The headlines, t-shirts, and bumper stickers read “f*ck cancer.”
Well, as a walking miracle who survived incurable cancer, I say “f*ck that.”
When I was diagnosed with recurrent cervical cancer and given a 15-month expiration, I shared it on social media. I was met with a chorus of “kick cancer’s ass” and “fight girl fight.”
That’s the vernacular we know: battle of a lifetime, army of doctors, cancer warrior. The official war on cancer began in 1971 when President Nixon signed the National Cancer Act providing federal funds in hopes of “conquering this dreaded disease,” and we’ve been fighting ever since.
I went along with it. I wanted to live and fighting disease is what we’re taught to do in Western medicine. Cancer is seen as an invader. An outside force that sneaks into our body and takes us captive. It must be eradicated, conquered, feared. It’s like the ISIS of our body.
But honestly, isn’t it weird to declare war on ourselves?
Cancer is as much a part of us as our big butts, flabby arms, and noxious gas after a big burrito. We don’t attack those things. We go to the gym, practice self-love, and make wise diet choices. How is declaring war and attacking our bodies with hateful energy going to make cancer any better?
Always a bookworm, I frantically searched Barnes & Noble for stories of survivors. People smarter than me had won their cancer battle. How had they done it? I was convinced their triumph was so great they had written a book about it.
“For every situation in life, for every problem, there is a book with an answer.” ~ Dr. David & Mr. Bear
First came Dale Figtree’s Beyond Cancer Treatment: Clearing and Healing the Underlying Causes. After three months of radiation and chemotherapy to battle her lymphoma, Figtree got a shock that a second tumor had formed right below the first. In a state of agitation that she may be facing a difficult death, Figtree decided to meditate and use her imagination.
Figtree pictured her cancer at the bottom of a volcano with thousands of immune cells lining the volcano rim ready for attack. With a clash of cymbals, the immune cells charged into the volcano and destroyed every cancer cell. The wounded cancer cells evaporated after the battle leaving only healthy pink cells.
Her follow-up scan the next day showed no sign of the second tumor. The baffled doctors made her endure another round of X-rays in multiple positions, but to no avail. The second tumor was gone.
“A miracle had truly happened with the visualization.” ~ Dale Figtree
I was just dipping my toe into spirituality, meditation, and visualization. I considered Figtree’s miracle some serious “woo-woo healing.” I was skeptical but had nothing to lose. I tried to envision my immune cells attacking my cancer, but I couldn’t ever get a real battle going. I was like Ferdinand in the bull-fighting ring: gentle and passive.
In the pile of books on my nightstand, I next discovered a miraculous story in Dr. Kelly Turner’s Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds.
Shin Terayama was sent home to die with advanced kidney cancer when he made the decision to send unconditional love to his cancer. He viewed the cancer as a sick, neglected child that needed love and attention each day to heal.
Terayama is now cancer-free thanks to the love he sent his cancer and several other self-love practices.
“I didn’t kill my cancer. I loved it. The most important thing I learned is that cancer is my body. It’s not the enemy; it’s still my body.” ~ Shin Terayama
At an intuitive level, Terayama’s concept made sense. My cancer was part of me, not a foreign invader. I made the cancer. I treated myself badly. I began to see that I hadn’t loved myself in years.
Cancer was an extension of my misguided priorities, bad health decisions, and repressed emotions. I couldn’t fight it now that it had manifested into a disease. I had to love it.
One night in my own magical moment of “woo-woo healing,” I dreamed of pink love filling my cancer-filled peritoneum cavity. The pink light wanted to hug every cancer cell. It started hugging a giant 15-centimeter tumor and moved onto every tumor that lined my gut.
As happy pinkness embraced the grey cancer cells it said, “You are loved. Thank you for coming to guide us to the right path. It’s okay to go now.” At this, the cancer cells would pop leaving healthy shining tissue.
The dream went on for hours. Hug. Love. Pop. Hug. Love. Pop.
This dream unconsciously blended Figtree and Terayama’s stories into my own healing tale. More importantly, it was part of an entire shift to love and care for myself.
I got a therapist to deal with all the junk I had in my emotional trunk. I started meditating. I discovered writing as therapy. I found a higher purpose to help others. I forgave myself and everyone else that had ever wronged me. I started reading Elephant Journal and watching cat videos every day to bring more light and giggles into my life.
Would my stressed-out, workaholic, overachieving former self call the new cancer-loving me, “bat-sh*t crazy.” Yes. In fact, she would have. Or worse, given that condescending “that’s nice” smirk that the judgmental, unhappy executive often gave in those days.
But today I have not only survived my cancer, I’m happier, healthier, and more loving than before cancer.
I didn’t survive because I had a fluffy dream or read a book or went on a highly restrictive diet. I survived because of the culmination of the no-holds-barred-try-anything crusade to live that included these things. And quite frankly, because it wasn’t my time to die.
Being able to receive and give love was a huge part of this emotional journey.
It took months of anger, grieving, and crying to start to see cancer was a gift I had to love not hate. I love my cancer because it made me a better person.
“I want you to make love, not war.” ~ John Lennon
Do I wish I had gotten the “love yourself” lesson without almost dying? Of course. But like many of us in today’s over-booked, over-committed, perfection-seeking environment, I was doing the best I could to keep up.
I write this piece in hopes that I can convince at least one person to love themselves enough today that they never have to learn to love their cancer cells in the future.
To live our best life, we must love every part of ourselves:
- The good: a nice smile, for instance.
- The bad: cellulite, for most of us.
- The ugly: cancer and other medical challenges—a reality we’ll all face someday.
It’s counterintuitive to love what we perceive as a threat. But imagine if the bully on the playground got more hugs and love at home and school. Would he be as inclined to lash out?
It’s the same with our bodies. If we can give our bodies as much unconditional love as we give our anti-bully kids and our pets, they are less likely to lash out with some whacked-out disease, rash, digestive disorder, headache, or back pain.
The cliche says “love conquers all.” In my case it did. Love helped conquer cancer. I wonder how much better the world would be if the next time somebody said “f*ck off,” we gave them a hug.
Author: Tracy White
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Copy editor: Travis May
Social editor: Waylon Lewisc