I had an interesting conversation with a woman earlier this year that continues to come back into my conscious awareness. Of course, I know that means I need to pay attention, that there is a nugget of gold in what I perceived as her fear of the reality of her life and I knew that must be about me as well.
This amazing woman, who keeps reinventing herself and supports others in their relationships and career goals, shared with me in whispers that she is a breast cancer survivor. She cannot stand those words “breast cancer survivor”. For whatever reason she thinks that “label” diminishes her, makes her a victim rather than victorious and empowered. She opted to not receive the recommended post surgical therapy. Her choice is her choice and I look at myself and wonder what I make that mean about her and me!
Recently I was offered a viable, cure-promising “treatment” for a virus (hepatitis C, genotype 1A). I’ve had this virus for nearly 40 years. Left untreated it is a leading cause of liver cancer. Considering my secret, undisclosed, judgmental inner dialogue about my acquaintance who opted out of treatment (“How could you? Are you crazy? What if it comes back, how will you live with yourself for not going into treatment?“) I couldn’t believe my own response to the promise that I’ve been waiting for, a cure for hepatitis C. I didn’t want to do it. I was afraid I would have to tell everyone and that I would be judged. I had to face what I saw as the stigma, yet again, of having this infection. It took we weeks to wrap my brain, emotions and spirit around treatment. Longer still to be open and honest with others about it.
This morning as I awakened I was reminded of something I recall that was written by Roberto Assagioli, who created Psycho-synthesis (which is the basis of the “shadow” work that I do with clients):
I have a body and I am not my body, I have feelings and I am not my feelings, I have a mind and I am not my mind, I AM a center of pure awareness, love and will.” I add to this today, for me and anyone who feels shame around being identified with their “disease”, I have an illness and I am not my illness.
What we identify with won’t let us be, yet owning and being with what is, the reality that I have this infection, sets me free. I am grounded in reality, I am a woman valiantly surviving and thriving in my 5th week of treatment, and I have NEVER been more aware of the gifts of love and life.
I can use my experience of illness and treatment to grow, support others and embrace this transient thing called LIFE and love every minute that I am graced with more.
You are an inspiration Cate! I can feel the power radiating off the page, blazing a trail for many others. God bless you. xox
Your courage inspires me!