By Eunice J Minford MA FRCS Ed, Consultant Surgeon, N.Ireland
We all know what the phrase ‘the Big C’ means – it is a way of saying cancer without using the word cancer. I recall hearing it when I was growing up, people whispering it to one another that, “so and so has the Big C” – the feelings of fear, trepidation and worry were palpable. Even though as a young child I initially didn’t know what the Big C was – I knew it was something bad, terrible, to be avoided at all cost if possible, there was a sense of finality to it and the smell of death hung in the air. It didn’t seem to matter which particular big C you had – they were all cloaked with the stench of illness, disease, decay, sickness, bodily destruction and death. Even in the medical world, the word cancer was often avoided in the past so as not to induce such fears in the patient and euphemisms were used like ‘growth’ or ‘ulcer’ without revealing the true diagnosis.
The depth of fear around the Big C was and is huge – people instantly equate the C word with death, but not just death, it is a death that is considered to be slow, painful, miserable, full of sickness, sadness, a failing body, losing weight, having chemotherapy and its side effects like losing hair – of losing one’s bodily functions perhaps and being dependent on others for help and support in a way that we never think we will need to be. And the reality is that cancer can wreak havoc on the body and all of the above can be part and parcel of the journey with cancer – and suffering of one kind or another, be it physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual is a common experience for the cancer patient even with all the advances in palliative care, medicine and surgery. Yet all these medical advances focus more on the physical aspects of the disease and to some degree, but usually less so, the psychological and emotional components, with very little, if any, addressing of the spiritual dimension.
Yet many people with cancer struggle with the ‘why me’ questions: what is the meaning of this cancer, this life even? Why do I have cancer now, at this stage of my life? Is there a reason? Is there a purpose to it? Is it a punishment? Is it God’s will? The existential angst that arises through a cancer diagnosis is huge but often goes unaddressed and unanswered, especially in a way that is truly healing.
So what if the key to both understanding why we develop cancer in the first place and what it means to heal are deeply embedded in understanding the spiritual dimension of what it means to be a human being – a dimension that modern medicine actually has very little understanding and appreciation of?
This is why the marriage of esoteric medicine and conventional medicine is so important – as the esoteric brings the understandings that are missing in modern medicine regarding our true nature, our spirit and our soul and their role in disease manifestation and healing.
For example, what if all of the fear, all of the misery, all of the struggle, all of the suffering that seemingly comes with the Big C or cancer diagnosis does so because we choose to ignore, deny, resist and fight against knowing who we truly are, knowing who we are in essence and basically resisting the love of our Soul and of God?
It may seem incongruous, ridiculous even, that we would resist and fight love, never mind the divine love of our soul and God – so what is going on, why would we resist and fight that which in truth we most dearly want and miss?
Let me put it this way – what if I came to you and said, “You don’t have any issues, any struggles, for you already are the love you seek and nothing can hurt or harm that love, not even the Big C, cancer cannot touch it, cannot kill it, cannot affect it in any way – the love that you are remains as pure and unsullied as the day you were born.”
How would you feel?
Maybe blessed for a while?
But would you accept it outright or would you offer up reasons and excuses as to why it could not be true, that you had this issue, or that issue, this condition or that condition – in other words would you keep on going with reasons and excuses not to be the love you already are?
Because what would it mean if you accepted that what was offered was true?
Knowing that we are love means that we know that anything that is not loving is detrimental to our bodies and our health, and so we are called to change many things about the way that we live.
Would you be willing to make such changes?
For example, would you be willing to significantly change your diet, your sleep pattern, your way of being and relating?
Knowing we are love calls us to live with a much greater level of responsibility for our daily choices and how we relate to ourselves and each other. In practical terms this means: gone are the foods and drinks we know and can feel are harming – like alcohol, caffeine, sugar, dairy, gluten; gone are the angry reactions, jealousies, comparisons; gone is the need to be a people pleaser, to control and manipulate, the need to fit in, to be liked at any cost, to seek comfort, to have the world revolve around us and our needs, and the list is endless of the ways our life would change if we truly lived and embodied the love that we are. Of course, these things do not just always go overnight and it is an unfolding process, but we know in truth there is no room or space for them in a truly loving way of being and relating.
Are we willing to go there and to give up our comfort blankets and change our ways?
Are we truly willing to live with the high degree of responsibility that is being called for?
Some people find it relatively easy to make those choices, but for many it is a step wise process and can feel like a struggle or battle within ourselves. The fact is also that many are not willing to go there – and that is ok. But we then have to consider, realise and potentially accept that if we do not live in a way that is truly loving, our bodies will sooner or later reveal that fact and for 1 in 3 people that will be with a diagnosis of the ‘Big C’. Medicine is confirming that a significant number of cancers are lifestyle related and given that such choices come from how we truly feel about ourselves and are coloured by the hurts we carry, it is easy to see that we have much more power over our health and wellbeing than we like to admit or accept.
What if illness and disease including cancer is not a punishment, is not God’s will, is not bad luck or a random event but intimately related to the quality of how we live every day?
Instead of making unhealthy choices fuelled by our misbeliefs and hurts, knowing we are already love gives us a new foundation and platform to stand on from which we can choose to develop a lifestyle that has love as its essence and where love is in the driver’s seat to make truly healthy choices that are reflected in a healthy body.
As we have seen the Big C diagnosis doesn’t just come alone – it brings with it a big bag of questions, maybe fears, emotional upheaval and unrest, existential angst and a whole lot more that perhaps can feel burdensome and overwhelming. It usually brings people to a stop where they have the opportunity to ponder and consider: What does it mean to them to have this diagnosis, how is it impacting their life, their choices, their priorities?
Some may see it as just a temporary hurdle to be gotten over and get back on to the same road of life they were travelling on before they had the diagnosis, without necessarily changing anything about how they live. Others may decide to develop a more healthy lifestyle, given that many cancers are shown to be lifestyle related in one way or another. And then there are some who see the Big C as a Big Stop – who know inside themselves that fundamentally they have this cancer for a reason that is personal to them and their journey in life and that if that is the case, then they also have it within them to find answers so that they can truly heal.
I have personally met and know a number of people who have undertaken such a journey and the healing they have experienced is profound. This healing is not what you might think it is by the way. I am here not referring to the healing of the physical body and the cancer, although that can be part of it, it is not what true healing is actually about. No, some of these people have gone on to die of their disease, yet I can also say they had healed. By that I mean they had healed the underlying hurts, beliefs and misperceptions about themselves, others and life that led them to make the choices they did which were not healthy or truly loving for the body and which got revealed by the body with the cancer diagnosis.
The body cannot and does not lie – if we poison it with foods, drinks, emotions, thoughts, actions/movements, ways of being and relating that are toxic and unloving – it will have to deal with them sooner or later. If we choose to then feel guilty about our choices or to blame ourselves in some way, then we are just adding more poison into the system and polluting it further and no true healing will occur. Instead we can choose to take a different approach, one that sees this as an amazing opportunity to clear all of those poisonous thoughts, beliefs, emotions, resentments, grudges, hurts and more, to see the body as a profound instrument of healing, one where it may itself ultimately succumb in the process of the disease and healing, and where that healing is to reconnect with and deeply know who we are and always have been – Love.
This is a deeply personal journey that no-one can undertake for us but it is a journey whose rewards can dissolve aeons of struggle and angst, melt mountains of issues and hurts, salve and heal all forms of suffering. If we truly connect to this would we then still see cancer as the ‘Big C’ and all that comes with that phrase – or would we be able to totally transform our relationship with cancer such that it evolves from something we see as harming to knowing it is healing?
Whilst no-one would consciously choose to have cancer, if it is part of our reality we can choose to see it differently, to know that we do have it for a reason, that it is our body’s way of saying, “take care, look after yourself, stop poisoning yourself, stop being so hard on yourself, don’t abuse yourself or let others abuse you, deeply nurture yourself, eat healthily, be gentle with yourself, be tender with your body, respect and honour yourself, look in the mirror and see only who you truly are, the love and light of God shining from your eyes….”.
In my experience there are no riches greater than the truth of knowing and feeling who you truly are – no amount of money, gold or jewels can usurp such truth; no relationship, no job, no achievement, worldly success or accolade can come anywhere near the pure and simple joy of knowing and being who you truly are.
It is therefore no surprise to me when I hear those who have had a cancer diagnosis and who have experienced such healing, describe cancer as “a blessing”, as the “best thing that ever happened to me” or even to say, “Congratulations, you have cancer,” – for it is thanks to the cancer diagnosis that they have tasted and come to know the true riches of the soul and that indeed is a daily celebration and one they share with the world that others in a similar predicament may come to know and receive such a blessing and healing. Yet I don’t doubt that at the start of their journey with cancer they may have experienced all the same fears, concerns and emotions that impact most people when faced with a cancer diagnosis – but they didn’t stay there, they have chosen to address those fears, concerns and emotions and come to a deeper understanding of themselves and the condition: they have chosen to heal.
Imagine the potential for such understandings to totally transform and shift our approach and attitude to cancer, where it is no longer the ‘Big C’ shrouded in fear, misery, struggle and suffering – but instead becomes a means by which we deeply heal ourselves far beyond what we could have ever dreamed was possible; and for some that is a blessing that is indeed worth celebrating.
Disclaimer: this blog is based on the combination of esoteric medicine and conventional medicine and life experience – it does not fulfil the modern day criteria for ‘evidenced based medicine’ and should not be read as such. It goes beyond what is currently understood and accepted by mainstream medicine and it is for the reader to discern if it is relevant or applicable to them or not.