“Baby, we’ve had enough fun in the last couple of years. Let’s just do it our way and love, love, love!”
~ my friend and fellow breast cancer warrior, Ivy
My struggle with cancer began in 2011 with a surprising diagnosis: Breast cancer.
Nobody is ever ready for a cancer diagnosis: But I’m so healthy! I eat all the right foods! I exercise! I get enough sleep and take my vitamins!
Seven days after the diagnosis, the surgeon removed my right breast and a few lymph nodes. Four weeks after the mastectomy began came six months of treatment and almost a dozen more surgeries.
I decided to surrender to the doctors during treatment; if a medical professional recommended something I followed through. Instead of worrying about alternatives to conventional treatment, I decided to focus on love—I would study it, ask for it, pray for it, practice it.
“Dear children; let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” ~ John 3:18
Chemotherapy—the very word makes me want to close my eyes and turn away.
What does chemotherapy mean? Preparation; pack a lunch, enlist a loved one to keep one company, plan for possible side effects (eat ginger, take steroids and xanax, drink smooth move tea, charge your iPhone).
The actual treatment: blood being drawn, visits with the medical oncologist, waiting for orders, taking the hand of a very gentle oncology nurse who leads one to a recliner where one sits still as an IV line is installed to deliver poison directly into one’s veins. A poison that will bring one to the brink of death and leave you there for a few days.
I was not afraid to ask for prayer, love and light before treatments. And I got it! Hundreds of Facebook messages, texts, calls, gifts, cards, letters, visits. Love in action; receiving love took much more effort than giving love.
“I have found thee paradox that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
~ Mother Theresa
Oh, it hurts. It’s not until the next day when one feels like a truck hit them. Fatigue, nausea, hives, constipation, pain, hot flashes, fungal infection, insomnia, loss of appetite, loss of the sense of smell, disruption in your sense of taste where everything tastes rotten, muscle pain, joint pain, loss of mental acuity, memory loss, weight gain, dangerous allergic reactions, baldness, really slow healing, balance issues. And now I’ll be immune compromised for more than a year.
But every day after treatment, I’ll feel better until three weeks go by and the cycle starts again.
I kept repeating affirmations like; “The chemotherapy is washing me clean of any and all cancer cells and it is life affirming.” And, “I feel good. I feel great. I feel wonderful.”
I built a love altar where I meditated on love.
I practiced random and planned acts of kindness where I handed out cards that said to pass it on. I completed 29 Facebook postings of love quotes during the month of February and called it my 29 days of love project (it was a leap year).
“Where there is love; there is life.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
There is a little break between chemotherapy and radiation therapy, then started the seven weeks of daily treatments, with weekends off. So, I get measured and scanned and tattooed. I lie (half naked) on a cold, metal table with my arms extended over my head while gamma rays shoot into and around my scar, sometimes 20 minutes, sometimes more than an hour.
The technicians protect my healthy parts with sheets of lead so the machine can aim only at the scar and the tissue beneath. The lights go off, I am left alone in the room, and the machine buzzes, whirrs and ticks all around me, 360 degrees.
At first I notice nothing, but after a couple of weeks, profound fatigue sets in. Fatigue so bad the air seems as heavy and thick as oatmeal, and as hard to negotiate. Fatigue so bad I really have to think about walking from the car to the door.
And then the burning starts.
Remember, I’m immune compromised and my body is slow to heal. Even if I could heal, there’s no chance to. I’m getting another treatment in 24 hours. Also, my skin has been irreparably damaged, so when the blistering starts, I won’t get better. I’ll continue to ooze and peel. That doesn’t really matter, though, since soon my skin will turn black and fall off. I stayed home for a week wrapped in a blanket after radiation was over; I couldn’t tolerate wearing clothes.
During the long weeks of radiation, I decided to modify the 29 gifts project and make it 35 gifts.
Every day of radiation, I gave a gift to strangers, loved ones, family, friends. I also decided to be grateful and started writing thank you letters, sometimes 10 a day.
“Love expects no reward. Love knows no fear. Love Divine gives-does not demand. Love thinks no evil; imputes no motive. To love is to share and serve.”
So what does this mean, love cures cancer?
Not that I will necessarily survive surgery and treatment. God knows I almost didn’t; I was close to death more than once. I am grateful I did survive, but strange as it may sound that wasn’t the goal of all my projects, challenges, actions and meditations.
My goal was to live each day as a gift and to fill each day with love.
Love does not guarantee treatment will make the cancer go away, or even that anyone will survive treatment. Love cures cancer by making cancer irrelevant.
Love conquers cancer.
And that’s what surviving cancer means to me. To practice love all day, every day. To strive to be love’s body. To be love walking around.
“To love abundantly is to live abundantly; and to love forever is to live forever.” ~ Henry Drummond
Early in treatment, I chose one little word to focus on.
I chose love.
Love cures cancer.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editorial Assistant: Laura Ashworth/Editor: Bryonie Wise