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:
In the womb for 5 years…she’s been growing, evolving, both inspiring and terrifying me…and I’m ecstatic to announce her birth THIS SEPTEMBER! I’ve already picked out the sweetest name…
My Guru Cancer: You Don’t Have to Fight to Find True Freedom from the C-Word
A classic Bethany overshare of the ups, downs, and turnarounds of my cancer journey, this boobliography gifts you a roadmap for transforming any nightmare into a blessing. Yes, cancer may have rendered me infertile with two new weird AF boobs, but it’s not stopping me from birthing this book baby into the world.
It takes a village! Will you support me?
Here are 4 ways to start now:
1. Joinmy launch team by clicking this link. Two free gifts will magically appear in your inbox and you’ll have access to the latest book baby scoop + upcoming events.
3. Help me spread the word by sharing posts, tagging #mygurucancer, and being that person in conversations who says, “OMG! I know this awesomesauce lady who learned how to enjoy cancer! Buy her book in September at bethanywebb.com.”
4. Reach out if you have connections. Podcasts, speaking engagements, interviews, articles…any way I can share this book baby with as many people as possible. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s my hope that everyone finds true freedom from cancer; a freedom that exists with or without cancer cells in the body. If I can do it, anyone can. SO much gratitude for you, for life, and #mygurucancer…stay tuned 🙂
I know what you’re thinking…When a cancer blogger stops bloggin’….she’s probably dead. Lol, well I can assure that I am fully and completely MORE alive, happier, and healthier than ever! It’s been over a year since my last post and there are so many fun and exciting new adventures arising in this beautiful life. I’ll send a bigger update soon and for now, I want to share a blog piece I wrote for the amazing non-profit community, First Descents. Because I just celebrated my 4-year Cancerversary and we’re diving into Pinktober’s official “Breast Cancer Awareness” month, it feels very timely to share my story of how I transformed cancer into a true blessing.
If you’re struggling with a diagnosis – you are definitely not alone! I want you to know I’m here for you. I’m happy to chat or we can schedule a private coaching session. If you’d like the extra support of a loving, like-minded community, the next Making Peace with Disease 8-Week Online Series starts Monday! I co-facilitate this course with my dear friend, Helena, who also used the process of The Work to find joy and freedom with her HIV diagnosis. You can join from the comfort of your home and safely investigate what holds you back from being at peace regardless of what your body is going through. Click here for full deets.
Love to you all!
First Descent’s Blog: How to Clear Cancer BS and Enjoy the Ride
We all have BS (belief systems) floating around in our heads. They influence how we feel and experience the world. They shape our relationships, careers, dreams, and overall health and wellbeing. Our monkey minds are constantly running on overdrive…have you noticed? And if there’s one thing that can propel the monkey mind into full-blown cray, it’s the C-word.
During the summer of 2015, I was feeling on top of the world. I had just become certified in a mindfulness practice called The Work of Byron Katie™ and led my first international yoga retreat in Costa Rica. I was the epitome of health; a junkie for nature, movement, meditation, and organic foods.
Needless to say, a cancer diagnosis and confronting my mortality in my early 30’s wasn’t exactly on my radar. Yet sure enough, a few weeks after my 34th birthday, life gifted me an aggressive form of breast cancer. I had spent the last 10 years training on how to manage stress, yet during the beginning of the diagnostic phase, I threw every single peace tool out the window. I turned to the art of freaking out, ugly crying, isolation, and depression. My mind was overwhelmed with thoughts like I have cancer. I’ll die young. I can’t live a full life. I did something to deserve this. I was already living in a nightmare.
This is the power of the mind.
One afternoon, curled up into a ball underneath my covers, a life-altering epiphany hit me: suffering really, really sucks. So I returned to a trusted companion, a form of inquiry called “The Work” that had already helped me find peace in a myriad of frustrating situations in my life. It’s a super simple yet profound process of identifying and questioning beliefs that create stress – it’s a way to clear the mind and love reality, just as it is. Anyone with an open mind can do it, free of charge, anytime, anywhere.
The Work consists of 4 questions and turnarounds. The questions are:
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without the thought?
The turnarounds are a way to examine the original stressful thought from different perspectives. They open the mind to seeing other possibilities in life—possibilities that we are blind to when we are under the influence of a stressful thought. I started diving into questioning all of my stories about cancer. For example, “Cancer will ruin my life.”
1. Is it true? YES, dummy – this is obviously the worst thing that could ever happen!
2. Can I absolutely know that it’s true? Hmmmm…well, I guess I’m not a psychic so…No, I can’t 100% know for sure.
3. How do I react, what happens, when I believe the thought that cancer will ruin my life? Panic. I can’t breathe, my shoulders tense up to my ears. I see images of the future – me dying a slow, painful, bald death. My family is crushed. All of my dreams and aspirations vanish. I’m angry at the world and feel like a victim.
4. Who would I be without this thought? Breathing. Curious. More relaxed, present, even empowered. I see how strong and healthy I am. I appreciate the sweet support of my friends, family, doctors, and complete strangers. I remember how in the past there were billions of times when I thought something was terrible and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. What if cancer is happening for me instead of to me?
“Cancer will ruin my life.” Turn it around to the opposite. “Cancer won’t ruin my life. Cancer will save my life.” I can appreciate and embrace life more. I’m forced to really live in the present moment, slow down, practice self-care, put me first. I have a chance to truly practice what I preach. My career could take a new direction. My relationships can strengthen. I’ll learn to ask for and receive help. I’ll live out of my integrity more often. I can connect with others on the same journey. Seeing cancer through this lens feels like I’m diving into a new, exciting adventure.
Turning the thought around again, “My thinking about cancer will ruin my life.” Could this be as true or even truer than my other thoughts? It’s the scary movies playing in my head that are causing my panic attack. It’s what I’m thinking and believing about cancer, about my body, about the future, that is creating stress in this moment. It’s not actually reality.
What a relief.
In flipping my thoughts I reframed my anxieties into good news. I felt so energized so quickly that I became motivated to use The Work to meet each challenge in cancer – during a 2-year rigorous treatment plan of multiple surgeries, chemo, radiation, and now hormone therapy. I used it to confornt having body parts replaced and feeling insecure about my appearance; relationships issues and financial struggles; overwhelming emotions, side effects, and physical pain; and even scanxiety and the fear of a recurrence, which led to the ultimate test…making peace with my fear of death.
Simply put, The Work works for me. When I started to keep my mind in check, it all became a truly beautiful, often hilarious, crazy, life-transforming ride. Honestly, inquiry has re-trained my mind to see #CancerBonuses everywhere.
And one HUGE cancer bonus is First Descents. When I heard about this kickass organization that creates life-changing adventure trips for cancer patients I was a big YES and signed up for a week of white water kayaking in Tarkio, Montana. Cruising down the rapids, learning to trust my body again and go with the flow of life, a group of strangers became my new FD family. I’m so grateful to be connected with this tribe and to continue our #outlivingit adventures together.
And if you want that sense of adventure to continue internally, I invite you to try out The Work of Byron Katie. To see this work in action, play around on my cancer blog where my experience and inner work was chronicled in real-time. And soon, I’ll be birthing my first book baby into the world: My Guru, Cancer.
My career has now taken a new, awesome-sauce direction into helping others cope with the mental and emotional stress of various health challenges. I offer private coaching, live events, and online group class series on topics like “Making Peace with Disease” and “Making Friends with Medicine.”
Cancer can be the biggest nightmare, yet I learned it doesn’t have to be. We all have the power to pull ourselves out of pain and live a joyful life regardless of what our bodies are going through. All it takes is the willingness to shift your mindset. Thanks to this work, I’m no longer a victim of cancer; I’m simply an eternally grateful student.
So the next time you feel afraid, angry, or anxious…call out that BS (belief system) and meet it with Is it true? No matter where you are on your journey, there’s always an opportunity to free your mind and enjoy the ride.
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’d continue doing the work that I LOVE. 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
Do you heart this blog? Well it has transformed into a book baby…join my mailing list to get the scoop about its upcoming birth into the world! #mygurucancer
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