20. How and why stage 4 cancer changed me
I barely recognise myself. Sometimes I catch a glimpse in the mirror and I see an unfamiliar sight staring back at me. I catch a look at my bald head and my skinny alien like body and I think, woah, I have cancer! I have now turned into that image of what cancer looks like. The image I dreaded. I now look sick and I now feel sick and I barely recognise myself. I am going through a change of sorts, a transformation, a metamorphosis maybe. I’m in the cocoon at the moment, building my wings. This is the hard part, they’re difficult to build. I want to make them as beautiful as I can, and strong, strong enough to fly for a long time. I was broken before, that’s why I got sick. I’m in the repair stage and if I don’t do it right, I won’t be able to fly. This time in the cocoon is taking a while longer than I’d like but I think it will be worth the time and effort, when I emerge stronger. What I’m doing at the moment in Istanbul is fixing the physical part. Taking care of the tumours. Once they’re gone, there’s still work left to do. Fixing the emotional and spiritual bit is where the true healing lies. I’ve made a start on this work but it’s a big task and I haven’t found all of the parts I need to rebuild just yet. I will though, it’ll happen in good time. It already is!
This may or may not turn out to be one of my more personal blog entries. I am going to talk about the various therapies I have been doing in order to heal my body. In my opinion, healing anything in the body needs an approach from all angles. It can’t be left to the medical side alone. As I said in an earlier post, getting to the root of the problem is where the true healing lies. Tumours are a physical manifestation of a deeper problem in the body. Cutting, poisoning and burning (surgery, chemotherapy and radiation) will only take away the physical bit. The root is still there. And the root will cause them to grow again. How do you get to the root? And how do you even know what the root is? I started doing therapies every week from November last year and I’m not sure I’m at the root yet. It is so complex and requires so much looking inward, a difficult thing to do. What therapies have I been doing? I am very lucky to have found three people who I have been attending regularly and who tailor a treatment to my needs.
First up, Mary O’Neill. I see Mary weekly in The Dancing Soul in Athlone where she practices. Mary has a variety of skills. She is a holistic counsellor meaning she integrates a whole host of therapies including counselling, psychotherapy, reflexology, reiki, energy healing, bio-energy, reflex psychotherapy, mind-body balancing and more. For the first couple of months, we mostly did counselling and psychotherapy. A lot of stuff came up. A lot of stuff will come up for any thirty something who has never regularly attended a therapist before. I think it’s impossible to get to adult life without something or other affecting you. We all have issues and as Irish people, we’re not likely to work on them unless we have to. A nation of bottlers, dare I say? Sure I’m grand! So what were my issues? Well that would be telling wouldn’t it!? They come from many events in my life; childhood, family, relationships, teachers, school friends, experiencing death at a young age and going inward… Very normal experiences for any child but they can affect everyone differently. I will say though, that everything that happened in my life has shaped my personality, for better or worse. And figuring out those personality shaping moments has allowed me to look closely at myself and my behaviours and change the bits I want to change. And I have changed, cancer has given me the opportunity to do that. It has made me a better person. I’m not sure I would ever have taken such a close look at myself otherwise. It is a difficult thing to do, to work through the layers and confront yourself at a deeper level.
Next up is Brian Mc Conway. Brian is another therapist who I attend weekly. He is based in my local town of Strokestown and I couldn’t believe my luck when I discovered his talents, right on my doorstep! Brian is trained in Bio-energy, kinesiology, qi-gong, acupuncture, cupping therapy and more. He now works with his partner Marie who is equally talented and I have been lucky to receive a couple of appointments with her too. They make a great team and do combined treatments when they can, which makes for a double healing experience. When I first started going to Brian, he identified times in my life where my body felt a trauma. These experiences were locked in at the time and never released. He would say to me ‘did something happen when you were 18?’. It might come to me straight away or I might have to go home and think about it. He identified a lot of these life events which I would then take to Mary and discuss in what Brian called ‘talk therapy’. He identified things my conscious mind had forgotten had happened but my body hadn’t. It is remarkable really what he can pick up on. I worked through a lot of things with Mary which had come up with Brian. A true synergistic approach to healing old wounds.
Now to add a third therapist which advanced my healing journey even more. Moira Geary, the Recombobulator! Moira is based in Limerick and I have attended a couple of personal sessions with her and a weekend retreat. She has a very specific set of skills and she will find you! I hope I get this right because it is quite complicated and hard to explain what she does but Moira works on helping people release old patterns of behaviour. Her training includes neuro-linguistic programming, cognitive reimprinting and neurological repatterning. By the time I first saw Moira, I had a lot of groundwork done with Mary and Brian. My friend and nutritional therapist Niamh Burke recommended her to me after she attended a workshop with her. She is amazing, said Niamh. I can’t really explain how she does what she does but you will definitely benefit from it. So I emailed Moira looking for an appointment. I value recommendations from Niamh very highly, she had put me in touch with my alternative cancer treatment guru a few months previous. Moira rang me and assessed whether I would be ready to see her. You need to know what your issues are before she will take you on. And I was ready thanks to Mary and Brian. Moira helped me release old behaviours which weren’t serving me. Behaviours which were holding me back. I am definitely a nicer person thanks to Moira Geary! And after I visited her for the first time, I experienced a real boost in healing, more on that another time!
I have a lot of work done on myself now but I still have a way to go. Clearing the physical side of things is obviously so important as tumours are physical and grow and spread. They need to be stopped. In my case, they needed drastic action. But ensuring they don’t come back will take much more work. And that work is deep, inner work that no doctor or chemical can do for me. It all has to be done by myself. I’m a work in progress and I’m working hard on building these wings. I can’t wait for you all to see them.