Unexpected Gifts

Joan McAndrew English 2 Comments

January 1st, 2013 and I sit reflecting upon my practice as a Counseling Psychologist. The professional reputation built over the past thirty-five years is holding me in good stead and I am “busy”. Yet today for the first time, I sense a weariness, fleeting, albeit powerful enough to think about “how to retire” from meeting with twenty plus clients a week.

I want to devote more time to my Reiki Practice; teaching Shoden, Okuden and (for the first time) Shinpiden this year. Attending the IH Reiki Shinpiden course in Victoria in February and the October Reiki Retreat in California are both on the agenda. I also plan to continue training in Integrated Positional Therapy (IPT), an adjunctive physical treatment for clients with muscle and pain issues. As well, I have been invited to join a five-month-long Mastery of Golf program (requiring 2 one week trips to California) from May through October. Finally, after being a “closet” writer for over twenty years, I want to pursue this passion as well.

Since these plans all require money, as well as time, retiring from “seeing clients” is not an option. Besides in my “ego-driven mind” I can not imagine how my clients could possibly get along without me; after all they keep telling me, “YOU ARE IRREPLACABLE!”

With this crazed thinking leading me, I increase my workload. Now I really will travel for 10 weeks during the next 10 months. The fact that I turn 67 in June 2013 is clearly irrelevant, though I have booked an age-related routine colonoscopy for early November, following my return from the Reiki Meditation retreat in the Sequoias.

The months fly by! I return from California on October 30th, have the test November 4th, and regardless that the phone rings incessantly on November 5th , I refuse to answer it, as that day is a scheduled day off. At 7:30 AM on November 6th I pick up this message: “… hate to leave such messages… your colonoscopy results are not good … a CAT-scan on Friday… urgent that you speak to the doctor… contact our office as soon as possible.” I drift upstairs to the second floor, find Ian, my husband, who holds me tightly as the words “colon cancer” set in.

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It is now May 2014, six long months since that day and I have discovered too many truths. The medical model in Ontario, Canada is a well-oiled assembly line that hooks up the newly diagnosed cancer patient, deposits the body in the surgery section, transfers it along to the recovery unit, then drops it into the line-up for the chemotherapy ride. The system moves so fast, I have no time to think, to question, to ponder, — terror set in and I comply. I endure major bowel surgery, have four full dose debilitating treatments of chemotherapy, and experience the collapse of my immune system before I finally rebel.

Somehow I go from totally splattered on a brick wall, to scraping the blobs of protoplasm into my hands and reforming them into a taller, stronger, more engaged, and focused human being. While I loathe the reality I faced, I know now I am healthier because the mask of illusion has dropped off, as this allowed me to receive some wonderful unexpected gifts.

First and foremost: I STOPPED! It took me fourteen days to shut down a thirty-five year private practice in psychology. When the impossible occurred, it left one thing and one thing only to focus my energy upon… putting myself first, before anyone else, before anything else, for the foreseeable future. I learned to care for myself and to stop looking after other people. I learned to embrace the experience of cancer, and not fight it. I learned that it is very hard to embrace something when it batters and bruises you. I also learned that compassion for myself and for my cancer was the only path that would lead me where I needed to go. 

Pete Seeger once said in an interview that “the future of the world and mankind rests upon small groups of humans helping and caring for each other, because to do so results in all of us surviving.” Yet, in the beginning I felt completely lost and alone – regardless that I was surrounded by a loving family and many friends. In December I posted a blog on the IH Reiki web-site about having “doubts” that it was truly possible to heal myself. Then several wonderful people that I know from my courses with Frans reminded me again that I was loved. That’s when I began to understand that “I” wasn’t supposed to heal myself — I had to let other people help me with this journey.

One person suggested meditating with my chemotherapy drugs in hand before I was “hooked up”. I used the word “pray” when I made the request, as the “system” likely would respond positively to that idea, not withstanding that it was the first time anyone had ever requested such a thing. A partial sense of control over my healing returned.

I reached out and formed a “prayer” circle of friends, reiki & non-reiki, who agreed to hold me in their minds and hearts during that half hour of meditation. The profound healing that resulted led me to recommit to “being reiki” each day.

I see now how important people – living, breathing, talking, and laughing human beings are for my health. I need

them, though I had convinced myself over the years that “they” needed me. I even arranged my life so that I became irreplaceable to others. I now see the truth — we are all indispensible until our earthly journeys end. 

I have no doubt that Reiki helped me plant my feet upon solid ground once again. The personal practice I have been embracing slowly over the past seven years [5 years studying with Frans] has now evolved into the most calming activity of all. I sit quietly in my meditative space with DKM/GBL, the precepts are my code of conduct. I do my best every day regardless of whether it is a good day, bad day, hard, easy, bright, — I just do my best every day with compassion to myself and others.

Cancer also taught me that there is a part of the ocean of experience and fear that is too deep to share. A few people were able to walk by my side as they had no expectations other than I be Joan in the middle of a tornado, still me, but spinning and changing so fast that I had trouble keeping up, let alone the ability to make the journey of those who witnessed my struggle easier for them. I discovered that people who love themselves, and me, do ultimately understand.

There is a new rhythm to my life, of my own making, which I know is a huge part of healing through cancer or any other disease. I have discovered that I do have the ability to influence my own health and fate within the medical system as it currently exists. I am coming to terms with the fact that my energy may never recover to pre-cancer levels. Thank goodness, as I took my energy for granted for 67 years and squandered much of it, judging others, bearing anger, worrying and living in fear. This new reality leads to the best use of the energy I do have.

Do I believe in my own miracle? Did I heal myself? Yes, but not from cancer! My healing miracle is that I am no longer afraid of life eventually ending. It’s futile to move that far ahead in my thinking. The best approach for me is — “how am I doing right this minute? I am fine!” The knowledge that I will die no longer feels like a burden. I no longer need to be irreplaceable. I just need to be “Joan of now” living each day fully. And with this has come joy and gratefulness for all the unexpected gifts that cancer has brought to me.

Comments 2

  1. Hello Joan, Reiki sister. Thank you for your deeply moving post and for sharing so openly. A long and gentle HSZSN hug to you.

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