This blog is dedicated to sharing my journey healing breast cancer. It will serve as a sort of “online journal” for progress, updates, inner & outer work, struggles, enlightening realizations, & more.
Join me on this adventure from pre-diagnosis to the cure…through all of the ups, downs, & turnarounds.
On September 16th, 2015, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer called Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (fancy name, eh?). I am young, healthy, and have no family history of breast cancer, so this news came as a big surprise! Watch this video to learn a little more about how I am handling this diagnosis.
I have chosen a path of healing that integrates traditional & alternative medicine ~ the perfect path for me. I feel incredibly blessed to already be fully equipped with incredible healing tools ~ The Work of Byron Katie (self-inquiry), Yoga, Meditation, Nutrition, Art, Acupuncture, Humor, & best of all…the Loving Support of Family & Friends. I’ve recently discovered the power of writing & a burning desire to share it…so here we are.
I am not here to fight cancer. I am here to make friends with it, listen to it, learn from it, evolve & grow. What if illness happens for our enlightenment? What if it makes our life even better? I am already learning so much from my new guru, Cancer:
People are kind.
Unconditional love does exist.
I am fully supported in every moment.
The cancer in my head (ie- my imagination) is way worse than the cancer in reality. Whew.
The universe doesn’t just pour a pile of shit on your head; there’s a bigger calling at work here and I’m open to fully experiencing it. Like Byron Katie says, “Life happens for you, not to you.” Here we go!
How to navigate this blog
This Welcome Post will remain at the top of the page and the rest of the posts will be ordered by “most recent” at the top. Here is the complete list of posts in chronological order:
Hiya friends! It’s been a while since I’ve posted a full update on what’s going on in my cancer world. I’m ecstatic to report: NOTHING. Ahhhhh, sweet nothing. Nothing new…nothing crazy…boring is my new fav thing when it comes to cancer. I am now 2 years cancer-free baby! Can you believe it?
It’s 6-month follow-up time. I met with my breast surgeon which entailed a very thorough boobie exam (is it strange that I wanted it to last longer?). I made sure to contort my body in various ways to highlight all of the weirdAF stuff that I feel around my breasts: lumpy tissue, band-like things in my armpit and under my breast, tightness, etc. I LOVE that ZERO stress lives in me about these new bodily discoveries. Because of my ongoing practice of inquiry, my mind just can’t put a scary label on any of it.
My job is so simple: bring body + weird stuff to the experts. Await the next direction.
The breast surgeon confirmed that it’s all just scar tissue and that everything is healing beautifully. I can continue to go to town with self-massage and stretching to break up the scar tissue. This month, I’ll also have follow-ups with my oncologist (bloodwork + feel up) and with my gynecologist (MORE feel ups + vaginal ultrasound which monitors the uterine lining and cyst on my ovary). Man, these boobies sure are seeing a lot of action! Speaking of….
Happy 1-year Boobieversary to Me!
Today, on May the 4th be with you, my girls turn 1. I am astonished by how much they have changed during their first year of life. They now let me sleep peacefully through the night from all angles – even on my stomach! They’ve adapted well to my active lifestyle and also know how to chilllllll out. They are beginning to look more like identical(ish) twins rather than fraternal googley-eyed sisters. They love touch – especially nightly massages with coconut & essential oils. They have their own personalities and quirks – I’ve just learned to accept and appreciate them for who they are and for what they’re not (full of cancer).
Cancer Camp, Retreats, & The Book
I took my girls to another cancer camp a few weeks ago in Austin where they learned to surf! Yes, surfing in Austin is a thang. The trip was led by First Descents, the same organization who hosted the week-long whitewater kayaking trip last summer. It was such a treat to hang with a group of young, fun cancer survivor/thrivers, spend time in nature at a gorgeous glamping spot, and then attempt the art of surfing.
YO…surfing is HARD! In the few times I actually got up, I became so freaking excited…that I would then again lose my balance and bite it.
It. was. so. fun.
We are all planning to have a reunion kayaking trip in June.
Last weekend was our 2nd annual Inner Peace Retreat ~ a weekend of yoga, The Work of Byron Katie, organic meals, and a sweet, sweet community. The location was serene and beautiful, and I am so impressed by everyone’s willingness to explore the stressful beliefs systems that keep us from enjoying the beauty of life. I’ve been keeping retreats local for the past few years while going through treatment and I’m now inspired to get back to international retreats. Costa Rica always calls to me and we’ll see what else is possible!
This Monday starts a new online class series called “Making Peace w/Disease” which I co-facilitate with my friend, Helena, who has HIV. Like me, she has used The Work of Byron Katie as a way to experience disease as a wise teacher, a gift. There is still space if you’d like to join!
I love my work. It feels off to even call it that.
Going through treatment has helped me hone in my practice and career around Yoga & The Work and I’m loving that it’s becoming more and more mobile. This summer will be spent in Colorado where I can both continue to work with private clients over phone/skype AND finish my book. Also leaving free time for hiking, kayaking, and hanging with family & friends (and avoiding the crazy Texas summer heat! Woot! Woot!).
The writing process is a fascinating mental adventure and if you’ve been reading my blog, you know how healing it’s been for me to write and share. Well, it’s pretty darn funny that the moment you put the label of “book” on writing…the inner critic sure does come out to play. And yell. And terrify me. Luckily, the content of what I am writing about – how to find peace & joy with cancer – also serves me in dealing with the crazy places my mind goes about writing a book.
It’s a waste of my time! Nobody is going to read it! I’m a horrible writer!
Awwww….Can I absolutely know it’s true? Nope. Do you know what is true for me? I feel called to write it. I have no clue what will come of it. I just know I need to write it. What happens next is not up to me.
I notice some days the writing flows out like (grade A, unfiltered) maple syrup onto warm, fluffy pancakes (gluten-free + organic of course). Other days, I impatiently stare at a blank word document on a screen. Bueller? Bueller?
There are times I LOVE what comes out of my head onto paper. Wow, she’s amaaaaazing. Other times…not so much. And yet, the writing continues.
As for the future of this blog – I’m open! I may continue to write monthly posts or maybe I’ll put it on hold until the book is finished. It’s not like me to “not have a plan” so that’s exactly what I’ll be doing. Challenge accepted.
Any questions or topics you’d like discussed? If so, feel free to post in the comments or email me at email@example.com. Sending LoVe to you this summer!!!
I was asked by the Institute for The Work of Byron Katie (ITW) to share my experience with using The Work in my cancer journey and also share how I’m now moving this powerful form of inquiry into the world…below is the piece I wrote. If you or anyone you know is suffering from any type of diagnosis – and you’re ready for a way out of the pain – I would LOVE to work with you. For private sessions and customized workshops or retreats, email me at Bethany@BethanyWebb.com.
The Work & Cancer
In 2015, I felt on top of the world! I had just finished ITW’s Certified Facilitator Training and was ready to launch into a new career combining Yoga & The Work.
But life had different plans. Just after my 34th birthday, my greatest teacher arrived instead: Cancer.
Lucky for me, I had cultivated quite the healing “toolbox” for handling stress. In fact, I felt like I had unknowingly been preparing for this moment all of my life. Thanks to these skills, I was able to immediately drop into an unwavering state of peace and gratitude.
Just kidding! Nope. At first, I threw every single peace tool out the window and turned to the art of freaking out, ugly crying, self-pity, and depression.
After exhausting myself with this method – I just had to make sure self-torture and suffering didn’t work for me – I started to take all of my stressful thoughts about cancer to inquiry. I was amazed to discover that in a very short period of time, the nightmare transformed into a blessing. I was actually EXCITED about cancer. Whaaat?
It became clear to me—I’m not here to fight cancer. I am here to make friends with it, listen to its wisdom, to learn from it, evolve & grow. What if illness happens for our enlightenment? What if it makes my life even better? Cancer became my guru and has given me the ultimate invitation to LIVE this practice.
While undergoing 2 years of treatment (which I now refer to as The School of Cancer), I observed how the mental journey of cancer touches every aspect of life: health, body image, physical pain, relationships, sex, finances, career, parenting, creativity, spirituality, death. Beliefs like this invaded my mind: “Cancer prevents me from living a full life. There is something wrong with me. Treatment is poisonous to my body. I want the pain to go away. I need the doctors to cure me. I am a burden to others. I will die a slow, painful death. That child should know I’m a girl, not a boy.”
Bringing these stressful stories to inquiry through self-facilitation, calling the Do The Work Helpline, and working with countless facilitator friends – is where I have found true freedom from cancer. The overwhelming support from ITW has cracked my heart wide open.
What. A. Community!!!
Schooled by My Guru, Cancer
I love how The Work provides a compassionate inner support system; it’s always available to lift me out of suffering. When I wasn’t under the influence of BS (Belief Systems), I was able to meet each phase of treatment with presence, gratitude, and humor. Here are just a few of the many lessons from my guru.
Do you know what happens when a clear mind goes through the cancer journey? It is free to enjoy the ride…
Moving The Work in The World
Writing has been a huge avenue of sharing and healing for me. I chronicle my journey – from pre-diagnosis to life after cancer – in “My Guru, Cancer” blog and am also working on my first BOOK! Click below for the top blog posts, and heads up—I cuss like a sailor 😉
It is a privilege to work with people affected by cancer via private sessions, workshops, and online classes. Through free “Mental Medicine Workshops,” I have brought The Work into Cancer Support Centers in Texas and hope to expand beyond. The response is so inspiring.
Some amazing connections have been made at our ITW Convention. One is with Helena Montelius, who discovered her own peace and freedom with HIV thanks to The Work. We have joined forces to offer an online class series called “Making Peace w/Disease through The Work of Byron Katie.” It’s for anyone with a chronic condition – from allergies to cancer to HIV to any physical injury. It’s incredible to see that regardless of the condition, the same type of stressful thoughts go through our minds. We get to discover that we are not alone, and there is a way out of suffering. Next series starts May 7th.
“The title for this class is very well chosen, I am definitely more at peace with my disease. I have seen, through our different inquiries, that resisting and being at war with my illness just creates more suffering. Helena and Bethany are very skillful facilitators. They establish a climate of honesty and acceptance that helps everyone to share and be open.” – Micheline
I’m also now connected with Meg Maley, the CEO and co-founder of CanSurround – an empowering online tool that offers mental and emotional support to cancer patients through The Work of Byron Katie, online journaling, meditation, helpful articles, and more. I created yoga therapy videos for their web site that infuse the practice of inquiry – for example, how to meet physical sensations with a curious, open mind, instead of with fear and stress. Something I practice a lot! Cancer has honestly made me a better yoga teacher. #cancerbonus
Inner Peace Retreats with Susan Vielguth also offer an invitation for participants to explore the mind/body relationship through Yoga & The Work of Byron Katie. Peace truly is possible regardless of the circumstances – we invite you to join our next retreat April 27-29th.
Closing with Gratitude
I am completely open to see where this journey leads me. I am truly grateful for all of it ~ the joy and the pain. I’m still a work in progress as this is all a continued practice for me. (We all know the real reason for being a “facilitator” – so we can stay in our own work!)
It is my hope that everyone finds true freedom from cancer. A freedom that exists with or without cancer cells in the body. Thanks to this beautiful practice of inquiry, I’m not a victim of cancer; I’m simply an eternally grateful student.
Like Byron Katie says, “Life happens for you, not to you.” Even cancer!
The most important ingredient in healthy eating has absolutely nothing to do with food. It’s not about being vegan, paleo, keto, vegetarian, ayurvedic, or a raw foodie. Nor is it about ditching sugar, carbs, gluten, trans fat, dairy, soy, GMO’s, or red meat.
This ingredient is free and accessible anytime, anywhere. It’s actually quite medicinal and has zero negative side effects. It pairs beautifully with any way of eating. Would you like a taste?
It’s called PEACE.
With so much conflicting information and health fads around diet, it’s no wonder we all get so freaked out about food. Add a cancer diagnosis (or any health condition) to the mix and it’s the perfect recipe to turn the art and joy of eating, shopping, and cooking into a frustrating and fearful experience.
Before cancer – especially in the 8 years prior to my diagnosis – I was a really healthy eater. Mostly plant-based, organic, with minimal dairy, gluten, and processed sugar. I did cleanses 2-3 times per year and exercised regularly. And cancer still had a party in this yogini body. I do feel nutrition is super important which is why it has been a huge part of my healing plan. It can also be a source of stress.
Here’s a popular mindset that use to send me into panic mode…until I added a question mark.
“Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it.”
Let’s explore this belief together using The Work of Byron Katie. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? Can you 100% know for sure what every bite of food is doing to each cell in your body right now AND in the future? Are you some kind of magical medical psychic with X-ray vision?
I call BS (Belief System). I know people who eat fast food every day and they don’t have cancer. I’m the healthiest eater in my family and the only one with the C word on my resumé. And I can also find ways that it’s true ~ there’s plenty of research and I do feel better when I eat better. But can I absolutely know it’s an irrefutable fact? No. And you may find a “yes.” Both answers are valid ~ it’s all about what’s true for you. And it’s so worth taking a look at the cause and effect of being this thought.
How do you react, what happens when you believe that every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it? How do you live your life?
Anxiety, fear, guilt, shame…Mind goes back and forth like a ping pong ball – is this good or bad? I overthink everything and get overwhelmed. I compare myself with others and feel ashamed if I eat a piece of pizza or drink a beer. The joy of eating disappears. I become controlling and then exhausted. My body is tense, my stomach contracts. Jaw clenches, breath shortens, and my heart races. This sounds like the ideal internal environment for digesting a meal, eh?
Who would you be without the thought? (Whaaaat!?!? But I NEED this belief in order to put healthy food in my body.)
Oh really? Test it.
Hmmmm….Without the thought, I actually feel more relaxed and at ease. I’m enjoying the meal that’s in front of me. More present and eating becomes a mindful meditation. I relish in the flavors, textures, and smells. My body is breathing more fully and my stomach softens. I pay attention to how my body feels afterwards too. If I don’t feel so hot, it gives me a clear direction for the next meal. Or not. No self blame or shame. I can research in peace. I notice I crave clean, real foods more often. It’s a natural happening rather than a requirement. Cooking is a true joy – I become more creative and inspired.
Turn the thought around…how could the opposite be true?
“Every time you eat or drink, you are NOT either feeding disease or fighting it?”
Where is the stress? Is it in the actual food or is it in what you’re thinking and believing about it? It’s more stressful in my head. Then the body reacts to the beliefs and creates a pretty shitty inner environment for digesting anything, let alone healing a disease.
Now that my mind is clearer, I’m free to eat however I choose, WITH a side helping of PEACE.
There is no one healthy way to eat. Bodies are unique and go through many changes and seasons as they grow up. What works now may be totally different in a few years (or even next week!). What’s best for your body may be different than mine. So I stay in tune with my body, my business. And I’ve learned a lot.
During treatment, it felt really clear for me to eat an organic, plant-based diet and eliminate meat (other than fish), dairy, sugar, soy, alcohol, and caffeine. I started my day with ginger & turmeric tea and a green juice or smoothie. Click here to see more details. And some people rock mac n cheese throughout all of chemo – that’s ok too! Since treatment has ended, I’m more Flexitarian. I’m also traveling a lot and still watch mind get tempted with stress around food. It’s my practice and peace is my priority.
Cancer has totally upped my game in the kitchen…cooking is a joyful meditation. I’m that annoying person who posts pics of her food on FB ~ many people have asked for recipes so I created a new page on my site. If you want to get alerts for new recipes, follow my facebook page. Here’s a taste…
Organic Baked Potato topped w/Yellow Split Pea Curry, Sautéed Kale/Beet/Onion/Garlic/Chickpea/Lemon Medley, Green Onions, Parsley, Cilantro, & Broccoli Sprouts
Organic Split Pea Yellow Curry over Cauliflower/Quinoa Rice w/side of Swiss Chard and Red Potatoes
Ayurvedic Spiced Latté
So what’s on your plate?
If you’re ready to put a little more peace on it, join our upcoming Inner Peace Retreat April 27-29th in the Texas Hill Country. You’ll have an entire weekend of nourishing food for your mind and body with the help of a Private Chef, 2 Certified Facilitators of The Work, and Inquiry + Yoga Therapy Sessions. Save $50 when you register before Tuesday, March 13th!
Flashback to 17-year-old me at a Tim McGraw & Faith Hill concert with my besties when one of our favorite songs comes on, “Live Like You Were Dying.” Jumping up and down, belting the lyrics (in perfect harmony, I’m sure), swaying side by side…
Someday I hope you get the chance To live like you were dying Like tomorrow was a gift And you’ve got eternity To think about What you’d do with it
What would I do with it? Well, at that time, my main focus was obvious: try to capture a pic of Tim’s gorgeous butt in those wrangler jeans.
Now that I’m 36 and have rocked through the cancer party–it’s safe to say my priorities have shifted a bit.
One thing I didn’t expect is that Death has become a welcomed, fascinating meditation. You’re dying. I’m dying. We’re all dying. Let’s face it, bodies don’t make it. No medication, supplement, prayer, meditation, exercise, or amount of money will prevent you from transitioning out of this body.
So why do we spend so much time fearing it? Why is death looked at as a worse-case scenario? A bad thing? And why is it such a HUSH topic of conversation?
In my recent blog post, “Diagnosis = New Direction,” I talk about how I prefer to explore my nightmares now. And one of those nightmares is the cancer coming back terminally and being given those words, “there’s nothing more we can do. It’s only a matter of time.”
And here’s my favorite question to contemplate…
How would I live if I knew I was dying?
The time in between my diagnosis and waiting to find out how much the cancer had spread were 2 of the most amazing weeks of my life. All of the daily bullshit stressors completely dropped away and I found myself in an incredible state of gratitude for everything and everyone. I experienced joy in the simplest of pleasures ~ riding the trolley, watching our godson’s soccer games, cooking a meal, sitting under a hot shower, holding hands with my husband, stepping on acorns (not kidding ~ there is something SO gratifying about the crunch of an acorn!).
As I try on this scary future and let myself feel through the terror…I see an opportunity for even more presence, slowing down, deeply connecting with my loved ones. Appreciating every second that I am able to see my Godson grow up. Falling in love with my husband all over again.
I see sharing my experience of dying with others and learning from others. I see acceptance, peace, gratitude for every moment that I’ve been given. Forgiveness ~ making amends with others and within myself for anything that still hurts.
I see traveling more when/if it’s an option for my body. If I can’t travel, I see asking my friends from all over the world to send me short 30 sec videos of the inspiring places they go and things they do.
I’d say YES to adventure…I’d try that salsa class, jump on a surf board, go white water kayaking, float in a hot air balloon.
That’s Me! Cancer Camp in Tarkio w/First Descents
That’s Me! Cancer Camp in Tarkio w/First Descents
That’s Me! Cancer Camp in Tarkio w/First Descents
I’d snuggle. A lot.
I’d continue to take care of my mind with self inquiry and would question thoughts like “I am dying…can I absolutely know it’s true? Or is it truer that in reality, I am still here breathing? Is it possible that I am even more alive than I have ever been?”
I’d love on my body with nourishing foods, movement, time in nature. I’d love the shit out of that piece of chocolate cake and glass of wine too.
Any part of aging would be such a privilege ~ finding a grey hair or wrinkle? Yes, please! That means I get to get older.
I’d probably have some pretty stellar freakouts ~ and just like I did during the cancer journey, I’d get to learn over and over again that I’m still ok in this moment…and this one…and this one…I could feel the intimacy of being with myself in that deep pain & suffering. And the intimacy of being held by someone else.
And there’s one more thing I would be super motivated to do:
FINISH. MY. BOOK.
(Yes, I’ve been writing a book! Woot! Woot! More on this later 😉
So…WHY wait? I can live ALL of this now.
Perhaps the turnaround to my question is truer:
How would I live if I knew I was dying living?
With an open mind, death can be a catalyst for truly living. This contemplation on dying is giving me the perfect prescription for how to fully embrace life. So what are YOU waiting for? #RxLiveLikeYouAreDying
I was recently interviewed by CanSurround, an inspiring company who offers online mental & emotional support for cancer patients and thrivers. A few months after my diagnosis, I attended their presentation at the ITW Convention (Institute for The Work of Byron Katie) in Los Angeles. I was immediately moved to tears at the beautiful offering of this company and the kindness and passion driving their business.
They give cancer patients direct and easy access to so many of the healing tools I had been gifting myself: The Work of Byron Katie (thought inquiry), journaling, meditation, sound healing, helpful articles, and the ability to build an intimate support network.
Filled with that ooey gooey, goosebumpy feeling ~ I knew right away: I want in on this!!!
After connecting with the founders, I was given the sweet opportunity to create online yoga videos for the web site ~ 3 different practices that really supported me mentally, physically, and emotionally throughout treatment (one you can even do in bed!). And of course when I first saw the videos, all I could focus on were how uneven my expander boobs were from radiation…lol…moving on 🙂
Yoga for Deep Sleep
Chair Yoga for Peace
Yoga for Strength, Flexibility, & Presence
If you or anyone you know would like to create a CanSurround account for free, please email me at Bethany@BethanyWebb.com. If you are a professional health organization interested in offering this healing resource to your patients, click here.
I have SO enjoyed my experience with CanSurround and hope to continue working together to help others find more peace and ease in the journey called cancer. Here is the Braveheart article written by CanSurround. xoxoxo
You Can Have Cancer and Be Happy
A young woman’s story of shaping her cancer treatment with gifts of self-care
When former President Jimmy Carter announced his cancer diagnosis of melanoma in July 2015, he told reporters he was “surprisingly at ease” when doctors had diagnosed him, as written by Michele Gorman in a Newsweek article. “I’ve had a wonderful life. I’ve got thousands of friends,” he said. “I’m ready for anything, and looking forward to a new adventure.”
The former president’s description of his state of mind—surprisingly at ease—was the last thing many people expected to hear from the 90-year-old. Like Carter, however, cancer survivor Bethany Webb seems to have created a sense of ease while living with cancer.
After experiencing the initial disbelief and emotional turmoil of her cancer diagnosis, Bethany dove into the tough and continuous inner work that would enable her to meet each phase of treatment with a calmness, acceptance, and even excitement she had not anticipated at first. She made informed decisions (with the support of her medical team, family and other care providers) that empowered her to “have a great experience with cancer.” She said many people find it difficult to understand how that could be. In truth, Bethany worked incredibly hard to care for herself—mind, body and spirit—long before diagnosis and throughout treatment. She’ll do so for the rest of her life, because she knows it works.
The gift basket that continues giving
Facing an aggressive form of breast cancer at age 34, Bethany underwent many forms of conventional therapy—chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, breast reconstruction, and hormone therapy —over a two-year period. She appreciated the need for conventional medicine and the science and research behind it. Bethany also suspected she’d need help managing the potential side effects. “I was determined to gift myself with a variety of complementary therapies to help get me through treatment,” said Bethany.
Embracing the options that appealed to her, Bethany was able to design a creative and healing cancer experience. She is quick to add, “At times, going through treatment was very, very hard—both physically and emotionally. But I accepted that I had cancer and I had to undergo treatment.” Acceptance helped Bethany to change her perspective about cancer and treatment. “I looked at cancer as happening for me, not to me. What if it’s all a gift that is here to make my life better? What is it teaching me? These insights freed my mind to enjoy much of treatment and share my experience in a blog.”
Among the potpourri of complementary therapies Bethany placed in her gift basket were yoga, acupuncture, writing, art, breathwork, sound healing, meditation, and reiki. She also focused diligently on caring for her mind during treatment. For six years prior to her cancer diagnosis, Bethany had used The Work of Byron Katie (a form of self-inquiry) to manage stress. “When the mind is stressed, the body’s systems don’t work as efficiently,” she said. “Being diagnosed with cancer, was the ultimate invitation to do The Work.”
As she embraces life beyond cancer treatment, Bethany continues to use The Work to identify and question stressful thoughts to free herself from their grip. “I’ve learned that reality—even living with cancer—is so much better than the scary movies that are playing in my head. Cancer has been an incredible teacher and gift.”
Ok, I’d like to have an open and honest chat about different avenues of healing and how I’ve struggled. Us cancer patients/thrivers want to support ourselves in every way possible to both cure cancer now and forever ~ we see lots of doctors, read books, talk to fellow cancer peeps, and do research online. Actually, we do A LOT of research online which can sometimes lead to exciting discoveries and more often, it leads to a full on-set of Google-itus (panic attack + frozen in fear + holy-shit-everything-causes-cancer-including-the-treatments-I’m-going-to-die-and-it-won’t-be-pretty syndrome). Just me?
Cancer can be treated different ways. There is the more common conventional route, also known as modern medicine, which usually includes a combo of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and/or hormone therapies. And there is the alternative route, also known as natural medicine, which treats cancer with various natural modalities such as nutrition, juicing, cleansing, herbs, supplements, mind/body work, vitamin infusions, and other therapies.
I’m noticing most people fall into one camp or the other.
I seem to be a rare bird. Someone who sees SO MUCH love, knowledge, value, and benefit in BOTH worlds. This is why I chose to do a combined approach for healing. I had a good experience while undergoing 18 months of cancer treatment and if you could see me now, you would have no clue that I have been through 5 months of aggressive chemo, 2 surgeries, 5 ½ weeks of radiation, and am currently on Tamoxifen. I look and feel great, and I attribute this to going into the experience with a clear mind and supporting myself with many natural ways of healing too: yoga, inquiry, acupuncture, nutrition, juicing, supplements, emotional releasing, and sound healing to name a few. So yes, I do drugs and nature.
I’m a plant-based organic-eating yogini who also believes in science-based medicine, and this has been one of my biggest challenges: the war between conventional and alternative medicine. They trash the shit out of each other!
When trying to support myself in learning natural ways to heal and ease side effects, it was nearly impossible to find an article or study that did not bash chemo, radiation, and surgery. Statements like “chemo only creates cancer and kills people,” “the cancer will come back even worse if you do conventional medicine,” “it’s all a big pharma conspiracy ~ they are just trying to keep you sick so they can make money.”
As someone who said yes to what my conventional doctors recommended, this created a lot of fear and shame. I reached a point where it just felt kinder to myself to stop consulting the almighty Google and focus on being present with myself.
But then there’s a flip side. When reading articles about conventional medicine or talking to some of my doctors, I noticed many would immediately discredit natural therapies as pure “quackery,” and completely ignore the many accounts of people being healed, for years, without any use of conventional medicine. “That’s impossible. A total waste of time and money. How dare they take advantage of these vulnerable human beings.” Then there are also stories of naturopathic doctors who have mysteriously gone missing after claiming they found a cure for cancer. Or they are faced with legal charges making their medical practice illegal.
As someone who has experienced so many benefits from my yoga & meditation practices, eating a clean diet, doing acupuncture, and incorporating more supplements, this left me feeling frustrated and annoyed that doctors weren’t more interested in this. “Hey – look at me! I’m actually enjoying cancer! Don’t ya wanna know why/how?”
And if the overwhelming amount of conflicting information isn’t enough, I see people harshly judging each other for their choices in treatment, both in person and also all over social media, forums, & online.
It’s tough. I don’t know what is true and what is not. I see valuable points on each side. I’m not a doctor, a scientist, or an expert with healing plants. All I have is my experience of the cancer journey and this part has been hard for me. I have felt torn, confused, and overwhelmed…oh wait, stress causes cancer too! Ahhhhh!!!!
I know people who have died after the use of conventional medicine. I know people who are completely healed by it. I know people who have died after the use of natural medicine. I know people who are healed or in the process of healing from it. There are bonuses and risks in both paths; neither carries a guaranteed cure. There are good days and hard days in both paths too, neither is a joyous party 100% of the time.
So why can’t we all just get along? Why can’t we just accept that there is more than one way to heal cancer? Why do we need to put down another healing path in order to share and promote our own? Think about it. If you are really set in your beliefs about medicine (or anything), in which scenario are you more willing to change them? When someone comes at you with insults or when someone invites you to an open-hearted conversation rooted in experience and research?
In my medical utopia, I see both sides coming together as one. Dropping the judgments and criticism, the shaming and anger, and being more open to learning from each other. We all have the same goal: to cure cancer and live long, happy, healthy lives.
So how can we end this war?
Simple. I can control every word that is posted on the internet and every word that comes out of your mouth. Easy peasy. Right?
It starts with me. I can stop trashing conventional and alternative medicine for trashing each other. I can stop seeing them as two separate sides in my own mind. I can focus on the wonderful and helpful ways I have healed from cancer and share them with others. I can stop being defensive/taking things personally when someone questions my treatment choices. I can be open and excited to learn from others who did not choose the same healing path. I can be a compassionate, non-judgmental listener when someone complains about their experience. I can make peace within myself over any shame or guilt I have carried for my own choices.
Ok, this sounds great…but HOW?
The Work of Byron Katie. I take my stressful thoughts and judgments about doctors, medicine, treatment, myself, and others to inquiry. I sit in meditation with the 4 questions and turnarounds and I free myself from the war within. It leaves me more open, more available, and more authentic with myself and others.
When I read articles or watch documentaries, I not only take notes on what I’d like to incorporate into my own life or ask my doctors about, I take notes on stressful thoughts that come up from the words that I read. See…it all can be a gift. Bringing me back to my work. My awakening.
When I do my work, my mind opens to see that my “medical utopia dream” is actually more of a reality than I realize. I remember that my conventional doctors talked to me about nutrition, yoga, meditation, acupuncture…they even recommended writing. My Chinese Medical doctor encouraged my use of conventional therapies and he offered acupuncture and herbs that not only helped to ease side effects, they helped the medicine to work more efficiently. Last week, my Dermatologist recommended using essential oils for scarring. How cool!
My practice keeps coming back to this: There is no single right or wrong way to heal. We all do what is right for us. For me, the most important part of my healing path is peace.
If you’re looking to find more peace around any type of diagnosis (from cancer, to allergies, to low back pain), I invite you to join me and my dear friend, Helena, for our upcoming online class series, “Making Peace with Disease using The Work of Byron Katie” that starts December 4th. Save $30 when you register by tomorrow. You can join from the comfort of your home and even stay in your PJ’s. I won’t judge 😉
And let’s keep this conversation flowing…how else can we work together to create a more harmonious, healing experience for all?
Last week, I was lying in a twisty yoga pose when I felt some new lumpy tissue above my left breast. “Perfect timing!” I thought, since my next follow-up appointment with my breast surgeon was just around the corner. I felt zero anxiety, zero stress leading up to the appointment.
Today during my visit, I had two different doctors explore the lumps with their hands and then they did a sonogram. I noticed thoughts arise my mind, “The cancer is back! This can’t be good!” accompanied by scary images of the future. Yet, I didn’t believe them. I clearly saw that they are not real, in this moment it’s just imagination.
Do you know what I experienced instead?
Pure gratitude for reality. Gratitude for the lumps showing up, gratitude for the trained experts, and gratitude for the sonogram machine that can further investigate what’s going on in my body.
My breast surgeon then said, “It all looks good! See you in 6 months.”
5 Steps to Clear Scanxiety
Do you feel anxious, worried, & fearful when it comes to doctor appointments and diagnostic tests? If so, you are so not alone. Whether you’re simply scheduling the appointment, driving to the exam, sitting in the waiting room, getting your boob squashed, or being rolled in and out of a magnetic test tube…it’s possible to be at peace.
Here are 5 simple steps that have helped me deal with the oh-so-common Scanxiety:
Connect with your breath.
Notice where your breath is in your body. Begin to focus your breath on your belly. Take a deep breath in through the nose, and a nice long exhale out through the mouth.
Touch something solid.
Use your hands to touch something solid – the chair, a wall, the table. Feel the floor beneath your feet, your hips on the chair, or your back or stomach on the exam table.
Notice your surroundings.
Become a witness of what is around you. See the shapes, colors, and textures. Notice the sounds – the voices, the music, the machinery. Take in the smells (ok, maybe not!). Observe the movement of people around you. See the kindness in people’s eyes.
Question your thinking.
If you feel stress, pause and notice your thoughts. “This will be painful…The results will be bad”…and ask yourself these 2 questions from The Work of Byron Katie: Can I absolutely know it’s true in this moment? Who would I be, right here, right now without the thought?
Remember it’s all here FOR you.
The doctors, the nurses, the staff, the needles, the drugs, the lighting, the equipment, the music, the warm blanket…it’s all here for you. To support you. To get a clear picture of what’s going on in your body. To help you heal. To give you the next direction.
And if you try these 5 steps and epically fail…that’s all good too! You are free to freak the f*ck out. There is nothing wrong with you. Forgive yourself. Begin again. There will always be another opportunity to practice in Life School, I promise.
Today is the 2-year anniversary of my diagnosis. I fully celebrate this day. I’m weird like that 😉 In the writing I did while awaiting test results, “Making Peace during the Waiting Game,” my inner work revealed a new definition for “diagnosis.” That word use to sound scary, permanent, a future-crumbling end…YOU’RE SCREWED LADY! Through meditative inquiry, I came to realize it’s none of these things.
It’s a new direction in life. It’s an arrow from the universe that says, “Ok, Love —> this way.”
Directions for the immediate moment: do nothing, breathe, stay present, find a doctor, show up to the appointment, question any stressful thoughts, take medicine (or not), go for a walk, or sit in nature. Directions may encompass a larger calling: change your career, help others through sharing your experience, pick up a paintbrush, volunteer, adopt a new workout routine, develop healthier eating habits, move to a new city, travel to an exotic land, do what you love.
Remembering THE call
As I reflect on the moment I got the call, I am met with fond memories. It was actually one of the sweetest, most intimate moments I have ever had with my husband. Feeling the squeeze of his hand when I answered the phone and was greeted by the doctor’s voice. The way time slowed down when we heard the words. How we held each other, trembling, crying, after we hung up the phone.
How I became a witness to the mind going in a million stories and scary movies, watching my body dry heaving over a toilet. I experienced pain, but it was not painful. It was pain with the absence of suffering.
The image of my mom’s face on the iPhone screen telling me she is booking a flight to come see me the next day. I remember the comforting hug at the airport, not wanting to let go.
I’m crying right now writing this. It was beautiful.
Those of you who have followed my journey through treatment to becoming cancer-free have seen that freedom from cancer can exist with or without cancer cells growing in your body. It’s possible to experience peace, joy, humor, connection, love, in what you think would be a nightmare.
So what are your nightmares?
Is it receiving a life-threatening diagnosis? Finding out that a loved one has tragically passed away? Going bankrupt? Or maybe it’s losing everything in a hurricane ~ a recent experience for many families in Houston and Florida.
The Work of Byron Katie is mental medicine. If these nightmares live only in your head, The Work is preventive medicine. It’s how to meet all of your fears, worries, anxieties with understanding and compassion. Identifying your stressful thoughts about each situation and then bringing them to inquiry can loosen the grip of your anxiety. It can help build resilience so that you can handle whatever life brings you. Coz let’s face it, we’re not in control of this thang called life.
I now prefer to explore my nightmares. I often ask myself:
How could this be good?
What is it teaching me?
Before I was diagnosed, I made a list of all of the ways that having cancer could make my life better. You can find the list here. I am happy to report that they all came true. And there have been countless more unforeseen blessings. This exercise + more examples can also be found in Katie’s first book, “Loving What Is,” ~ go to the chapter titled “Making Friends with the Worst That Can Happen.”
Over the past few months, I’ve been investigating my fears of the cancer returning terminally.
I have terminal cancer…and that means:
Cancer is killing me.
It’s not fair.
Death is painful.
My family will suffer.
It’s my fault.
God is punishing me.
I’m questioning my beliefs and finding out how it could be good if I received this news. It has left me with a fascination and curiosity about death. So far, the only thing that’s really dying are beliefs. One by one.
When a friend’s mother was told by doctors that the cancer had spread and she only had a few months to live, her mother responded with, “Ok. My diagnosis is to live every day to its fullest.” Now that’s a clear direction. Two years later, she passed in peace.
Looking forward to sharing my discoveries with you. xoxo
It’s been 2 1/2 months since my final reconstruction surgery. Recovery has had its’ ups and downs ~ physically, mentally, & emotionally as described in my last post about meeting big emotions. Although I technically finished treatment on May 4th ~ it really hasn’t felt that way.
In addition to the crazy places my mind went, all of my follow-up appointments happened to fall during the month of June: my plastic surgeon, breast surgeon, oncologist, & gynecologist, as well as my physical therapist twice per week. Add a CT scan and a vaginal sonogram to the mix…June was rockin.
It helps me to remind myself of WHY I have these appointments. They are FOR me. To support me, to make sure things are healing properly, and to monitor this body so it can continue to be free from cancer. My job is to show up and continue to free my mind of cancerous thinking.
I love physical therapy (aka private yoga therapy paid by insurance).
I was able to work with the amazing Tiffany again ~ she is the one who helped me with cording after my mastectomy. I call her my “Boob Whisperer” as her main goal was to help my boobs become more even by breaking up the scar tissue from radiation. I didn’t realize how much the tissue underneath the skin was affected from radiation until I got my final implants ~ the scar tissue has been pulling leftie up and out.
I’m not going to lie ~ I was NOT cool with my new boobs at first. Leftie was a couple of inches higher and if you were standing to the left of me, my left nipple would be looking straight at you saying, “Hey – I’ve never seen life from this angle before.” Rightie looks pretty good until I flex my pec muscle ~ it then shrivels up into a squashed raisin. I can get self-conscious of it when I’m in certain yoga poses and when I’m intimate with my husband.
I also adopted a daily practice of obsessively staring them down in the mirror, examining their weirdness from every angle, comparing them to my gift-from-God original breasts, and then crying. A lot.
As healthy as this practice was, I realized another approach would be more beneficial for my sanity. Investigating my stressful thoughts about body image using The Work of Byron Katie: “I want them to change. They should be even. I want my old breasts back. They are not attractive. It’s not fair.”
These thoughts weigh heavy on my heart. They block me from seeing the miraculous healing that’s taking place. Can I love my body just as it is? Yes, I can love it in all its glorious weirdness. Do I need to despise my body in order to take action? No. I can do my part from a place of peace – ask the surgeon questions, go to physical therapy, do my home practice, buy flattering bras, be gentle with myself, and commit to my inner work. There’s also the option of a revision surgery in December which was recommended by my surgeon. I’m open. We’ll see.
This is all an ongoing practice for me ~ I am a work in progress. And what’s cool is although there are moments of struggle, I’m still living a very full and happy life.
I am looking and feeling better every day. My energy is coming back. I have NO doctor appointments for 3 WHOLE MONTHS (a new paradigm!). And best of all, my last CT scan was CLEAR!
I learned that according to doctors, I have been in remission for over a year already! The start date is the day I was pronounced with “no evidence of disease” which was after my mastectomy & lymph node dissection on 4/18/16. The words “in remission” and “survivor” don’t really fit for me ~ I prefer “cured” and “thriver” unless there’s proof otherwise.
I have lived in Texas for 17 years and every summer, I have cursed the heat. Last year was the summer of expander boobs and radiation. So now, I’m embracing spending as much of summers in “Not Texas” as possible 🙂
This summer seems to have a water theme! I just went to Vero Beach, Florida to visit my family. Walking the beach, body surfing, kayaking, and relaxing with my family was the perfect transition.
It finally feels like treatment is OVER!
Tomorrow, I’m heading to cancer camp (YES – that’s a thing!) hosted by First Descents in Montana for a white water/kayaking adventure with my friend, Michelle. We met in Spain 10 years ago and she was diagnosed 6 months after me. How funny it is that at one time we were touring Spanish vineyards, sipping Cava, & partying in clubs all night…now we text boob pictures to each other and ask questions like, “How much hair do you have left? How are your boobs doing? Can I see them? Do yours ripple like this?” as well as so many words of encouragement. I can’t wait to see her.
After Montana, I’ll spend a week in Colorado and then in August, a romantic trip to Tulum with my husband. I am so looking forward to this time with him where we can just be a young, regular ol’ couple, in love, in paradise, in celebration of a new chapter of our life. We’ve been through a lot over the past few years.
Self-care continues with daily movement, inquiry, and eating organic, plant-based meals + fish & eggs. I’m mostly free of gluten, soy, dairy, & processed sugar. If I splurge, it’s for pizza, wine, and chocolate…and it’s worth it! More on my lifestyle diet here.
To boost my immune system further, I’ve started to get into medicinal mushrooms like Reishi (which I took as a supplement) and Chaga (which I drink as a tea or add to coffee). I still love acupuncture and go once or twice a month and after my trips, I’ll start massages with an oncology-trained therapist.
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),