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.
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),
OMG. It’s finally happening. After almost 2 years of cancer treatment, the finale is just around the corner. Breast reconstruction (ie – new boobs!) is scheduled for May 4th! AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! I am one big bag of emotions ~ overjoyed to be DONE, really DONE, with treatment (except 5-10 yrs of hormone therapy) and ecstatic to meet my new breasts. Yesterday I was driving between yoga clients and broke out into tears. I’m in awe. Wow. It’s really happening. I really did this. So proud of me!
What. A. Journey.
My thinking is also anxious ~ how will they look? How will they feel? Will I like them? What if something goes wrong? Dear God, that was a lot of potential “complications” I signed off on…including my own death!
And impatient & boob obsessed ~ are we there yet? Time for new boobs? I want them now! New boobs….pause. Come back to your breath. Inhale. Exhale…Boobs, BOOBS, boobs, NEW BOOBS!!!!
This past week, I had my pre-op visit with my plastic surgeon and underwent testing (bloodwork & EKG) to ensure this body is ready to go! We talked about the type, size, & projection of my implants. I’ve chosen to go with his recommendation of the newest round “gummy bear” implant ~ it feels the most natural, is leak-proof, and lasts the longest (20-30 years). I held one, squished it around, put it under my shirt, and tossed it up and down. Pretty nice…
The way he chooses the size is by measuring the width of my chest and then I have the option of choosing the projection ~ how far forward my boobs are (low, medium, high, ultra high). He was really into the ultra high, but after looking at photos ~ I’m going with high because they look more natural to me.
When I first met with my plastic surgeon, he handed me a pamphlet of his work and I remember one woman in particular stood out: Samantha. Samantha’s boobs are amazing. Give me Samantha’s boobs. Yes, please. Ironically, Samantha was actually the name of my alter-ego when I wore my sexy wig during chemo. Destiny? I think so.
My surgeon confirmed that mine would be similar to hers and that she is actually now a bikini model. New career in my future?
Breast Reconstruction Surgery
The surgery is much shorter (about 2 hours) and the recovery is supposed to be much easier than the last. He will go into the same scars from the mastectomy and make a smaller incision, remove the tissue expanders (SEE YA and won’t miss ya AT ALL), and replace them with the implants.
What’s super weird is that while I’m off in a deep, drug-induced sleep, he props me upright in the bed and tries on about 5 different implant sizes to see what looks best. And no, Travis can not watch this part and give the final “Ok.” Apparently that might be traumatizing for a husband.
He will then liposuction fat from my love handles and put it into my breasts for extra padding between the implant and skin ~ it also helps to shape the breasts. I have been diligently working very hard on building this fat with the help of nightly Coconut Bliss ice cream..I’ve gained 15 lbs back from my lowest weight in chemo, 108. How crazy weird is it that in less than 2 weeks, I will be wearing my muffin tops in my breasts???!!!
I try not to think about the procedure details too much…it creeps me out. Actually, it’s my thoughts that are creeping me out. The procedure doesn’t even exist yet. It definitely takes a certain type of stomach to do this work and I’m grateful for the expertise of my surgeon and his staff. And even more grateful that I get to show up, go to sleep, and wake up with new boobs.
The finals will be softer, closer together, and more natural looking than my expanders + the same anti-gravity perk. And they will not be perfectly symmetrical ~ because of radiation, the left side will always be a little higher and tighter than the right. Hopefully things will be pointed in the right direction. Or maybe I’ll end up with a set of googley eyes. We’ll see!
So now it’s my job to just let go and trust.
In preparation for the surgery, I am also eating more pineapple and papaya ~ they have natural enzymes (bromelain & papain) that help the body heal faster and reduce scarring. I’ll also be taking 30c of Arnica ~ a homeopathic remedy for healing from trauma, bruising, etc. the day before surgery and for a few days after.
Other than that, my welcomed distraction has been planning our Inner Peace Retreat which is NEXT weekend in the Austin Hill Country! So the weekend before surgery will be spent doing what I love: relaxing in nature, teaching yoga, exploring inquiry, eating delish organic vegetarian meals, and connecting with an amazing community of like-minded folks. And I get to lead it with my dear friend and fellow facilitator, Susan…she’s amazing! I anticipate a lot of silliness & laughter, coupled with insightful, life-changing Mind/Body work. Still a few spots left if you want to join!
The property is Living Waters on Lake Travis ~ it’s where my husband and I were married 6 years ago. We loved it so much that just a few months after the wedding, we asked the owners if we could move there, take over, and grow it into a thriving retreat business. Which it now is! We rocked it for 4 years before returning to Dallas. The first week of May is our 10-year anniversary of being together + our wedding anniversary. So it’s safe to say this time at Living Waters is special to me in so many ways.
My mom will be coming in town for the surgery to help me (she is the best nurse ever!) and to celebrate the end of our journey. She has probably been to Dallas 6-7 times over the past year and a half. Her unwavering support, ability to anticipate my needs before I’m even aware of them, and compassionate care has helped me IMMENSELY throughout this process. It sounds cliché, but I have couldn’t have done this without her. Actually, I could have…but I would have gone completely cray cray on many more occasions. Love you, mamma.
Recovery is about 5 weeks, yet I should be driving within 3-5 days and can lift up to 15-20 lbs. I plan to take 2 weeks off of work and then play the rest of May by ear. Many women have shared with me that the pain isn’t bad at all ~ they’re off heavy pain meds within a day or so, yet I’m also well aware that the pain level from the last surgery was wayyyyy more than I expected. So I’m setting aside the time to just be…
Ok, friends ~ YOU have been with me throughout all of this! Can you believe it? It’s happening!!!! Thank you SO MUCH for your continued encouragement, support, & inspiration. Send some healing vibes to me the morning of May 4th.
I am truly grateful and blessed to be someone who can say the words, “I use to have cancer and now I don’t.” My latest CT scan showed no evidence of anything cancery in my body – cancer free baby! Cancer is over.
Or is it?
The truth is cancer has come back many times….in my mind. The fear of cancer returning and returning terminally is a big practice for me. Yes, I’m aware it’s all mental and holy crap – it can take me for quite a ride! It’s like a vampire who sucks the joy out of everything. It’s the voice that says, “Don’t get too excited…What if…?”
And from the many women who I have connected with during this journey – I’m not the only one who experiences this fear.
Back in August when I was on my post-treatment celebration vacation, I attended a retreat in Quebec led by a friend & Certified Facilitator for The Work of Byron Katie, Tom Compton. Tom is amazing. I consider him to be one of those connected, special souls who was put on this earth to inspire others to live a fearless, joyful life, simply by being himself. Life has given him many surprises as well ~ his wife recently passed away from breast cancer.
Hearing him speak of his time with his wife as she transitioned inspired me ~ it showed me how death can be an intimate, heart-opening experience for a family. I also loved seeing how well he is doing ~ he moved to California and started surfing every day. He is happy and has somehow started to reverse the process of aging (he looks 20 years younger than the last time I saw him!).
What I have feared about death is how it will affect my loved ones, especially my husband. I shared this with Tom, and he said “it would break his heart. And then it would break it wide open.”
While I found comfort in his words, I also started to ask a lot of questions.
“How did your wife know the cancer had returned?”
As soon as the words left my mouth, my mind came in with, “EEK! Are you sure you want to know this? The answer is totally going to fuck with you. WARNING!”
And I still wanted to know.
He said that her stomach became very bloated and they found tumors all along the lining of it ~ from then, it was just a matter of time. I felt an immediate pain in my stomach. However, I acted brave and moved on to the next conversation.
So of course, naturally, for the first half of the retreat, my stomach became bloated. It was crampy. I started obsessively feeling it for lumps. Oh shit, this is it.
One of the main reasons I joined the retreat is to confront any remaining fear/unease around my cancer diagnosis. I could see that this was the perfect time for me to experience these sensations. It was happening for me. Throughout the retreat, I did a lot of inquiry on my fear of death, fear of having chosen the wrong treatment plan, and fears of my family suffering.
There was a lot of crying. It felt tender and kind to let the little terrified girl inside of me fully speak – fully express herself. I also felt very held and supported by Tom and the other retreat participants. It became clear that a bloated belly is not a problem – it’s what I’m believing about it that hurts. Cancer returning is not a problem. Death is not a problem. It’s the labels I put on them that create my suffering.
Then one afternoon, I took a bath. I looked at my bloated belly and caressed it. I wiggled my legs straight and began to lean into a forward fold. And then…something magical happened.
I passed gas for about 30 seconds…it was the longest wind relief I’ve ever experienced! I burst out with laughter – farts are always entertaining to me – I grew up with brothers and we have so many fond family fart memories. Did you know you can save one in a jar and give it to someone as a gift?
When I sat up from my forward fold, my stomach was flat and back to normal – my giggles turned into an overwhelmingly grateful big ol’ ugly cry. My fears. My terror. All along, it was just a fart. Then the next day, my menstrual cycle made an appearance after a 3-month hiatus.
So I share this somewhat mortifying story with you for a reason. How often have you experienced fear and it turned out to be absolutely nothing? Or maybe your fear came true, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise?
Maybe fear is just an entertaining, farty friend, inviting you to get out of your head, let go, and enjoy reality.
If fear still has a grip on you, I invite you to identify what you’re thinking and believing and take it to inquiry with The Work of Byron Katie. I would love to hear what you discover. xoxo
This post is for anyone looking for natural & effective ways of dealing with the side effects of cancer treatment, especially chemotherapy.
So here you are, about to take the next step into your healing cancer treatment plan: chemotherapy, which I affectionately now call “C-Love.” Take a look in the mirror at that sweet, beautiful face. You are strong. Fearless. Or possibly scared shitless?
If you’re like me, you may have heard 1,000 horror stories about chemo and I’m here to tell you that it just wasn’t my experience. Do you think your body has a better opportunity to heal when you are cursing and fearing your treatment or accepting it with gratitude? I chose to receive C-Love as a healing cleanse for my body. I envisioned my healthy cells being protected and anything that no longer serves me being washed away. I chose to see the good in all things ~ the needles, the nurses, the
drugs, the side effects. Chemo taught me how to slow down, focus on me, and love myself unconditionally. How to enjoy the simple pleasures of life and connect with others. How to see I am always supported, even when I’m not feeling so hot. There were some hard times, a lot of easy/fun times, and some hilarious times. Open your mind to the blessings that are always around you ~ I promise, they are there.
I noticed different sensations would come and go and I LOVED learning all-natural ways to support my body and mind. So here is a list of what worked for me. I invite you to see what you’re drawn to, clear anything necessary with your doctor, and find what works for you. You’ve so got this!
Overall Health & Wellbeing thru the Cancer Journey
The Work of Byron Katie ~ Do you think your body has a better opportunity to heal when you are at peace and loving life or when you are stressed and angry? When you are cursing and fearing your treatment or accepting it with gratitude? Question your stressful thoughts and find peace during the cancer journey.
Daily movement like walking, yoga, dancing, swimming, rebounding.
Avoid over-eating; stop eating before you are full.
Gentle belly breathing
Take ALL medications and supplements WITH food unless directed otherwise by doctor.
Yoga: Practicing constructive rest position (lying on back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor) or reclining bound angle pose (lying on back, soles of the feet together, knees wide) has helped me with the stomach flutters. I place my hands on my belly and breath into them. Pelvic tilts, rocking the knees side to side, and child’s pose have been really helpful too. Avoid a lot of up and down movement.
Warm (not hot) showers and baths
Daily movement – choose something you love – walking, yoga, rebounding, swimming, dancing – at least 30 min/day will help you to build & sustain energy.
Rest when you need to rest. Think of your energy level like a gas tank between each treatment ~ don’t over-do it in the beginning and pace yourself. This your time to slow down and be.
Master the art of napping ~ it’s AWESOME! The body heals when it sleeps.
Yoga: Gentle stretching & breathing with an extended exhale. If legs are extra achey, I will lie on my back and place my legs up the wall.
The Work of Byron Katie ~ Question your stressful thoughts about pain (ex/ – “I want the pain to go away.” “I shouldn’t feel like this.”) and question stressful thoughts about what you think the pain means (ex/“It will only get worse. The cancer is spreading. I can’t live like this.”).
Warm (not hot) Epson Salt baths
MUST-DO for prevention & treatment: Homemade mouth rinse ~ Add 1 tsp or baking soda + 1 tsp Sea Salt or Himalayan Crystal Salt to 20 oz of water. Rinse mouth 5-6 times per day throughout treatment. This also worked for me at the first signs of a sore throat.
Avoid spicy and acidic foods.
Ask nurses if sucking on ice while receiving chemo would be helpful (it was recommended for me while receiving the red Adriamycin drug).
Triphala Supplement ~ helps maintain healthy flow of digestion and purifies the blood.
Psyllium Husks ~ helps to soften the stools so they can pass through more easily.
The cancer journey can be so overwhelming with all of the new information, medical terms to learn, bills, treatments plans, mental/emotional issues…brain fog would be natural for any person going through this! Consider, where can you do less in your life? Can you make time to just relax and be?
Humor ~ Everybody forgets stuff, and I chose to laugh about it with myself and others instead of getting frustrated over it. Sometimes I’d remember things and if I didn’t, that’s ok too. This is an appropriate time for the mind to be mushy. Enjoy being more present – people spend a lot of money and time on forgetting the past and future!
The Work of Byron Katie ~ Question your stressful thoughts about memory (ex/ “My memory should be better. People will be angry with me (if I forget). My memory is permanently damaged.”) or about any stressful situations you may be experiencing.
If you really don’t want to lose your hair, consider getting the “Cold Cap” treatment, which may be covered by insurance.
Embrace being bald ~ there are so many bonuses!
The most low maintenance hairstyle you’ll ever have
Best head massages
Shower at least twice per day
No need to buy any hair products – no shampoo, conditioner, styling spray, combs, hair ties, razors
Travel just got way easier
No more shaving! (people pay a lot of $ for this)
Smoothest legs you’ll ever have
Feel like a true badass walking around bald – OWN IT – you’re beautiful. Plus people are soooo kind when they see you’re going through cancer treatment. If we all treated each other like we were going through cancer, the world would be a happier place
Enjoy the fun process as it grows back – it starts with the super soft fuzzies and then maybe a new color or curlier or straighter!
The Work of Byron Katie ~ Question any stressful thoughts about your body image (ex/ “I want my old body back. I look like a sick person. People don’t find me attractive.”).
Wear layers that can easily be stripped off in public.
I remember this time last year…just 2 weeks after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was inundated with OCTOBER: Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Yep, I was definitely aware of it! Cancer was EVERYWHERE. Since I decided to “go public” with my diagnosis, many of my sweet-intentioned friends would send any article my way that had the word “cancer” in it. The message would be the same: women are victims of this horrible disease <insert horror story that would give anyone with a diagnosis a panic attack> and we need to fight, fight, fight it!!!
Well, that’s not my story of cancer.
I experienced a different kind of breast cancer awareness…what if it’s not bad? What if it makes our lives better? What if there are fun parts of treatment? What if the reality of cancer is better than the scary stories in my head? What if cancer is a friend, a gift, a wise teacher?
Byron Katie would often ask, “do you think your body has a better chance of healing when you are at war or at peace?”
I choose to see the blessings. This is why I have been so inspired to share a new story of cancer. One that I wish I heard when I was first diagnosed. I wrote the following article for Reset Retreat ~ I hope you enjoy it!
My greatest yoga teacher: Cancer.
What kind of qualities do you imagine when you think of the BEST yoga teacher? Someone who embodies compassion, awareness, and presence? Someone who challenges your mind and body to bend and move in new and creative ways? Someone who teaches the art of self-love, non-judgment, and how to tap into your inner wisdom?
We all come to yoga for different reasons; we have our favorite classes and teachers. We’ve experienced the side effects of the “yoga buzz” after class…we’re stronger, more open, and gosh darnit – everything on the inside and out just feels awwwwwwesome!
And then BOOM. Life happens.
I’ve been practicing yoga for 20 years and am blessed to call it my career for the past 10. I’ve explored various styles of yoga from Vinyasa to Yoga Therapy to Somatic Movement to Iyengar to Yoga Nidra to Kundalini to Power to Viniyoga…I’ve studied with incredible teachers and felt huge shifts in my life as a result of my practice.
And then one year ago, life threw me a big surprise right after my 34th birthday: an aggressive form of breast cancer.
Lucky for me, I had cultivated quite the healing “toolbox” for handling stress. In fact, it felt like I had unknowingly been preparing for this moment all of my life.
The most effective tool is The Work of Byron Katie ~ also known as “yoga for the mind.” It’s a way of identifying and questioning thoughts that create stress…ANY kind of stress…relationships, romance, jobs, parenting, fears of the future, health, physical & emotional pain…by exploring these stressful thoughts, I came to discover that when my mind is open, inner peace is possible in any situation.
A different perspective on “illness” was revealed. What if illness happens for our enlightenment? What if it makes my life even better? The inspiration I experienced while contemplating these questions filled me joy and purpose.
Cancer became my greatest yoga teacher, my guru. I made a conscious decision not to “fight” cancer. Instead, I made friends with it, listened to its wisdom, and used it to grow myself in ways I never thought possible. Here are a few of the many lessons…
Cancer teaches me to be present.
I noticed how quickly my mind would jump into the future…and not just any future…a crazy, scary, painful, horror film of a future. And then I’d notice…wait, is this real? Or just a movie? Each and every time I felt fear and stress, my mind had left the present moment. Cancer gave me this continued practice of noticing what is real now: I’m here, healthy, breathing, the sky is blue, the chair is holding me, the medicine is doing its job, the doctors are kind. Reality was always better than the stories in my head. I just get to be present and follow the simple instructions. Whew.
Cancer teaches me to slow down and listen to my body.
As I walked the path of cancer treatment, I created space in my schedule to be present for anything to arise. Living a fast-paced life simply wasn’t possible ~ I was forced to slow down and be. My yoga practice deepened as I would show up to the mat each day ~ I’d breathe with the various sensations that appeared ~ and I’d be led into different stretches and poses. Some days were more active than others. When my body needed to sleep, I let it. When it was hungry, I fed it nourishing food. When it wanted to binge out of Netflix, I let it. When it needed help from others, I asked for it. And I was pretty impressed to watch it continue to teach yoga classes!
Cancer teaches me self-love and acceptance.
My physical appearance changed very quickly ~ my long, mermaid hair disappeared. I lost my curves and my body resembled a skeleton. After surgery, my natural breasts were replaced with tissue expanders. It gave me an opportunity to look at my own beliefs around beauty, body image, and what is “feminine,” and I found that these concepts are just BS. Although it was challenging at times, I learned to be gentle and love myself regardless of my appearance – I even began to embrace the changes. I jokingly referred to myself as my husband’s “little man wife.” I loved the ease and freedom of being bald and am now fascinated with my new anti-gravity boobs! This body will continue to change throughout its lifetime – that’s just what bodies do – and cancer has shown me how to see the blessings. I know that I am so much more than this body.
Cancer teaches me how to open my heart.
For the first time in my life, I was filled with inspiration to share my experience in a big way – in real time – through a blog on my web site. Writing became an incredible form of healing. The unconditional love & support I have received has cracked my heart wide open. People. Are. So. Kind. My relationships have deepened, new connections have been made, and I continue to authentically share my heart. Cancer has given me a new, passionate direction in my career, and it has instilled a strong sense of trust that we live in a friendly universe. I have never been a victim in this process; I am an eternally grateful student.
And the blessings continue.
On September 16th, while leading my first Reset Retreat in the Texas Hill Country – I celebrated the anniversary of my diagnosis with an amazing group of women. Now cancer-free, I affectionately call this day – New Direction Day – the day my life took a beautiful, new direction. We all raised a glass of wine at dinner and cheered! I couldn’t imagine a better way to celebrate.
So here’s my invitation to you.
Look at the challenges you are facing in life ~ whether it be low back pain, a disability, death of a loved one, an illness, car accident, relationship challenges, a big career change, money issues…how could it be possible that this is the best possible thing for you? What is it teaching you? Patience? Kindness? Slowing down? Speaking up? Asking for help? What are you learning about yourself? What new doors has it opened?
I’m not trying to negate that there are tough times and struggles…this Earth School thing can feel REALLY challenging! I’m inviting you to notice what else may also be going on…open your mind to the gifts that are all around us.
Perhaps you already have the greatest yoga teacher at your feet. Just waiting to be discovered.
The following was written September 18th when I had my first consultation with the breast surgeon. Part 2 will describe my 2nd meeting with the surgeon on January 21st to discuss surgery options.
This morning, I woke up at 5:30am (not like me at all!) and spent a quiet morning in the dark with my mom drinking tea and doing some gentle yoga. In the midst of hamstring stretching and hip opening, I just felt the tears begin to pour out again. I welcomed them. The body just needs to do what it needs to do. She placed her hand on my back while I was in child’s pose and stroked my spine. I am so beyond happy she is here. I love her so much and feel so close to her. I love how intimate we are and that I can share this experience with her. I fell into her arms and we cried together.
I was actually really looking forward to the appointment with the breast surgeon, Dr. Ganaraj…I had my handy list of questions to ask. I was nervous yet also excited to see the doctor and learn more…get a game plan…My mom and I had a great morning walk and I got all dressed up. I decided to wear super sexy underwear to my appointment ~ if things got stressful, I could remind myself that I was wearing a secret, doctor-not-approved baby pink thong…intended to bring some comic relief to a potentially stressful situation.
While in the waiting room, I met my Health Navigator ~ I had no idea that role even existed and wow, what a brilliant idea. She handed me this phenomenal binder of information ~ everything from cancer education to treatment procedures to tips for health and wellness. I was so excited to see recommendations for writing, yoga, acupuncture, healthy diet, humor ~ this is my wheelhouse! The Health Navigator said she is here to support me through the entire process. Their team cares about my wellness as a whole and they want to hear from me anytime ~ I have everyone’s cell phone numbers and they will always return my call the same day. She looks like everyone’s favorite Grandma ~ one you could snuggle with for hours. It was a wonderful introduction and again, very impressed with conventional medicine ~ it’s not what I thought it would be. (Side note: to this day, I have never heard from my health navigator…hahahaha.)
I decided that me, my mom, and Travis should take a “cancer selfie” in the waiting room. My first cancer photo….but wait, I’ve been taking cancer photos for almost a year now and had no idea. I have to say, so far I do LOOK pretty damn good with cancer. And even more confusing (but hey – it’s good news), I FEEL really great with cancer. Aside from the whirlwind of believing stressful thoughts as if they were some kind of addictive candy…I’m kind of rocking it.
I met Dr. Ganaraj in the exam room with a big smile. She asked, “how are you doing?” My response was, “well, I’m extremely happy to see YOU!” She was surprised by my reaction and said that usually she is the last person patients want to see. She then did a manual breast exam and I pretended to ignore the extremely worried look on her face. She took measurements of the large lump in my breast and a 2nd lump that I also noticed the night before for the first time (and nearly had a panic attack). Then she measured the mass in my axilla.
I got dressed and we all met in her office. Going into this meeting, I assumed the treatment plan would be pretty simple: we would talk about surgery and then maybe a little chemo…I’d be cancer-free by the end of the year, no biggie. Apparently, I was very naive.
She said that the cancer is extremely aggressive, which is common in younger bodies.
Gulp. Think of the sexy underwear….think of the sexy underwear….NOT working.
She went on to say that there’s a large tumor in my breast and it has spread to my lymphatic system, which means it is definitely traveling throughout my body. The good news is that she doesn’t expect it has taken root anywhere else yet. She pulled up a screen to illustrate how the cancer cells form in the breast and then multiply & divide ~ it was one big blur to me. Aggressive? Really? She said that the masses are too big for surgery now ~ if she did surgery it would be mutilating to my body and could result in possible nerve damage. A series of diagnostic tests will be ordered for October 1st (the day insurance starts) to confirm if the cancer has spread anywhere else. She then recommended doing 5-6 months of chemo first with the goal of shrinking the tumors and mopping up the remaining cancer cells in my body. Surgery would come next and hopefully, the shrinkage could make me a candidate for a simple lumpectomy. Then radiation. Then 5 years of hormone therapy.
Shit. That was wayyyyy more than I was expecting.
It’s a very ODD sensation…to hear someone tell you things about your body and not be able to feel it AT ALL. Then again, would I want to feel this? Maybe reality is kind in this way. It makes it so surreal though. Is she really talking about MY body? I have cancer AND it’s this serious, really? She said the survival rate is pretty good with this type of cancer…Wait a minute…SURVIVAL rate? Is there really a chance of me dying? Could this really be how my story ends? Dying of cancer in my 30’s? My mind already started to picture Travis with his second wife since the first love of his life died of cancer. This thought is unbearable. She’s gorgeous, by the way ~ very exotic looking with long dark hair and deep green eyes…she’s a wonderful mother…and he’s happy with her. I become just a memory.
Yet, here I am. Alive. Healthy. Still married.
I told the doctor how confusing it was to hear this information, because I feel so healthy. It was a very “out of body” experience hearing her describe what’s supposedly going on in there. And geez, I’ve built a career out of being “in tune” with my body. I guess I’m not as intuitive as I thought. She looked me right in the eyes and said, “You feel healthy because you are healthy.” Ok, I think I like her.
I then asked in a shaky voice, “will I lose my hair?”
“Yes. Within the first few weeks of chemo.”
I literally felt a dagger in my heart. My hair. My boobs. My two favorite parts of my body. I was known for these things!!! Don’t you know the girl with the mermaid hair, double D boobs, and a size 2 yogini bod? That’s ME damnit and this “me” is being threatened on all levels. In high school I had the nickname of “PT” which stood for “Perfect Tits” ~ some guys at another school created a jingle for them…”Beth’s breasts are the best…”
The surgeon said she would set up an appointment with the oncologist right away and schedule the tests. As we said our goodbye’s, I started to feel my body tremble. I was barely holding it together. As we walked out of the office door, I completely fell apart. It was like my legs stopped working. Travis held me up as we walked through the lobby and then parking lot. My mom grabbed the keys and told us to sit in the back together. I collapsed into the car and began whaling.
There was no stopping the mind from going all over the place. Fear of death, pain, suffering consumed me. Anger, confusion, terror, shame, panic. This was a necessary vomiting of the mind and although it was one of the hardest moments, I still felt supported in the car, being held by Travis, mom driving.
I have been able to revisit this moment and identify numerous thoughts:
The cancer is spreading.
I will die young.
I won’t know what to do.
This shouldn’t be happening to me.
Chemo is poisonous to my body. Evolved people don’t choose chemo.
I created my cancer.
My body betrayed me.
Chemo will make me look sick and ugly.
I will be in unbearable pain.
I’m not intuitive/evolved. Evolved people don’t get cancer.
I’m a failure.
I should have gone to the doctor sooner.
I can’t handle this.
Cancer will prevent me from living a full life.
Cancer will ruin us financially.
And this is why I love The Work of Byron Katie. I am able to go back into a stressful experience, identify thoughts, and one-by-one, question them. As I meet each thought with understanding, I gather more and more proof that suffering only exists in my mind. It’s what I’m imagining might happen that creates my stress. It’s what I’m believing about cancer, about chemo, about my body that sends me down the rabbit hole. And what I’m believing isn’t real in the moment. I was in the car, being held, and driven home. Reality is always kinder than the movies playing in my head.
In the upcoming blogs, I will begin to share the full inquiries that have impacted me the most ~ you may be able to relate to them in your own life even without an illness, and it will give you an insight into the mind of a cancer patient.
So even though September 18th was one of the hardest days I have ever experienced, it was also a doorway into living a more fearless, present life. Thank you, Cancer.