The Dark Night of the Soul

When I met my partner Ian thirteen years ago, he had been diagnosed with Pancreatic and Liver cancer nine months previously, and had been told there was nothing that could be done and to come back for palliative chemotherapy when the pain got too bad.

He was 40 years old.

Meeting Ian was the beginning of my descent into a ‘dark night of the soul”, a period where life as I knew it, my comfortable, secure life, was completely and utterly ripped apart.

Systematically destroyed.

It was as though an unseen hand picked me up and shook me violently. Everything I thought I knew about myself, about life, and about God was shown to be completely wrong. I discovered that I had no idea who I was, no idea who or what God was, and no idea how to really live.

I was completely broken and very, very afraid.

This dark night of the soul lasted for almost two years. I was saved from a complete mental breakdown only because I intuitively knew that it had to happen, it was part of a Divine plan, and that I would get through it. Without this “knowing”, I don’t know if I would have been strong enough to survive it. I guess you could call this grace. Even with this knowing, there were many times when death seemed like an easier option than living.

I realised that I was very afraid of death, but I was even more afraid of life.

I could clearly see that I had lived in an underlying state of fear for most of my life and I made a vow that if God was a God of love like people were telling me (and this had not been my experience), then there must be a way to live in this world without fear, without suffering, and I was going to find it.

I didn’t even know if it was possible for me to live without fear. At that point I couldn’t even imagine what living fearlessly would be like – it was totally incomprehensible.

What quickly became apparent to me, was that it was my thoughts that caused my suffering. In one sense it was distressing to discover that my mind was the cause of my suffering and fear, because I had no idea how to break the habits of forty years of thinking, but on the other hand, it was empowering because I dimly understood that this was the way out of suffering and the solution was in my hands, (or rather my mind); whether I suffered or not was not dependent on circumstances outside of myself, much of which I had little control over anyway.

At this point in time, I was so broken that I had no sense of empowerment at all. I simply wanted someone else to fix me. Someone, please take away my fear and make me empowered. I was terrified to take responsibility for myself and my own emotional healing but I knew that I had to. “Someone” couldn’t do it for me, although many people were helpers on the way. I had to do it myself.

I understood that I needed to reprogram my thinking. I had been exceptionally insular mainly because of the teachings of the church I had been in since birth, so this was really, really hard for me.

And so began an initially agonising journey to find myself and a healthy way to live in the world without suffering.

Fast forward eight years, and I am driving to Perth – a 170km trip. Ian has been flown by the Flying Doctors to Perth, vomiting blood. I am not sure if he is going to be alive when I get up there to the hospital. He is my Soulmate, my Love. Suddenly I realise that I am peaceful. The only thoughts going through my head are that everything is perfect – everything is unfolding exactly as it should be, all is well. I just need to be open and allow it to unfold. It dawns on me that all the work of reprogramming my mind, of digging deep and acknowledging the emotional wounds that had kept me in bondage for so long, that this work had brought me to this place of peace. It seemed to me that if all I feel is peace at a time that would be universally acknowledged as being extremely stressful, then this proved I had found a way out of suffering.

Ian did not die in Perth.

He died three weeks later back in our home town. He was 49 years old. He had lived for nine and a half years with pancreatic and liver cancer. A miracle in itself.

My peace continued, even during his dying and after.

There is much, much more to this story that I will probably share with you later.

I just want you to understand that if I can come from a place of constant fear and anxiety to a place of almost constant peace, then anyone can do it.

You just have to want it enough.

In Memory of Ian Robert Haslam
17-05-1965 to 17-03-2015

The Language of Cancer

I don’t know if you have noticed, but the language surrounding cancer is the language of warfare.

Pain, suffering, VICTIM (my least favourite), loss, fear, aggressive, fight, kill, battle, conquer, victory, hopeless, enemy, war, death.

These are all words I have regularly seen associated with cancer. The media in particular loves these words because they are emotive and predominantly fear based.

The language of war is a language of fear (unless you are the victor). My passion is to help reduce the fear around cancer, so a good place to begin I think, is with the language.

We often don’t realise the power of words. The words that surround cancer heighten the fear. The word “cancer” carries with it the accumulated energy of the words associated with it.

Masaru Emoto in his book Healing Power of Water, describes how that “in Japan, it is believed that every word possesses a soul. For e.g Gratitude. When we say the word, we haven’t just given sound to a string of letters, but have expressed a meaning and a feeling. We believe that a word possesses this power of transmission because it has a share of the word soul and is its representative. By saying “gratitude”, we enter into resonance with this word soul and vibrate in unison with it.”

Wow! That is pretty powerful stuff – and beautifully put. And so true.

Still yourself for a moment, close your eyes and think of the word “cancer”. See what words and emotions are associated with it. You may even feel your body as well as your mind react to it by a tightening in your gut, or a physical feeling of tension. In contrast, think of the word “joy”, and see what words and emotions come up. It immediately becomes apparent that words do carry an energetic charge that affects both our mind and our body.

The word “cancer” carries with it an immensely negative charge perpetuated by the prevailing fear filled attitude towards it – in my opinion, unconsciously aided and abetted by the medical profession and the media.

Despite living with cancer for 13 years, I am not, and never will be, a cancer “victim”.

I am not battling cancer, it has never been a fight, I am not part of a war.

As a result, suffering has not been my experience. (Pain is physical, suffering is mental/emotional).

Cancer has taught me how to live joyfully.

Cancer has taught me how to love deeper,

To be more real,

To be vulnerable, soft, more open

To be peaceful

To be much more fearless

Cancer has taught me not to sweat the small stuff

Cancer has taught me to be grateful, to appreciate each day.

Help me to re-frame cancer and reduce the fear surrounding it.

You can start off simply by not talking about cancer “victims” or the “battle”.

Don’t talk about someone who has died as having “lost their battle with cancer”, as though dying of cancer is some ignominious defeat – a personal failure.

Don’t show pity for someone with cancer – that is dis-empowering and originates from YOUR fear.

Think about the words you speak and think – not just in relation to cancer, but in life in general.

Are they predominantly uplifting and empowering? Or do they drag you down and dis-empower.

Remember – once we are aware, we can choose our perceptions, our attitudes our responses to life. When we are unaware, we are run by our sub conscious programs – many of which we adopted when we were children and which no longer serve us.

Change your mind – change your life.

A Beginning

I have decided to begin sharing my experience of cancer in the hope that in some tiny way it can help to dispel the fear in our culture that surrounds this illness.

As some of you are aware, I have lived with cancer for almost 13 years. I chose not to have conventional treatment (radiation/surgery/chemotherapy) until this last 6 months during which I have had two weeks of radiation for management of symptoms.

I am not advocating rejecting conventional treatments as the best path for everyone, however it felt right for me. I believe that the healthiest attitude is to explore available options, both conventional and alternative and make an informed choice based on what feels right for you.

Almost two years ago, I was told that my condition was “terminal”. I found this very amusing. Isn’t every living creature on this earth going to die? Sorry to be brutal, but the only difference between me and you, is that doctors believe they know what I will die from and an approximate time frame.

Last scan in February, the cancer was in my left breast, lymph nodes, both lungs, chest, spine, pelvis, both femurs, shoulders… I think that was all. 😅😁…. who knows where it is now.

The great passion that has arisen out of my experience is the power of mind and spirit in how we live our lives. My Palliative Care specialist believes that the reason I have well and truely outlived statistics, is because of my mind and spirit. Apparently, statistically, I should have died years ago. Lucky I dont put my belief into statistics.

Through my posts, I want to share some of the perspectives that I believe enable me to keep so physically well, and mentally happy and peaceful when my body is so compromised. I have a great life, and I love life. Paradoxically, cancer has taught me how to really live.

My thought for today;

This cancer in my body in Reality, is neither “good” nor “bad”.

It just “Is”.

Only my mind attributes the value.

How I experience the cancer is greatly affected by my perception of it.

If I choose (and despite perceptions appearing to be involuntary, we do have a choice), to perceive it as “bad” , negativity, fear, victimhood, suffering and pain will arise.

If I choose to perceive it as “it just Is”, it has no power over me, and by ceasing to perceive it as “bad” I open a space wherein the potential for it to be “good” arises. We live in a universe which is underpinned by love and joy. Within EVERYTHING (including cancer, and death), is the potential to experience love, joy, peace, happiness, contentment.

It is only our mind that prohibits us from experiencing this.

Isnt that exciting??!!!

Doesnt it take away fear? We cannot choose WHAT we will experience in life, but we can choose HOW we experience it.

In every situation try to choose Love not fear. It has the power to transform everything.

I am happy 99.9% of the time.

This is the gift cancer has brought me.