chicago film critic) Roger Ebert and the end of his life. Somehow, the energy of his story, his absolute courage and fearlessness, held me. I’m so grateful.
And I’m so grateful to you dear human person who I love and admire…for your honesty and courage. I can feel them in my own body. Thank you.
Much, much love,
Oh Dawn, thank you SO MUCH for sharing this! What a journey! I can so relate to feeling absolutely crazy too. On top of that, I added an extra dose of self-shaming because I am a “facilitator” of The Work. So many layers to these moments and pain can be such a great teacher when are open to seeing it that way. I will check out that documentary too! I have been reading a lot of books about death and it’s been helpful for me as I move into fearless living. Love you, Dawn xoxxo