When I was 10 years old, my mom had breast cancer. She was in the late thirties, was raising three kids while finishing her PhD and having an academic career, and restoring an old house. Back then, I lived in my own world, like any other child, I suppose. Both my parents and the rest of my family tried to protect my siblings and me from the unspeakable illness, so we were never informed of what was going on. However, being the eldest one, I could not help but notice that there was something wrong with my her…little things had changed…her hair was shorter, she had lost weight, looked more tired, laughed less, and all in all felt more distant and oblivious to my life. She was lucky: it had not spread and was erradicated…it has not come back to this day…32 years later. Looking back, I can imagine the shame she felt for having cancer and having to go through a traumatic and uncertain treatment, since she refuses to speak about it. But most of all, I feel deep admiration for her courage to confront her fear of dying and leaving us prematurely, like her father did, fighting to survive and defeat the monster. But most importantly, I can see clearly now that it must have been quite daunting to hide her feelings from us, so that we would grow up without fearing we would live the same fate.
Naturally, discovering the truth ten years later from somebody else’s mouth was shocking at first, but then liberating, since it all made finally sense to me. It was like putting some key pieces of the childhood puzzle together.
Little did I know that from that moment on, though, I would start developing a very common anxiety among women: will I get cancer or not? I would tell myself the best thing -of course- is prevention, and so I embarked into my own methodical preventive quest. What exactly does that mean, you ask yourself. Well, for starters, I would convince my gynecologists (yes, I had to have more than one…consecutively, thank God…because you can never trust one opinion only) that I needed to have the typical exams a woman can have after she becomes 40 (mamogramm, and physical examination) even though I was twenty something. Not that I would have them every six months…but still, I was becoming a hyppocondriac…Charming! In my thirties, my daughter was born, which gave me a stronger drive to keep healthy and alive….(btw, I can totally emphasize with Angelina Jolie for having taken such a brave decision…). So, what does a prevention oriented person do? Get more sophisticated tests (MRIs, papsmears, etc.) in order to have as many angles covered…, compare results, ask different doctors, and worry, no matter what. At thin point, Woody Allen was like an alter ego for me, no doubt about it…
The next level was to give alternative therapies a try. Diligently, I did my 200 hours yoga teacher training in a wonderful studio in Washington, DC. It is amazing what good breathing, asanas and meditation can do for anxiety and low intensity depression, honestly. Giving yoga classes is as much a selfless as a selfish exercise: I love both helping people get more balanced and in tune with their bodies and sould, and the wonderful curative quality that my own words have on myself. Kind of un-programming in my brain all those years of pessimistic and over critical Spanish culture. Massage, accupuncture, reiki, healthy eating, are important allies to keep me sane, but nothing is definitive….it takes hard work to keep on track. I know you know. With life insistently happening in your face, the old ‘friends’ –fear, worry, and anxiety– pay unexpected visits. Boy, they like to chat nonsense…:) Hence the name of this blog, btw, in case you were still wondering…:)
This week I went to listen to a cancer prevention talk by a psychologist and reiki master. Apart from the usual causes of cancer that we all know, she mentioned one that left me a bit surprised…and that is quite something, after all these years of reading about the subject. She said there is a theory that cancer (and other illnesses) are a karmic disease. It is somehow related to unforgiven pain and unfinished relationships in our (present or previous) life, and she suggested to do some regressions to identify the unresolved issue (some deep offence or injustice). Worth yet another preventive try…! Naturally…!
Having family members and friends getting sick every now and then, I have to remind myself that this is no way of living life: we need to trust our bodies, and let go of the useless chatter of the mind. Get out of the brain and come back to the heart, daring to jump in a leap of faith, and follow your instincts, but always listening to the subtle signs your body gives you at all times. Rest, eat, breath, watch, run, stay, laugh, floss, caress, embrace, kiss, be present, say what you feel….live your life!