How many people get to live their dream life? Today I realised once again how perfect my life is, just as it is. Sure there are a few little things I might wish were different, but all in all, I wouldn’t change a thing. I was standing at the bus stop this afternoon waiting for my girls, watching the sheep with their lambs in the paddock across the road, and that deep sense of knowing that I am living my dream came over me. There are so many little things that fill me with such joy. The morning light that illuminates the spiders webs in the paddocks that have been spun during the night. It’s an incredible sight. I didn’t realise what I was looking at the first time I saw it. The white frost that sparkles as the sun hits it. The new born calves, the filly born on Melbourne Cup day. The old church across the road in the middle of nowhere, where the dogs chase the rabbits. My neighbour who turns up on my doorstep with the regular gift of two dozen freshly laid eggs. Our beautiful bus driver that cares enough to bring flowers the day I finished radiation treatment. That my life is full of people I love and work that fulfils me.

Years ago I could only dream of this life. But it seems it has now found me. And I feel with every ounce of my being that this is my special, healing place. It is such a gift to live here, waking up to this life everyday. While I was going through surgery and chemo, it helped me to know that even though things were a bit crazy around me, I had my safe place to retreat to. It would be the same beautiful place regardless of what was happening with me. And it blows my mind that seven years ago, I described the very home that I am now living in. An old rambling farmhouse on a hundred acres, big open rooms with small cosy nooks, surrounded by mountains, snow sometimes. Well it’s all come to pass. It’s snowed twice in the last two weeks, reminding me I am exactly where I am meant to be. I was like a kid in a snowdome. It was beautiful. I put it out there and this special place found me, the very year I said it would. Many people don’t realise we all have a special part of us that seeks out what we set our hearts and minds on. And it’s happened so many times in my life, I’m now very conscious of where I put my focus. And I encourage others to do the same.

Because it’s so important to surround ourselves with things we love as a part of our healing, isn’t it. I wonder how many people realise that when we feel good, we release healing chemicals into our body. Our own drugstore, the pharmacy we carry within us. Not something we want to take lightly, is it. Because our feelings are actually some of the most important biochemicals in our healing. And the wonder of our minds is that even when we can’t physically be in our special place or with those we love, when we choose to focus on the people or places or things that fill us with joy, those healing feelings are released anyway…

 

If the sight of blue skies fills you with joy

If a blade of grass springing up in the fields has the power to move you

If the simplest things of nature have a message that you understand

Rejoice

For your soul is alive

http://www.affirmations.com.au

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I did something really dumb this morning. Like every good working mum on school holidays I was multi-tasking big time. And by the time I had the kids in the car, I was of course running a little behind schedule. As is my custom, I turned the engine on to warm up three freezing kids. An overnight temperature of minus five or thereabouts. The windscreen was frosty. So heavily frosted that the windscreen wipers weren’t making any progress. And so I began to move the car into the sun to help it along. We live on a farm and the drive is huge so I have a lot of room to turn around. Only trouble was I’d parked in the opposite direction the night before. And so as I turned the car slowly, winding down the window so I could see, with the windscreen wipers working furiously, I was effectively driving blind. No big problem when I’m facing the other way. The bump and the breaking of glass alerted me to my grave misjudgement as I hit the low brick wall. No speed, but enough to smash the fog light and break the bumper. Bugger. A small expletive. I got back in the car after examining the damage and smiled at the kids. After all, what could I do except get over it. If only I’d been a bit more patient, I’ll remember this for next time.

And then it dawned on me. Another of those wonderful aha moments. With reconstruction imminent, I suddenly felt like the car was an extension of me. Easily repaired, no harm done. On the other side of cancer, I realised I now have a different perspective. And I laughed. It seems the fear and sadness is done.

Surreal. That’s how it felt the day I found out I had cancer. And even though it was expected, a sort of dreamlike state seemed to envelop me as my doctor uttered those dreaded words. I guess that’s what shock feels like. Detached. Not quite real. I was stoic as I left, but collapsed into despair in the car. My husband, Steve, wanted to scream. I remember we drove to see a friend, who calmed me down a little with his words and his confidence that I would heal. I remember sitting in the park watching my children play, thinking it’s not every day you get diagnosed with cancer. I remember taking my kids out for dinner that night and looking around at the other families, thinking to myself, they have no idea of what’s just happened. Nothing seemed real.

And as the minutes turned into hours and the hours into days, I found the fear and indecision took hold. What best to do? Everyone had a different opinion. Would I live or would I die? Would I survive the treatment let alone the cancer? I felt lost. And there were those days that it all became too much, and I’d scream or cry inconsolably at the injustice of it all and the thought of having my breast cut off. I was fortunate at those times to have my friends who would calm me with their words. Helping me to find some inner peace amidst the chaos and pain through their impromptu relaxations. I wasn’t good at meditating. Too hard to calm myself with all the stress inside my head. I was so grateful they were there to guide me, to carry me when I needed it most.

After I had healed I thanked them for the love they had shown in my darkest times. ‘Pay it forward’ said Peter. And so this is so much a part of what I do. Sharing with others the tools that helped me.

And their words of comfort? I bottled them so to speak. Today I recorded a guided relaxation to help people cope with the distress of diagnosis. Any diagnosis. Any difficult news really. Just as I was helped. And I’ve called it A Safe Place.

Because there’s no where to hide when you get the diagnosis, is there? There isn’t much on offer when you hear that news? You’re kind of left to your own devices, leaving the doctor’s office in a sort of daze. And there is no going back.  No turning back of time. The only path is forward. And it can be difficult to know what to do.

And I feel good about this relaxation. Knowing the path, it’s my way of helping people through the madness that seems to descend with those dreaded words. Anywhere, anytime feelings of overwhelm set in. To help counteract those feelings of being disconnected as people seem to talk at you. And you’re not really there. Not quite taking it all in. Not quite sure what to do.

It is my hope that in time the hospitals will embrace this CD. Offer it in the chemo suites to calm and relax people while the chemo is going in. And in calming people it may even help to reduce the side effects. A big call I know, but I know the value of this work. I’m fortunate to have lived it first-hand. Because I know that even when the pain is great, you can always find a safe place within yourself. A place of peace and calm which can give you the strength to get through. A place where you can feel safe as you leave the world and it’s worries behind…

I took my radiation oncologist by surprise one day. She’s an absolutely gorgeous woman, a real breath of fresh air when you’re dealing with the ups and downs of treatment. She asked me the standard question of how I was feeling and I took great delight in telling her I felt better than I’d felt in 10 years! ‘Well’ she said ‘I’ve never heard anybody say that before’. I’d only just finished radio and chemo only weeks before that.

I put it down to the fact that I’ve done a ton of emotional healing. Not that I went to a therapist every week, far from it. But I’d spent a couple of sessions dealing with the depression and anxiety that I was feeling. You see I’d had this dark feeling hanging over me for years. I couldn’t shake it. I didn’t know where it had come from, only that it was dark and ominous. A real sadness. Maybe it had something to do with the shock of my daughter’s diagnosis of cystic fibrosis? Maybe it went further back than that. Add to that the stress in my life and I was a recipe for breast cancer. I felt completely alone.

I wonder why emotional healing is so often overlooked in the medical treatment of cancer? It’s so obviously essential and research is proving that. Back in 1995 at King’s College Hospital in London, a team of psychiatrists, radiologists, oncologists and surgeons undertook research which showed severe life events, and the way in which we cope with them as individuals, significantly predicts a diagnosis of breast cancer. And what I find even more incredible is that a woman with metastatic breast cancer has a longer survival time associated with a reduction in depression score. They’ve also shown that animals experiencing the stress of social isolation go on to develop cancer whereas animals that are kept in groups remain cancer free.

There’s no getting away from it – we are emotional beings and our emotions affect our bodies. It doesn’t take Einstein to work this out. If you get a fright, your muscles tense and your heart races, if you feel sad, you cry. Emotions have a physical consequence. When you have a disease that generates a minefield of negative emotions and those emotions cause inflammation – and studies have associated chronic inflammation with cancer incidence, progression and survival – it is essential to break the cycle isn’t it?! Many people don’t realise that when you are holding onto emotions that are pouring inflammation through your body, it’s difficult to heal. I get so frustrated when emotional healing is seen as an optional extra. There doesn’t seem to be anything optional about it. I often wonder if medical treatment may be even more successful if the emotional stuff is out of the way.

Last week I had the opportunity to talk to a group of doctors about the importance of emotional healing in serious illness. I love it when I get the chance to do this. Slowly I see the message getting through. The light is dawning. It’s important that doctors understand the role emotions play in health. Because people living with cancer and other serious illnesses need this information don’t they?! We can wipe the slate clean with chemo, radio and surgery but what if those emotions are still in play? It’s not too difficult to see that physical healing without the emotional or emotional without the physical is only doing half the job, isn’t it.

And that dark ominous feeling I had… well I’m relieved to say it’s gone. I noticed it wasn’t hanging over me any more just before my 6th cycle of chemo. It was a revelation. I suddenly felt lighter, freer. I didn’t notice it disappear, it just seemed to do that all by itself. It’s like I set the ball in motion, and that other part of me, that part that was creating the feeling in the first place, just knew what to do to let it go. That feeling of lightness and wellbeing has continued and I feel so much joy now in the simple beauty of everyday life…