Hope happens somewhere between despair and joy

by Catherine Fenwick ã 2000

A cancer diagnosis can take us on an incredible emotional and spiritual journey. In 1990 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember thinking, "Why me? Why now?" It just didn't seem possible, my life was going so well. I had a job I loved and four wonderful children. I had been feeling healthy and strong, "How could this be?" Shock is a natural first response to any kind of loss. In this case I experienced loss of health which led to a series of other losses. In these last few years there have been many losses and good-byes. Some things needed to be let go and I am healthier for it.

Eventually the shock wears off and realities of the losses wash over you in waves of anger and fear. At some point I knew I had to choose to move through the anger and fear so that I could experience a better quality of life. I looked for and found hope, encouragement, inspiration and lots of joy. Books written by Alastair Cunningham, The healing journey and Lawrence LeShan, Cancer as a turning point, convinced me that I could do many things to help shift the balance between death and life, despair and joy. At the very least I am able to have some control over the quality of my life. I learned that it is better to use my energy for healing than to spend it on anger, worry and fear.

Cancer affects us on all levels, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social. Healing is addressed on all these levels. My life after cancer is fundamentally different. The journey is one of chaos, tears, healing, growth and renewal. If handled well the chaos can be transformed into a healing journey. On this journey we say good-bye to many things and sometimes to people. The past is a good story, but it is over. We cannot change our past, but we can influence our future. Effective moving on gets us past denial, through the emotions of loss and on to possibilities. Ask yourself these questions; What am I still holding on to? What good-byes do I still need to make? Here are some affirmations that can help you to let go:

I knew I needed to examine my life and decide what things needed to change and I made a conscious choice to take charge of my healing journey. Here I am, several years later, alive to tell my story. There are three major components to my healing journey that I believe carry me along this path. First is a deep belief that my life has meaning and purpose, second is knowing that somebody cares and third is joy and beauty. My healthy humour attitude motivates me to take charge of where my life is going and create the things I need and want. These components of healing lead to greater inner peace.

Gratitude for is the currency that pays my way on this healing path. I started a thanksgiving journal while in recovery and wrote this Thanksgiving Prayer. Thank you Great Spirit for the gift of laughter, for the people who bring me joy, for the comedy that makes me forget, if only for a moment. Thank you for the gift of creativity, for artists whose work takes me out of the sadness and into a kinder place. Thank you for the ability to find great joy in simple things, for the peace of long walks in the country, for a cool lake on a hot day, for snow in winter, for music, meditation and prayer. Thank you for the gift of compassion and the joy of forgiveness. And please, let me be at peace with whatever happens today.

Cathy Fenwick is an author, educator and workplace consultant. She develops and delivers workshops and keynotes on how to get more healthy humour into your life and your work. Her books and manuals include Healing With Humour, Telling My Sister's Story, Workscapes: Keeping spirit alive at work , Building Bridges: The heart of effective communication and Hope for people facing cancer.

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