My amazing mother was diagnosed with Stage 3C Ovarian/Fallopian Tube Cancer on September 11th, 2013.
I was living in France at the time, following my dream of making wine. I remember feeling the impact of the news in my gut. When she told me the news over a Skype video call my breath shallowed, my mind raced:
“Why her? Why me? Why my family?”
I was heart-broken.
The world began caving in on me. I had yet to illuminate for myself that life isn’t fair or unfair. I’ve since learned that life is what we create it to be. But it’s rarely as simple as that. This is a short story of my transformation, of how—slowly and intentionally—I was able to transform fear into healing.
My mother and father raised me well. I had a good childhood. They loved me. I have a wonderful relationship with my sister, great friends. I love what I do for a living. I had much of what I needed to create a fulfilling life. But I wasn’t happy, confident or open. And the news of my mother’s cancer catalyzed a downward spiral for me.
I lived under the pretense that I was following my dreams, but was quietly overwhelmed with judgments, anxiety and a lack of presence. I acknowledged this to few. Joy and happiness came less frequently. I acted cool and free, but desired beautiful moments and people. I was addicted to anything that helped soothe my depression. My life felt empty and relationships seemed inauthentic. I complained about everything. Rarely did I laugh or smile. Feeling gratitude or acting with grace, security or confidence became a struggle.
Different people reached out to me. One night my mother offered a Cherokee story about two wolves. My mother is kindred with wolves. They remind her of the way we are all wise, loyal and are guardians of our packs yet desire freedom.
In the parable an old chief explains to his grandson a terrible fight that people experience, the way he described it—a fight between two wolves.
“One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, ego. The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, faith.”
When his grandson asked, “Which wolf will win?” his wise grandfather answered, “The one you feed.”
At the time I remember feeling the wisdom in this story. But I was deep in my own self-destructive stories and actions. The wisdom faded.
I woke up in a nightmare of destructive self-medicating behavior nine months after her diagnosis. The very woman who gave me life was up against a force that was poised to take her away from me. It took me months to get that this wasn’t happening to me; I was doing it to myself. In a guided meditation in November 2014, I saw those two wolves inside of me. My whole life flashed and I got how often I’d fed the evil wolf. And how I made the pain and sorrow worse by my relentless self-judgment.
But I really wanted a shift and the ability to open my heart to healing. I wanted so badly to support my mother’s healing, our family’s healing. But first I had work to do on my own. It meant confronting my self-pity and self- loathing. It meant seeing how my ego dissuaded me from seeing us all in this together.
Cancer isn’t only happening to my mother. It is an epidemic of astounding proportions. As I recognized it as such, slowly I reinvigorated exercises that showed me the light of open hearts. I asked for healing. I gave up substances. Leadership and self–expression seminars, mastermind and honor groups created greater community, accountability and responsibility. I see now how my family, the coaches, mentors and friends all listen. I listen now too. What I hear helps me see how I can stand with and for others. As I stand with others, sharing opens my heart and fills space once consumed by fear, a controlling fear.
I get now how I turned my mother’s fight with cancer into my fight with self-pity. For months I allowed my mother’s diagnosis to dis-empower me, maybe because I feared taking responsibility. Twenty-one months later, I now better understand that the healing of cancer is not just for the person who lives with the diagnosis. It’s for everybody in that person’s circle. What I didn’t understand then, was that to transform fear into healing, I had to heal myself alongside her. I had to begin feeding the good wolf. And as I have done more and more of that I wanted to widen the circles of healing available to individuals and families with cancer.
In late January of 2015, I began curating cancer survivor stories for a community outreach project I designed called Sharing Our Survival. The first story is my mother’s story. More are coming in. The mission of this project is to provide an open, loving and creative space for survivors to get listening, love and support from their communities by giving away their story to the world.
By going in and then reaching out to share, there is an opening created where love, acknowledgement and compassion can be received, in support of healing. The intent of the project is to create a platform for sharing and listening. I believe that others have much to learn from individuals’ stories about living with, and surviving, cancer. As curator I am communicating to those willing to share: the world wants to hear about your journey. I promise listening; I promise to hear your courage and love in the pain and struggle. I promise to generously give you support for healing.
Each day, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to feed the good wolf and live authentically, sharing love and light with the world.
Love and Joy are free medicines that heal. They can help heal cancer, but their potential for healing goes far beyond cancer.
If this speaks to you, please share how you will help heal the world?
Author: Seth Morgen Long
Editor: Travis May
Image: Author’s Own