Cancer Diagnosis, finding peace with cancer, Inquiry, mental and emotional support for cancer, the work of byron katie and cancer, yoga therapy and breast cancer

The Work of Byron Katie and Cancer

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 😉

Mental Medicine: The Work of Byron Katie

How I Found Peace During The Waiting Game

“The Cancer is Spreading” ~ is it true?

A Different Kind of Breast Cancer Awareness

Diagnostic Testing without Stressing

What If Fear is Just a Fart?

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!

Work with Me

Schedule a Private Session, Customized Workshop, or Retreat

Inner Peace Retreat ~ Yoga & The Work of Byron Katie: April 27-29

Making Peace w/Disease Online Series: May 7-June 11

 

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anxiety and cancer, Cancer Diagnosis, finding peace with cancer, mental and emotional support for cancer, stress and cancer, the work of byron katie and cancer, yoga therapy and breast cancer

You Can Have Cancer & Be Happy ~ article by CanSurround

CanSurroundHeadShotI 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 🙂

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.”

Work with Bethany…

Schedule a private session

Making Peace with Disease through The Work of Byron Katie: Dec 4 – Jan 21 

Your Inner Guru Workshop: January 13

Yoga & The Work Teacher Training: January 14

 

Related blog posts…

Alternative/Complimentary Therapies for My Breast Cancer Treatment

Inquiry: “The cancer is spreading” ~ is it true?

All-Natural Remedies for Chemo Side Effects

Mental Medicine: The Work of Byron Katie

Alternative/Complimentary Therapies, anxiety and cancer, Cancer Diagnosis, Inquiry, Side Effects of Cancer Treatment, Side Effects of Chemotherapy, stress and cancer, the work of byron katie and cancer, Uncategorized, yoga therapy and breast cancer

Conventional vs. Alternative Medicine ~ can’t we all just get along?

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 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?

Or…

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?

Image result for byron katie quote defense is the first act of war

Work with me…

Schedule a private session

New online series! Making Peace with Disease through The Work of Byron Katie: Dec 4 – Jan 21 

Yoga, Inquiry, Gong Meditation: November 9

Yoga & The Work ~ Teacher Training: November 19 & January 14

 

Related blog posts…

Alternative/Complimentary Therapies for My Breast Cancer Treatment

Inquiry: “Chemo is poisonous to my body” ~ is it true?

All-Natural Remedies for Chemo Side Effects

Mental Medicine: The Work of Byron Katie

 

Cancer Diagnosis, Inquiry, Post Treatment, Side Effects of Cancer Treatment, the work of byron katie and cancer, Uncategorized

Meeting BIG Emotions in the Cancer Journey

Inside-Out-Craft-3-758x1024People often tell me, “It’s amazing how positive you are all of the time about cancer!” Lol…I love your story of me 😉 And perhaps you have not read my blog. Yes, I have found a way to navigate the cancer journey with peace, grace, humor, & joy. The entire experience has been and continues to be the biggest blessing of my entire life. And guess what? I still freak the f*ck out sometimes too!

Some of the biggest emotional rollercoasters have been felt during this past month AFTER I completed cancer treatment. This took me by surprise…I mean, I’m done – right? There’s NO cancer – right? What’s going on here?

When I was in the middle of chemo, I attended a cancer support group. With my bald head and tiny body, I shared that I was surprised at how well I was doing ~ I felt pretty darn good compared to the stories I had heard and my attitude remained clear and positive. Then the ladies said, “Oh…you just wait until after treatment. You’re going to feel horrible.” Then I went on to hear about how terrible their lives are, the side effects from treatment (which honestly didn’t really seem related to treatment), and how they live in constant fear of a recurrence. As I witnessed their suffering, I could see so clearly that it was in their minds ~ if they could just let go of these stories, this victimhood, they would have a happy life (insert spiritual arrogance here). Why can’t they just see this?

Well, I’ll tell you why. When you’re in the midst of suffering, you are bombarded with a sea of stressful thoughts, images, physical exhaustion, & BIG emotions. A dark cloud looms over you, covering your eyes, so that all you can see is crap here and crap there. You are blind and stuck in a shitty mental movie. How do I know?

I’ve been here. And I’ve come to realize that depression, fear, anger, resentment, loneliness, and disappointment are not a problem. Do you want to know what makes these moments unbearable? It’s thoughts like…

I should be happy.

There’s something wrong with me.

It will get worse.

These feelings will never go away.

These BIG emotions fluttered in and out after my final reconstruction surgery. They were also fueled by the fact that during recovery, I was feeling very disappointed with the cosmetic outcome and also developed an upper respiratory infection that was accompanied by an intense cough…I coughed so much that I threw a rib out of place and vomited a few times. I was whiney, annoyed, and just wanted to get back to my normal life. I didn’t want to do The Work. I didn’t feel like doing movement. I’d curl up into my bed and cry. And then came in the above self-judgment and stressful thoughts.

How do you react, what happens when you believe that you should be happy, when you’re not? I am even more frustrated, ashamed, disappointed. I harden inside and want to close myself off from the world. I see images of the “old Bethany” who was peaceful and free – where did she go? COME BACK!!!! I don’t see the possibility of a happy future.

Who am I, feeling this way, without these thoughts? I’m here for me. I rock me through tears, I ask others to hold me. I feel the support of the bed. I tell myself that it’s ok, you’re doing great, and this too will pass. I am so sweetly connected with myself. These BIG emotions are welcomed and I let myself fully FEEL.

One night, I experienced what one might call an “emotional exorcism.” I was sobbing, hovered over the toilet and vomiting. My body was shaking…I felt 100% completely out of control. There was no choice but to surrender into grief. Grieving for the changes in my body and my life. My husband encouraged me to keep letting it go, which I did for what felt like hours. I awoke the next morning and cried more. I went to Acupuncture and cried through that as well.

And then, a shift.

I began to feel lighter, relaxed, at peace. My smile and sense of humor returned. Life looks sparkley again. I feel like myself again. I have more energy and feel excited and hopeful for the future.

For me, these BIG emotions could not be bypassed. It felt important and necessary for me to really feel them. Let them have a life. Let them move through me. And now that I’m on “the other side,” I can go back to inquiry ~ identify what I was thinking and believing ~ and continue to become enlightened by suffering.

BIG emotions are a natural part of life and the cancer journey. Suffering teaches me humility, connection, self-care, and the power of the mind.

So to the women who I judged at the cancer support group: I am so sorry. You are entitled to feel however you feel. There is nothing wrong with you. How can I help?

There are many ways to deal with emotions ~ venting it out may be the best way for you. For me, it’s often not enough. Feeling my way through it and questioning what’s beneath it is how I find the most freedom. What works for you?

With love & gratitude for ALL of the cancer journey (and that includes suffering),

~ xoxoxo Bethany

Join me for an upcoming event…

Yoga, Inquiry, & Gong Meditation: June 23

Exploring Mind/Body ~ Yoga & The Work of Byron Katie: July 8

Inner Peace Retreat ~ Yoga & The Work in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky: Sept 7-10

 

Related blog posts…

Mental Medicine ~ The Work of Byron Katie

Self-discovery while in Recovery

A Different Kind of Breast Cancer Awareness

 

 

 

Inquiry

Inquiry: “Chemo is poisonous to my body” ~ is it true?

“You’re going to put poison in your body?” a good friend of mine innocently asked when I told her of my diagnosis and treatment plan. “Chemo only creates cancer and kills people” is what I heard from an “expert” in alternative care when I watched The Truth About Cancer on-line series in the beginning of treatment (you know, while it was coursing through my veins).

Seeing my bald head, an old man approached me while I’m was in the middle of a pedicure, “Are you in cancer treatment? My friend was too for xyz cancer and I was with him every brutal step of the way until the end of his life. Can I add you to my prayer circle?” 

CHEMO IS POISON.  Everybody says it, even some doctors. But have you ever stopped to really consider…is it actually true for you?

In case you haven’t noticed from my blog ~ The Work of Byron Katie has been THE most helpful tool in finding peace during my cancer journey. It’s a way to identify & question stressful thoughts ~ a way to notice the side effects of holding onto a belief and the freedom that fills your body & mind without it.

Stressful thoughts about chemo and conventional treatment came up often for me. A friend & fellow Certified Facilitator, Robyn Povich, facilitated me on the big kahuna thought, “Chemo is poisonous to my body.” After sitting in this meditation, I was able to walk (& often sleep) through treatment with clarity, peace, & even humor. I can honestly say that I ENJOYED much of my chemo experience ~ while I was IN it ~ not just went it was over. What???!!! Here’s how I got to this space…

 

THE WORK OF BYRON KATIE – THE FOUR QUESTIONS

Stressful thought: “Chemo is poisonous to my body.”

1. Is it true? (NOTE: the answer to the 1st 2 questions is a simple “yes” or “no.” ~ I’ve added mental commentary so you can see where my mind went)

Yes. (Look at how many people are saying it and remember all of the movies I’ve seen? I’ve read the list of side effects and attended the chemo class – HELL yeah, it’s true!)

2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

No. (I can’t 100% know for sure that it is poisonous to MY body….hmmmm…)

3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?

I freak out. Pure panic. A warning siren goes off in my entire body ~ my stomach feels queezy, my shoulders climb up to my ears, my jaw tightens, breath shortens. I worry I’m making the wrong decision and I treat myself as an uninformed idiot playing into Big Pharma. I tell myself I’m doing it all wrong. I feel shame and embarrassment when speaking to others, especially my “all-natural” friends. I’m angry and begin to distrust my doctors ~ they don’t really want to heal me. I take the horror stories I’ve heard from others + the movies I’ve seen and project them into my own future ~ tragically dying young. I get a case of the “what-ifs.” What if they’re right – what if it will kill me?! Or even worse, what if there’s a lifetime of side effects making my quality of life pure shit…forever. I see no possibility of joy, only worse-case scenarios. I treat chemo like it is the devil – it’s out to break me and ruin every part of me – mind, body, and spirit. I see my body as sick and frail, unable to “handle” the poison. I see it seeking revenge on me by giving up and letting the cancer spread further. I’m a terrified, lonely, hopeless victim.

(Sounds like an ideal state for healing cancer, huh?)

4. Who would you be without the thought?

I am back at home in my body ~ I feel my breath…my body is relaxed and strong. I see how well I am doing ~ I feel courage, pride, and gratitude. I realize that I am not experiencing all of the horrible side effects that I heard about in this moment ~ in fact, I feel pretty good. And the side effects I do have (no hair, weight loss, tired, achey) aren’t so bad after all. I remember all of the amazing women I have met who have been through chemo and are living happy, healthy lives. I am more present and positive. I am able to share my treatment plan with others with confidence ~ I trust that I am making the right decision for me. I see my doctors as kind, caring, and truly on my side. I remember my oncologist’s words, “I think we can cure this.” I feel my breast and armpit and can feel the lumps getting smaller and smaller. I am grateful for medicine and scientific research. I see chemo as a gift, as a healing cleanse that is working WITH me, not against me. My job becomes much simpler: show up for the next treatment, relax, and receive.

(Ahhhh…what a relief. But the 4 questions aren’t enough for my mind – it needs more PROOF which takes us to the turnarounds.)

TURN THE THOUGHT AROUND

A statement can be turned around to the self, the other, and the opposite. Sometimes more ways and sometimes less. For each turnaround, find at least 3 genuine examples of how it’s true. For me, the turnarounds really serve to open my mind to so many new realities.

Stressful thought: “Chemo is poisonous to my body.”

TO THE OPPOSITE: “Chemo is not poisonous to my body” or the extreme opposite, “Chemo is healing to my body.”

Examples:

  1. I have no solid proof that right now, it is poisoning my body. I only see images in my mind and they are not real. How can I know for sure what’s going on in there?
  2. I’m getting good reports by the doctors. I can feel my tumors shrinking. I still have white blood cells.
  3. It helps me to slow down and get plenty of rest, which supports healing.
  4. It is part of a treatment plan where 85% of women are cured of this type of breast cancer. And oh yeah, it’s called chemoTHERAPY…heheheee, forgot about the therapy part 😉
  5. I am still able to exercise, do yoga, go walking, work, eat, take naps, have sex, and even travel.
  6. It is a healing cleanse – it wipes the body clean of what no longer serves it.
  7. My healthy lifestyle is protecting my healthy cells.
  8. I am not experiencing crazy, horrible side effects ~ I never even threw up once.
  9. Because of the side effects listed, I am more motivated to support myself with healing foods, supplements, and exercise. I honestly think I am healthier!
  10. I know many women of all ages who have rocked through chemo and now live happy, healthy lives.

TO THE SELF: (note – when you are judging an object, the turnaround to the self becomes “my thinking” instead of “I”). “My thinking about chemo is poisonous to my body.”

Examples:

  1. When I believe my stressful thoughts, my body is tense, panicked, not breathing fully. It’s in stress “fight or flight” mode which may not necessarily help the healing process.
  2. I continue to replay the stories I’ve heard from others in my head and gossip about it to other people. This reinforces the “poison” image and leaves me feeling frustrated, confused, and hopeless.
  3. I heard a story, I believed it. The label “poison” lives in my mind, not in my reality.
  4. When I go into an imaginary future of pain, suffering, side effects, and an early death.
  5. Chemo itself is innocent, it’s a clear or red liquid. It’s my thinking about it that creates suffering in this moment.

TO THE OTHER: “My body is poisonous to chemo.” 

(This one sounds weird, but I’ll try it on…)

Examples:

  1. Ah ha! My lymphatic system collects and moves toxins out of my body ~ it then releases it through sweat, urine, or poooo….
  2. My body is strong and healthy; the healthy cells have continued to rock regardless of what chemo does. Maybe there are parts of my body that rejected chemo?
  3. Oh, I did 5 months of chemo and am still alive, in fact ~ I feel pretty great. And there’s no more cancer!

YAHOO: “Chemo is poisonous to my body!” Yahoo! Sometimes the non-traditional yahoo turnaround is available. It’s a way to look at your original thought ~ and assuming that it is actually true, how could this be good? How could this serve you?

(When Robyn mentioned this turnaround, my heart sunk a little. Eek! Then she pointed out the following example:)

Examples:

  1. Chemo is poisonous to cancer cells. Isn’t that why you’re taking it?

(YES! One of the many gifts of working with a facilitator ~ they are often able to point out things that are hidden to the mind. Then I could find a few more on my own:)

2. It helps me stay really clear and consistent in my self-care ~ for me, this is a clean diet, daily movement, and taking my “mental medicine” ~ the work of byron katie.

3. It helps me to find all-natural cures for dealing with side effects (and sometimes I used medicine too) ~ check out this blog post for details.

Some additional thoughts that I have worked about chemo:

People who are evolved don’t choose chemo (or any conventional medicine).

People judge me for choosing chemo.

Chemo will give me a lifetime of serious side effects.

Chemo is making me too tired.

It’s been one year since I completed chemo. It just wasn’t poison for me; I actually gave it a new name: C-Love.

A friend once asked, “are you on the RD?” I had no clue what that meant. It stands for the “Red Devil” and is a nickname for the chemo drug called Adriamycin that is responsible for hair loss. I thought to myself…wait a minute, isn’t it the Red Savior? I mean, isn’t that why we’re doing this? Making friends with medicine is much kinder to me than fearing and hating it. And that may not be true for everyone.

Of the many C-Love selfies, these are my favorites!

 

And I sure as hell had a party when I was done. A full-on Nae-Nae dance party!

Right now as I sip tea in a coffee shop in Dallas, I am just SO grateful I chose this path. Once again, I got to see that the stories in my head were worse than the reality of it. I am humbled and no longer judge others for their choice of treatment. Everyone needs to do what is right for them ~ there is no one way to heal.

I’ve had many more thoughts about medicine as I went through surgery and radiation too. Even after treatment, my mind still comes in and tells me scary stories about the future…they are just thoughts and thankfully, they all have a home in inquiry.

I have been sharing this work in what I call “Mental Medicine” workshops at the Dallas Cancer Support Center and am working privately with clients who are recently diagnosed, have completed treatment, and/or have family members with cancer. It is SUCH a privilege, such an honor….to work in this space, from this space. I get it. I’ve been there. There is a way out of the suffering. And I’m still a work in progress too.

One friend who attended a workshop sent me this message:

“My experience this week (having her first chemo treatment) is a thousand times better than my thoughts about it last week. Thank you for all of your help and care!”

The work works. Now… where do you fear medicine? Are you willing to question your sacred beliefs?

 

START YOUR OWN PRACTICE OF THE WORK

 

HELPFUL RELATED BLOG POSTS

Cancer Diagnosis, Inquiry, Post Treatment, the work of byron katie and cancer, yoga therapy and breast cancer

What if Fear is just a Fart?

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?

hellomynameisfearThe 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

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Inquiry

Inquiry: “The Cancer is spreading” ~ is it true?

Before and after my diagnosis in September, I started using The Work of Byron Katie like crack. Ok, so I’ve never tried crack but you get the gist. The Work, also known as inquiry, is a way to identify and question thoughts that bring stress and suffering to our lives. I’ve been practicing The Work since 2009 and became a Certified Facilitator in January of 2015. The certification training program itself has absolutely nothing to do with “how to teach the work” and everything to do with how to work on your own stressful thoughts in every possible area of your life: relationships, parenting, health, finances, work,  fear, criticism, body image, etc. Because I experienced so much relief and joy in everything I was questioning, I learned to trust this process of inquiry 100% ~ there was no longer a lost feeling of where to go when I felt upset, angry, lonely, frustrated…I always had a clear direction out of pain: do The Work.

And being diagnosed with cancer has given me the ultimate invitation to really live this practice.

I can’t even count the number of stressful thoughts that I’ve taken to inquiry during this experience, but there are definitely a few that stand out as incredibly life-changing for me.


images“The cancer is spreading”
has been a re-occurring thought, especially during the 2 weeks between my diagnosis and not knowing if it was stage 4. The first step of inquiry is to isolate a situation when I believed the thought. For me, this thought has come up multiple times: when I found a new lump in my breast, when the breast surgeon told me the cancer is “traveling” since it has reached my lymphatic system, when I felt intense pain in the back of my neck or other parts of my body, or when I would get a migraine…all of these situations are the same: I feel or hear something and that means…the cancer is spreading. For the purpose of this inquiry, I’ll focus on the 1st time I had this thought:

SITUATION

It’s a few days after my biopsy and the night before meeting with the breast surgeon for the 1st time. I’m sitting on the couch in my living room and my mom and husband are there. I’m feeling my left breast and notice a large new lump at the top of it and the thought hits me, “The cancer is spreading.”

So now that I’ve identified the stressful moment in time and the thought, I take this thought to inquiry with Byron Katie’s 4 questions and turnarounds. The Work is meditation, so I continue to meditate on the specific situation, ask the question, and await an answer.

 

THE FOUR QUESTIONS

Stressful thought: “The cancer is spreading.”

1. Is it true? (the answer to the 1st 2 questions is a simple “yes” or “no.”)

Yes.

2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

No.

3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?

I feel the lump and a huge wave of panic comes over me. My heart races, breath shortens, I feel a constriction in my heart and my throat. My shoulders hike up to my ears and I slouch forward to protect myself. I frantically begin to press on it and around it and convince myself it’s a new tumor. Immediately, I have an image of the future ~ the tumors continue to spread throughout my whole body at a rapid rate. I see cancer taking over my body, my life, my happiness. I see an early, sad, painful death. I feel helpless, hopeless, out of control, & absolutely terrified watching these images. I treat myself like a victim and then I start to bully me for not getting the 1st lump checked out sooner. I could have prevented all of this; it’s my fault. I ask my mom to feel the lump and I study her face. If she looks panicked, then I will panic even more. She seems calm but she’s just putting on a show so I don’t freak out. I can’t listen to my mom or Travis as they try to comfort me. They don’t know what it’s like. I feel separate from them. I’m angry and confused at my body ~ how could it do this to me? Then I turn to God ~ what the FUCK lesson are you trying to teach me here, asshole? I want to crawl in a hole and just cry and cry. I don’t want to deal with this and at the same time, I feel a huge pressure/sense of urgency to DO something NOW before my body becomes one big tumor.

4. Who would you be without the thought?

I’m sitting in the living room. It’s quiet, I’m comfortable on the couch. I feel the lump and I’m curious. It’s new and interesting. My mind is open and calmer ~ I see many possibilities: maybe it’s inflammation, a cyst, swollen lymph, who knows? I add it to the list of questions I have for the doctor tomorrow. The future looks simpler. I feel more at ease taking things one step at a time. Right now, relax on the couch with my family. Tomorrow, go to doctor. Without the thought, I still may show my mom and husband as an FYI and there’s not a dependent need for validation from them. I love that they’re both here with me now and in this process. I feel supported and connected to them, to me. My body relaxes, breath deepens, throat softens. I appreciate my body showing me the lump so I can learn more. I don’t give the lump a label either ~ it’s not bad or good or cancer or not ~ it just is. There’s even a hint of excitement with launching into this brand new journey of the unknown. Don’t know. Don’t know. Don’t know. Much more relaxed and at peace.

 

THE TURNAROUNDS

A statement can be turned around to the self, the other, and the opposite. Sometimes more ways and sometimes less. For each turnaround, find at least 3 genuine examples of how it’s true. For me, the turnarounds really serve to open my mind to so many new realities.

ORIGINAL THOUGHT: “The cancer is spreading.” 

TO THE OPPOSITE: “The cancer is not spreading.”

Examples:

  1. It could be inflammation ~ I did just have a large biopsy needle & anesthesia needle poking into my breast multiple times a few days ago.
  2. It’s a swollen lymph node or a cyst ~ I’ve had many of these before and they felt similar to this.
  3. It could be fibrocystic tissue or a fibroadenoma which is not cancerous.
  4. I have absolutely NO PROOF at all that I am feeling a tumor. It’s just a story I put on a lump. I mean really, where’s my proof? I can’t see actual cancer. I can’t even feel it ~ I feel skin, something hard and bumpy.
  5. Outside of the situation, when the doctor tells me “the cancer is traveling” ~ she also said she didn’t think it has taken root anywhere else. So the cancer is not spreading according to the cancer expert as well.

TO THE SELF: (note – when you are judging an object, the turnaround to the self becomes “my thinking” instead of “I”). “My thinking about cancer is spreading” or what fits better for me is, “The cancer in my thinking is spreading.”

Examples:

  1. Holy shit, this is MUCH truer ~ right now, the only place the cancer is definitely spreading is in my mind. In my imagination, my entire body is full of tumors until my painful death. Yet, the reality is that I’m on the couch, very much alive, feeling a lump.
  2. It’s the story I put on the lump that is creating my suffering and panic. Not cancer. These scary stories are multiplying one after the other, just like cancer cells divide and spread.
  3. My thinking uses images that I’ve seen in movies of painful deaths from cancer and I imagine it’s happening/going to happen to me. This is the start. I scare me by believing these images and thoughts.
  4. Even outside this situation, when I have a pain in my body and think the cancer is spreading ~ the cancer is only in my thinking in that moment too ~ I have no proof that the neck pain, migraine, stomach ache is cancer spreading. But I do know it’s spreading in my mind.

TO THE OTHER: “I am spreading the cancer.” 

  1. When I believe the stressful thought “the cancer is spreading” ~ my body reacts. It panics, heart races, caves forward, I’m in fight or flight mode, the body’s natural healing may be affected. So even though I see my innocence in going along with this thought, I can also see that if I don’t intercept thoughts like this with inquiry, I am creating quite a hostile environment in my body ~ and possibly an environment where cancer can spread more easily. So I can see where “I am spreading the cancer” could be true in a way.
  2. I spread the cancerous thoughts to my mother and husband by showing them the lump and labeling it as “cancer spreading.”

YAHOO: “The cancer is spreading!” Yahoo! Sometimes the yahoo turnaround is available. It’s a way to look at your original thought ~ and assuming that it is actually true, how could this be good? How could this serve you?

  1. If it has spread in my breast, it hasn’t spread very far from it’s original source.
  2. I am thankful I already have an appointment with the doctor tomorrow and she is an expert with cancer cells. She will share treatment plan options which can give me a direction.
  3. So I can notice that even if it’s spreading, I’m still ok in this moment. In fact, without my stressful thoughts, I feel at peace. Happy. Healthy. Sitting on the couch.
  4. If cancer continues to spread, I feel like I would literally be forced to live in the present moment. Which could be…awesome.
  5. The bullshit things that use to annoy me (my husband being late, dirty dishes in the sink, my mom worrying too much) melt away. What’s important is life, together, now and I don’t want to waste another moment not appreciating everything and everyone in it.
  6. So I can identify what I’m believing about the cancer spreading: “I won’t live a happy life. Cancer will kill me. My life is over.” These thoughts can be taken to inquiry and I can already see they are complete BS (hahahaaa, BS is a “Belief System.”)
  7. I am more motivated to really clean up my lifestyle even more…it’s actually exciting. Healthier foods, daily yoga, acupuncture, rest, nature, more inquiry, travel when I can…all with the intention of healing. Living in my own retreat. This sounds nice, actually.
  8. Cancer has a right to live. How do I know? Because cancer cells are living in my body. That’s reality. And it’s not my business when it leaves. But I can do my part: get the best doctors, show up for treatment, take care of my body, thoughts, emotions. Whether it spreads or dies is not my responsibility ~ it’s in the hands of the doctors, medicine, and universe. I can take care of the cancer in my mind, right here and now with inquiry and actually live in peace whether the cancer spreads or not. Wow.

After this inquiry, my mind was completely blown open. I had no proof of cancer spreading ~ it was all in my mind. And look at all of the examples of how my life could be better even if the cancer spreads? What would stop me from living that way now? Getting the best treatment. Eating the healthiest foods. Living in the moment. Loving others and myself unconditionally. Questioning stressful thoughts. Cutting out the BS. This is my prescription for happiness now.

The ironic part about this situation is that the lump disappeared by the time the diagnostic testing began on October 1st. I still have no clue what it was, but it served as a beautiful foundation for the power of the mind in this process. The thought “The cancer is spreading” has come up several times over the past 6 months. In fact, just last week I had a weird pain in the top of my thigh and I watched the thought try to fly in ~ the difference was that this time, I laughed my ass off about it. It was like, “oh wow, look at that sweet mind go…yet here I am with just a sensation in my leg.”And the thought left. And so did the pain. And I still shared this with my oncology nurse at chemo yesterday.

After the series of diagnostic testing on October 1st, the oncologist walked into the exam room and said, “Good news ~ the cancer has not spread to anywhere else in the body.” I’m not going to lie, there was an audible sound of relief for everyone in the room. We all had tears in our eyes; our bodies collapsed back into our chairs. It was a very special, moment that I will always remember.

And some people do not get this news. I am very well aware that someday I may hear that I am stage 4. If it were true, the process would be the same for me. I’m stage 4 and that means? Make a list of the thoughts that come up and question them. Find your freedom now.

 

START YOUR OWN PRACTICE OF THE WORK

Uncategorized

Getting the Call ~ “You Have Cancer”

The following are 2 journal entries written the day of and the day after I found out about my diagnosis.

September 16th, 2015

imagesIt’s hilariously insane how many times I checked my phone today. Today could be the day I get the call. I wasn’t experiencing fear ~ it was more like an excited/anxious anticipation. The feeling I use to get right before a big basketball game in high school or before starting one of my yoga retreats.

I taught a morning yoga class and the rest of the day was open. I thought about going to get my car washed and decided to stay at home instead and dive into some Netflix Therapy while I continued my Phone Stalking. I successfully distracted myself with a new series on Netflix called “Rectify” (highly recommended!) and then Travis came home.

I was on episode 4 when I got the call. “Holy shit! This is it!” It was in the afternoon and Travis was next to me on the couch. (Thank God I didn’t go for that car wash!). The home was quiet. I answered the phone & put it on speaker. The doctor said she just got the pathology report and wanted to call me as soon as possible.

“This is the part of my job that’s really difficult. I’m afraid I have bad news. They did find cancer in both the breast and lymph node.”

Time stopped ~ there was a quiet stillness that’s hard to describe. It was as if someone else’s life was being described to me. My hand grabbed Travis’ hand. “It’s called Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma, grade 3, and it’s the most common form of breast cancer.” Good, I thought ~ that means doctors will know how to deal with it. She shared how she recently had a patient who was 27 years old and diagnosed with the same cancer ~ she is now doing great and just had her 1st baby. “People make it through this and live very happy lives.” She said she would send the pathology report to the breast surgeon, and then find out if the surgeon recommends I wait until my insurance kicks in October 1st to have a consultation or begin now. Unfortunately, with biopsies you can not tell what stage the cancer is, or if it has spread to other areas. It started in my left breast and had definitely spread to my left lymph nodes.

My lulus have cancer. I looked down at my left breast. Really? It looks so connection2divinefine, it feels so fine other than some soreness from the biopsy. That’s cancer in there? How is this possible? As soon as I got off the phone, I turned to my husband and the tears began to flow. The best words I can use to describe how I felt were…. “surreal” and “fucking weird.” I loved how my husband held me, both crying/trembling together. I love him so much my heart could burst.

Then all of the sudden, my body got extremely hot. So hot, that I had to take my shirt off. I paced around the living room…Wow. What? Really? I remember actually pinching my arm multiple times to see if this was some sort of crazy dream. Me? Cancer? Realllllllly?

I called my mom on facetime. That was really, really hard. Nobody wants to get this phone call from their child. Seeing the tears in my mother’s eyes while I told her the news made it more real. She nodded her head, “Okay, okay.” I love that the moment I asked if she could come to Dallas, she responded with an immediate “Yes, of course.” Her ticket was booked within an hour to arrive tomorrow. We agreed that she would call my Dad and that I would call my brothers.

What started to plague my mind the most was…HOW is this possible? Why is this happening to me? How did I get cancer? I had thought that perhaps all of the inner work I did up until this point would have given me a “cancer bypass” ~ I already learned all I needed to know, right?

I’m 34. Young. Healthy. Happy. Yet, this reality is still true. I hear Byron Katie’s words, “who would you be without your reasons?” It really is the best time for me to have cancer, isn’t it? I have a healthy vehicle and the time and support to take care of this now. I have the tools to fall in love with it. I gently caressed my lulus and thanked them for showing up.

It wasn’t until 6pm that I realized how bad of a headache I had and that I hadn’t eaten lunch. Sweet Travis jumped to prepare dinner for me. Earlier, he had said, “you don’t have to do anything around the house anymore, honey. I’ll do all the cooking and all of the cleaning. I’ll go get your car washed too.” How amazing is he? I was more than happy to receive. My Dad and I traded texts ~ he said how proud he was of me for how I am handling this. I agreed. Then we texted hilarious images back and forth….my favorite one being the poop emojis with big eyes and smiley faces.

The doctor called back and said that the breast surgeon thinks that it’s fine for me to wait until October. The surgeon offered to clear time in her schedule Friday (in 2 days) for the consultation so that we can begin testing on the 1st. She said she would comp the visit since I don’t have insurance yet. Wow. Kind. Universe.

I cleared my work schedule the rest of the week. It feels like my “healing team” is all coming together.

Around 8:30pm, the body and mind just fully let go. Let Out LoveI started in a child’s pose and the tears began to pour out. Deep whaling, shaking, moaning…I just let it all out. At one point, I was hovered over the toilet, dry heaving. It
wasn’t painful, it just felt like the body needed to do its’ thing and luckily, I have had a lot of experience with emotional healing to know that all I need to do is to get out of the way. Then I laid in bed while Travis massaged my head.

Right now, it’s 3:47am. I’ve been up since 1am or so. My mind is active and I felt the need to write. I have no idea what I’ll be doing with these words. I don’t know if another eye will see them. I just know I am supposed to write. My head is starting to feel better too. Breathing.

September 17th, 2015

My mommy is here! My mommy is here! I picked her up from the airport ~ one of the BEST hugs I’ve ever experienced. There is something so soothing and comforting about being nestled into your mothers chest. I. Am. So. Happy. She. Is. Here.

BeforeOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA she arrived, I had the morning to myself and it was magical. I did my morning “steam & tizzle.” This is a new tradition for me ~ I’ll boil ginger and turmeric root in water, place my face over the steam and breathe it in for a few minutes. Then I’ll add clove and steep a bag of decaf green tea. I love to drink the tea with unsweetened vanilla almond milk and raw honey ~ it’s incredible and is anti-inflammatory, helps with allergies, boosts immunity, cleanses, & is high in antioxidants. After my steam & tizzle, I went for my morning walk. I felt so much more present ~ like the best high I’ve ever experienced ~ the colors, sunlight, sounds were so much more alive. There was this lively sense of quiet inside of me. I’ve had similar experiences when I attend Byron Katie’s workshops & schools. Life is simple. Life is beautiful.

At the end of the walk, I talked with the property manager at our condo. He said, “I don’t mean to pry, but you’re in such great shape and you’re so beautiful ~ do you really just do yoga? I mean, you look like you’re in your 20’s.” I remembered that he had just had a mini phone consultation with my husband last week, getting tips on food/exercise/stress relief. I told him, “yes, it’s yoga, walking, and I do love rebounding and swimming. Organic foods are important to me and I’ve learned to listen to my body and eat what feels good ~ I’ve been known to rock pizza and a burger too. I also think the most important thing is to take care of the mind ~ and we use The Work of Byron Katie to deal with stress. When the mind is stressed, the body’s systems don’t work efficiently.” But then I could feel myself begin to turn “my experience” into “advice giving.” And then I blurted out, “But shit, what do I know ~ I just found out yesterday that I have cancer. So yes, you can do all of these amazing things for your body & mind and still get cancer!”

It felt good to be blunt and honest. I mean, really…what do I know about health for anyone else? Living this way feels right for me, nurturing for me. I will continue to live this way to support healing cancer. I’ve come to realize that I have created a wonderful vehicle to support cancer healing: I’m young, healthy, strong, open-minded, and know exactly how to deal with stress.

 

Pre-diagnosis

How I found Peace during “The Waiting Game”

The following was written in September during the two weeks between the mammogram and receiving the diagnosis ~ what I refer to as “The Waiting Game.” Did I jump right into peace & joy during this time? Hell, no. In fact, I went quite the opposite route at first and it showed me just how powerful the mind can be when you believe everything it thinks. Sometimes things need to get really bad before something arises in you to make a shift ~ I’m grateful to have a reference point for what it’s like to believe all of the stories in my head surrounding a serious illness. You’ll then see how I used The Work of Byron Katie to identify and question my stressful thoughts about the possibility of having cancer. And through inquiry, how I found peace, joy, and even excitement to hear the diagnosis. Click here to learn the simple process of The Work.

It was an emotional & mental rollercoaster. Out of nowhere, I would just drop into a ball and cry for hours. A pretty low point was when my extremely sweet, well-intentioned mother sent me a 700-page book titled “Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book” and at the top it said, “The bible for women with breast cancer.” I know she meant well ~ just to educate me and help put my mind at peace. (Later, I would discover this was one of THE most helpful, incredible resources! Mother’s intuition maybe?). All I did was open the book and read the headings of the chapters..then I fled to my room to bawl like a baby. Emotions poured out of me. Anger. Frustration. Fear. Depression. Anxiety. I felt like a little girl, all alone in the world. The victim. More stressful thoughts began to reveal themselves: “I have cancer. I want the lumps to go away. Cancer will make my life more difficult. Cancer is bad. I will not be able to live a full life. I shouldn’t be so upset. It’s my fault. I failed at living a healthy lifestyle. I will be a burden to my husband. Cancer will ruin my marriage. I won’t know what to do. I need to know the results now. I can’t make any future plans. My career will be over. I won’t get to do what I love.” I knew what I could do with stressful thoughts – question them – but there were too many flooding in. All I wanted to do was crawl into a dark hole and cry. My husband was so patient and sweet through every tantrum ~ offering to hold me, pet me, rock me, listen. He offered to do The Work with me and was loving and understanding when I said I wasn’t ready yet.

One day, I finally found the courage to call the Do The Work Helpline, a free service available to anyone and everyone who is YogisofInspirationBethanyWebbexperiencing stress. Volunteers on the helpline are extremely experienced in The Work and can facilitate callers, answer questions about The Work, assist callers in finding stressful thoughts, and share their own experience of inquiry. I have served on the helpline myself, as a part of the training program to become a Certified Facilitator, and I continue to do so. I noticed unease being on the other end, that somehow by calling the helpline would reveal me as a failure at doing my own work, not living up to the “Certified Facilitator” imaginary standard I had set in my mind. As soon as I admitted that myself, I was met immediately with “that’s just bullshit Bethany, call anyways!” SO I did. And then I did again. And again. The volunteers were so helpful and supportive. They held me with a compassionate space of silence as they walked me through the simple 4 questions and turnarounds. The questions are:

1. Is it True?

2. Can you absolutely know it’s true?

3. How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought?

4. Who would you be without the thought?

Then you “turn the thought around” which is a way to look at the original thought from different perspectives.

The helpline volunteers stayed connected with me as the tears flowed through and they offered examples from their own life as I moved into the turnarounds. I experienced so much relief on these phone calls, that I was motivated to continue doing The Work with myself and I also asked my husband to facilitate me. I had no shortage of stressful thoughts, that’s for sure, and little by little, my anxiety and fear began to dissipate as I met each thought with understanding.

Through inquiry, I discovered that I did not have cancer. There was absolutely NO PROOF that cancer existed in my body. The only place it existed is in my thoughts. And how did I react when I believed these thoughts (question #3)? The cancer in my mind spread like wildfire ~ it painted a scary, doomsday of a future. I saw images of me and my frail body in a hospital bed, dying, in unbelievable pain. Gray skin, no hair, no boobs (I have grown to be quite fond of my hair & boobs ~ I kind of think they are my greatest physical assets. Now GONE FOREVER!). I saw images of saying goodbye to my husband, medical bills piling up, not knowing what to do, stress on my family and loved ones, no more travel, no more career that I love…dying young and becoming that “sad story” people talk about. The “I hope that never happens to me” story. I noticed while believing these thoughts, my shoulders, neck, head and jaw would tense up. I’d get headaches. My chest was caving in. I felt lethargic and didn’t want to move. I stopped my daily walks and yoga practice. I treated my husband with caution ~ not wanting to impose or ask too much. I treated my family like everything was great, afraid to reveal my fears. I refrained from announcing what’s going on to friends, embarassed that I was making such “a big deal” of this without a diagnosis. A dark, heavy cloud set over me. Everything hangs on the diagnosis: if it’s benign, I’m happy & free; if it’s malignant, I’m screwed. I became a victim and saw the universe as punishing me. I noticed small obsessions of trying to figure out what would have given me cancer ~ is it my cell phone, this face soap, or the Vitamin D supplements I’ve been taking? I began to turn on myself ~ surely, I did something to deserve cancer. I shouldn’t have drank so much in my 20’s, I could have been healthier, better, perfect. I got angry at myself for getting angry, sad at my sadness. I didn’t deserve to feel this upset. These thoughts felt so consuming, so powerful. In summary, when I believed my thoughts, it felt like SHIT.

As I sat in meditation without these stressful thoughts (question #4)…sometimes it took a lot of time to get there…my entire being shifted. I felt lighter. My heart & mind opened. My shoulders dropped, neck & jaw softened. I had more energy. I saw a sense of simplicity in this process…how well I have been following the simple instructions: Feel lump. Visit doctor. Get mammo/ultrasound. Schedule biopsy. Get insurance. Do biopsy. Hear results. Re-visit with doctor. Next step…next…next…I wasn’t even the one doing it, I was being led. Without the stressful thoughts, my mind could open to how in reality I am doing everything right…everything is on time…everything has been easier than what I expected so far. I noticed that right
here, right now, I am healthy, in amazing shape, thriving. I have energy for walking and yoga ~ during my yoga practice, I gently caress my lulus (my new nickname for the lumps) and tell them I love them and am here to listen. My witty sense of humor returns and I can tell cancer jokes (ok, so I also learned that sometimes cancer jokes can make people feel uncomfortable too…learning!). Everything is welcome in my body and mind. I see my body as a friend. Emotions are allowed to flow through me and they don’t need a name. I see images of all of the amazing people who have already lined up to support me, how wonderful the medical system is, how I know exactly what I need to do in this moment: nothing. Reality is good. I felt supported, cared for, and trusted the future. It’s not my business if I have cancer. So simple. I don’t know what’s best for me. A full surrender. There’s even a sense of inspiration about diving into the unknown! Getting the results seemed exciting.

The DIAGNOSIS transformed from a doomed death sentence to a clear direction.

The biggest shift came when questioning the thought, “I want the doctors to tell me I don’t have cancer.” I did this the day before the biopsy with my husband. I held the moment of an imagined future: when the doctor calls me with the biopsy results. After we explored the 4 questions, my mind was pretty blown when we hit the turnaround, “I want me to tell me I don’t have cancer.” Well, shit, I want this from me right now, why wait until the phone call! It’s TRUE! I want me to remind myself that there is 100% absolutely no proof that I have one cancer cell in my body. How do I know? Nobody has told me. The tests haven’t proved it. There is no family history. And even if the doctors do tell me on the phone call that I have cancer, can I really know it’s true in that moment? No, I can’t. Yet, I can still follow the simple instructions of the experts ~ the surgery, no surgery, chemo, no chemo…I want me to tell me I don’t have cancer because “I” can never have cancer. I am not this body, I am much more. I can watch this body go through cancer and be here and support it in every way I possibly can.

Another turnaround is “I want the doctors to tell my I have cancer.” Oh shit, this turnaround is scary. I notice my superstitious ego coming in ~ it says, “don’t even think it…that’s how you’ll create cancer!” and then I am reminded to trust the process of The Work. How could this turnaround be true? Here’s what I found:

  • I want them to tell me I have cancer if it’s true. I don’t want them to lie to me ~ I want them to use their years and years of medical training to tell me very clearly what they think is going on in my body and how they recommend I handle it. I want pure honesty.
  • So I will have a clear direction on where to go from here. I will no longer be stuck in the “unknown” territory of waiting.
  • So I can continue to question my thoughts about cancer. I am already realizing that cancer isn’t the problem ~ it’s what I’m believing about Cancer (with capitol C!) that is scaring me in this moment. What if the reality of cancer isn’t so bad? What if it’s good? What if it improves my life??? How will I know unless I fully experience it? So far, the only negatives have been in my thinking…what if that is true throughout the entire process?
  • So I can see that other than what I am thinking and believing, I am still ok in this moment. And this moment. And this moment. So I can learn the ultimate practice of presence.
  • I have already seen my relationship with my husband deepen, I am truly experiencing him as my rock ~ he would be there for me every step of the way. I can see us giggling in hospital beds, watching tons of movies, telling each other how much we love and appreciate each other. How do I know? This is already happening just thinking that I might have cancer! No more petty arguments, a renewed focus on what really matters. Perhaps all of my relationships would deepen?
  • My career could take a shift into helping others cope with cancer. I see offering inquiry and therapeutic yoga in hospitals. I would have so much compassion and be able to truly connect. I have been here too. This could be amazing! Perhaps I am meant to get cancer so I can show the world what I am learning now, that cancer is not the “Cancer” you think it is ~ it is slowing down, self care, connections, meaningful moments, appreciation, gratitude, humor. The suffering is purely in the mind, it’s imagination, it’s not real.
  • My family would come visit me more….ha! I am usually the one going to them. I could see just cherishing the moments with each one of them.
  • So I can explore the relationship of physical pain and the mind. Through doing inquiry on my pain during migraines, I came to realize that my mind created more pain than existed in reality. The intense pain was an illusion ~ could it be the same for every step of the way in cancer treatment?
  • I will meet people on this path that will be important in my life forever: doctors, caretakers, cancer survivors…new friendships & connections.
  • What if I find a cure for cancer? Try some new experimental treatment that can help others do the same.

This inquiry was a complete game changer for me. I left it feeling the joy of a small child. Excited for the next step and discovering where my life will lead. Perfect timing ~ the core needle biopsies were scheduled for the very next day.

I was so surprised to discover that the day of my biopsy, I continued to feel this joy, openness, excitement, & detachment about the outcome. I had morning yoga clients, a quick lunch, and met my husband at home so we could ride together. The whole process was interesting to me ~ driving up to the hospital and seeing the big blue sign “Building 3: Cancer Center,” the adorable woman who checked me in, the paperwork, the professional sonogram lady named “Joy” (how cool!) who carefully walked me through every step of the process and took more ultrasound photos…I made sure to wear comfortable pants and bring large cozy socks so my feet wouldn’t get cold. Joy offered to bring me a warm blanket too ~ how amazing is that? I felt the support of the hospital bed, the quiet atmosphere, the wealth of information she shared.

I began to feel a little nervous about the level of pain so when Joy left to get the doctor who would be performing my biopsies, I questioned the thought, “It will be painful” ~ the truth is…no, I can’t know it – I’ve never experienced it. Zero proof. Without the thought, I’m much more at ease, open…let’s do this. And I also did not pretend myself beyond my own evolution ~ I told the doctors BethanyWebbBiopsyPhotothat I preferred not to see the needle or watch any of the procedure so they offered to put a soft towel over my eyes. Perfect. The procedure was less painful and much quicker than I thought ~ there was a lovely sound of a large POP after each sample was sucked out from the needle. Lots of deep breathing. One my holes bled more than usual so I enjoyed the extra support of Joy applying a compress to it, then the doctor, then another stranger who came in.
Everyone was so sweet and kind ~ they said they were surprised at how well I did and I shared with them the work I have been doing. The doctor said, “wow, you can really help others with this practice you’re doing.” She especially loved hearing how I see the diagnosis as a direction now. Then they decided to wrap up my boobs into a tight cocoon with ice packs tucked inside (see left). Somehow I had upper and lower cleavage. I was briefed on how to take care of the wounds, how long to rest, and to take Tylenol if I needed it. The results will arrive this week. Done.

My husband drove me home and we watched movies all day and night, ate great food…I read, talked to my mom. Today is the day after my biopsy so the only thing left to do is to answer the phone and hear my next step. I have honestly been looking for fear and stress and I can’t find it right now. I am blown away by this shift in perspective. I am so excited for the phone call: I am at peace with or without a diagnosis of cancer. I see beauty in both ways and can be happy now instead of waiting for the news. I am still open to experiencing that deep sadness and fear again, who knows, it could happen and I love knowing how I will be here for myself in that too. I welcome whatever happens. Is it possible to fall in love with cancer? Let’s find out.