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

 

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

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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Surgery Complications, Surgery Recovery

When Complications Become Blessings

Once I began to move and groove my arms again after surgery, I noticed a tight band in my left armpit. I assumed it was some sort of tendon that was shortened in the axilla surgery (where 6 lymph nodes were removed). It restricted my movement and was incredibly painful ~ it felt like a tight piano string from my armpit down through my forearm and wrist. I showed my plastic surgeon and he encouraged me to keep stretching and massaging it with oil. Believing a gentle approach is always best, I was slow & mindful with it.

AxWebSyndrome
Cording in Armpit

A week later, I met with my breast surgeon and she examined it with a concerned look on her face. She said it was a fibrous band and needs immediate attention. I later learned that it’s also called “Axillary Web Syndrome” or “Cording.” Isn’t it funny how when a medical name is put to something, it sounds so much scarier? It’s a rare complication after a Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy or Axillary Lymph Node Dissection where scar tissue forms at the surgery site and then long, thick, painful cords form down the arm or chest. What’s weird is that they do not know for sure what the cords are made of ~ it could be hardening of the lymphatic channels (thus creating a greater risk of lymphedema), blood vessels, or nerves. It can last a couple of months or a lifetime. Although there isn’t much research yet, the therapy to address cording is still the same: #stretchandmovethisshit.com.

As the breast surgeon wrote the referral for physical therapy, she said that I could not begin radiation until I had full range of motion on the left side. You need to hold your arms above your head for 10-15 minutes during radiation. She said that she wants me doing handstands at our next appointment in 3 weeks. Gulp. I was also receiving weekly “boob fills” from my plastic surgeon which made the cording even tighter. It was a pretty intense process for me, yet also very cool to see my boobs grow every week! (more on this later)

After I left the office, I began to feel a tightening in my stomach and throat. Then Anger appeared for a visit. My internal dialogue went something like this“Are you kidding me? Another damn thing to deal with on top of everything else? I’m just starting to feel “normal” again and now THIS! And why wasn’t this band thingy listed in the MASSIVE amount of paperwork I had to read before surgery?!!! I signed off on EVERY possible side effect/complication, including DEATH!!! They didn’t prepare me for this!” And then Despair started bargaining, “I just want a break…please. No more universal tests. Enough. White flag is up.” A little whisper from Curiosity snuck in: “Hey, what if this is a good thing? You never know what cool things this could lead to.” Anger + Despair + Depression ganged up on Curiosity: “SHUT-UP Ms. Try-to-look-on-the-bright-side-of-everything and just admit it, this SUCKS BUTT.”

So Anger’s gang won for a few hours.

On the car ride home, I vented to my mom and my brother on the phone. Then at home to my husband who extended an invitation to inquiry (The Work of Byron Katie). Exploring two thoughts in particular really began to shift my experience:

Cording is going to make my life more difficult.

The surgeon didn’t prepare me for this complication.

Through inquiry, I came to discover I had no proof that cording would make life more difficult. In fact ~ I had more proof it would make it easier. There was nothing “new” I needed to learn ~ I had an expert physical therapist for that. And even though my job as a Yoga Therapist is working with bodies and helping them heal, I felt a little nervous with my own body after this surgery. So, now that’s my physical therapist’s job! In fact, it’s quite easy for me ~ I just show up and do what she says, ask questions, learn, repeat. Hmmmm….maybe this cording thing is better than I thought.

Through questioning my thoughts about the surgeon, I saw how well she did prepare me for this situation ~ the moment she saw it, she recognized it, and sent me directly to physical therapy. She was also very encouraging about me moving my arms right after surgery ~ actually, while still IN the hospital ~ I may have babied my arms more than necessary. “I didn’t prepare me for this complication” is truer ~ and when I was believing my thoughts, I was full of blame, anger, and guilt. I saw images of the cords multiplying until I have zero use of my arm for the rest of my life. They felt so solid and permanent. Plus, where did the label “complication” come from? My mind.

Without these thoughts, I hear a sweet, calm, open-minded “follow the simple instructions” voice. Curiosity steps in (ie our true nature) and an openness to seeing the blessings unfolds. And that’s what I did.

Placing the blame or judgment on someone else leaves you powerless to change your experience; taking responsibility for your beliefs and judgments gives you the power to change them. ~ Byron Katie

Medical City has the STAR Program ~ a branch of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation that specializes solely in working with cancer patients. After my first session, I was blown away by its awesomeness. It turns out physical therapy is super similar to yoga therapy and it’s paid for by insurance! Guess what cording led to? Free private yoga therapy with one of the coolest therapists ever, Tiffany. Her mother is a breast cancer survivor and she is a complete expert in this field. I freaking LOVE it! I’ve learned so much about my body, anatomy, alignment, stretching, and strengthening. I now even incorporate some of the new moves with my private yoga clients. Yep, it’s actually made me better at my job.BethanyTiffanyPT

We started with a lot of slow, deep stretching, followed by her manually stretching and massaging the cords (oh yes, more cords appeared!) ~ it was extremely painful at first…but the hurts-so-good pain that you can tell is making a difference. She also gave me a daily home practice that I followed to a T and incorporated into my own yoga practice. I loved getting creative at how I could blend it all together.

She had warned me that the cords can make a crunchy noise and even snap as they break up ~ this is a good thing. I experienced a small snap at home during self massage and then during one PT session, there was an extremely loud POP in my armpit as she was stretching me. It was the oddest sensation…like a firework exploded in my armpit…it actually wasn’t very painful in the moment but then the remembering of the unfamiliar sound & sensation led to an unplanned outburst of, “holy shit, fuck, shitballz!” in a room full of strangers. 😉

Within a few weeks, I experienced a drastic shift in my body ~ I had gained full range of motion back along with the confidence to move and use my arms in all daily activities. The cording was still present, but I felt unattached to the outcome – I saw so clearly how I could live a full life with and without this cording. The cording just keeps me in my yoga practice. (See – The Work of Byron Katie keeps working its magic!) And then within two month, the cording left me.

I chose to continue physical therapy as long as I could, which included through most of radiation…we began to work on more strengthening and flexibility in my upper body and core. I honestly think I have even better posture and more strength than I ever have before. I am also convinced that Tiffany takes pleasure in torturing me…perhaps this is “payback” for all of the times I have dug my elbows into clients trap muscles and butt muscles in thai massage & yoga. Well, IT WORKS!

Now I have “graduated” from the Star Program and I HIGHLY recommend physical therapy for ANYONE recovering from surgery or experiencing side effects from treatment. There’s no need to wait for a complication to appear, most doctors can write a referral for you if you request it. And most forget to mention this option to you. I’ll be doing it after next year’s reconstruction surgery (ie – Build-Bethany’s-Beautiful-Boobies Surgery).

So here I am, a strong, flexible, and even more educated yogini…thanks to that sweet little “complication” which is really just a huge blessing. The next time I face a similar challenge, I now have more proof that the universe is kind. It all happens FOR me.

Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don’t have to like it… it’s just easier if you do. ~ Byron Katie