Another common emotional issue for those surviving cancer is dealing with uncertainty…dealing with cancer is a life transformative event.
Life is never the same, but with time it can be a new normal and those surviving cancer often become experts at dealing with the myriad of uncertainties in life…one never knows how long we are here on this earth and life can be very surprising at times, in good ways and in some difficult ways. Those who seem to navigate the experience the best, from my experience caring for the many people that I have worked with over the years, is those who, with time, see the positive lessen in the experience…this is a process that takes time for sure but this is what I have learned from my patients. Many of them have told me that there is always something positive that can be gained from every experience in life and having cancer is no exception. For many, this is a process that takes from 1-3 years on average. But who is counting?…the important part is that whatever wisdom is gained is hopefully shared for the benefit of many. This leads to a feeling of hope…so
What do you choose hope for?
Hope to be cured? Hope to remain disease free? Hope to enjoy this moment with your kids? Hope to celebrate a wedding? Hope to celebrate the birth of a grandchild? Hope to see one of your children graduate from High School? College? Maybe just hope that you can have a pain free day? There is always something to hope for….What are your hopes and dreams?
Many of my patients have told me that when they have been diagnosed with cancer it has ignited in them a reevaluation of what is important in their life. We tend to worry and fret over things which can seem so insignificant when one is dealing with the thought that their life is precious. Many patients have told me that the most important things in life are 1. Our Health, 2. Our Family and 3. Our Friends…beyond that, little is of real importance. On this theme, as a parent, everyday can become a Celebration of Valentine’s Day and a Focus on Love
“Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth” M. Scott Peck MD
This is my favorite Definition of Love because it gets to the heart of what love is and is not. It defines love on many levels: Romantic love, Agape love, Friendship love, etc. It also fits well with the work of being a Parent. It goes well with this Heart that my daughter made when she was in Pre-School. It has long since lost meaning for her but I have kept it all these years as a reminder of why I do this work as a Parent…the Love of my daughter, woven into the tapestry of a family! Valentine’s Day is a wonderful holiday and a day that we celebrate to express our love to those we hold dear! In truth, as a parent, everyday is Valentine’s Day!! Being a parent is the most selfless, important, hardest, best, joyous, most satisfying, rewarding, heart-wrenching job I have ever had. It is a challenge at times especially now that my daughter is a teenager.
What keeps me grounded as a parent is something that I learned from Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn when I took a retreat with them on Mindful Parenting!!! They said that being a parent is like being on an 18 year retreat….our kids become our best Spiritual Teachers!! When we practice being in the present moment, we come to a place where we accept ourselves for who we really are, we love ourselves in this moment and we become our best and most compassionate selves. In this present moment, we are then able to see the wholeness and best in our children. We can see them through a lens that captures who they really are, rather than what we want them to be, and allows us to nurture and cultivate the best of who they are growing and developing to be. Being a Mindful Parent is a daily practice of Love in Action!! If you have not read it already, I highly recommend this book, Everyday blessings: The inner work of mindful parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn! It has been my compass as a Parent on many occasions!!
So what can we do to overcome these feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, depression and concern about the future? I highly recommend practicing stress management techniques which can modulate the impact of stress on our bodies and our health! Regular practice works…..
Almost 18 years ago, I became aware that I was pregnant. Like many women who are 40 years old when they learn that they are pregnant, at first I was in shock. Quickly, that shock turned into utter amazement and excitement! OMG I thought, I am going to have a baby!!! Those were precious days and little did I realize what utterly miraculous events were about to unfold over the next 18 years! I was very fortunate in that I was a Women’s Health Clinical Nurse Specialist for patients with breast and gynecological cancers at a wonderful community hospital. I had been co-leading a Breast Cancer and Gyn Cancer Support Group as one of my many responsibilities in my job and my patients had taught me far more than one could ever imagine. One of the best things that they taught me is that some cancers are probably linked to environmental toxins. It was a novel idea at the time but it prepared me to be vigilant when I was pregnant to keep my environment as non-toxic as possible, at home, at work and at play. That was valuable information.
One of the best gifts at the time was that I had a friend who was a teacher of Self-Attunement Meditation. I had been doing Mindfulness-Based Meditation for a while but was unfamiliar with Self-Attunement Meditation. I decided to learn more while I was pregnant and actually had instructional sessions once a week while I was pregnant and continued with the practice each day on my own. It helped to give me an incredible feeling of Serenity during my pregnancy despite the stresses of my job and all of my other responsibilities while I prepared for the day that my miracle baby would arrive. In hindsight, it was a true gift that helped to bath my baby with those calm feelings and I attribute this practice to the amazing, adaptable, miraculous child that my daughter has been and continues to be. I know that Serenity is part of the life of W.E.L.L.N.E.S.S. not only for ourselves as parents but also, and most importantly, for our children…This month is dedicated to the practice of SERENTITY!!
Spirituality: Working with people with cancer every day, another common emotional reaction to dealing with the uncertainty of cancer I have seen is for individual’s young and old to search within for the meaning or purpose of one’s life.
I have found that this experience stimulates a thirst for exploring one’s spirituality and God’s presence in one’s life…why God? How could this happen? Many of my patients have turned to God and God’s presence in their lives to draw on their strength and resources to understand and navigate the meaning of this experience in their lives! As adults, many of us have been rooted in our spirituality. As parents, we can help our kids navigate these challenging times by helping our kids explore and discover that they are innately Spiritual beings!
Mimi Doe and Robert Coles are experts on this and I have often turned to these books as my guiding light with my daughter. These are my 3 favorite books that I would highly recommend to you on Spirituality and Children….How we as parents can help our kids discover their innate Spiritual Nature!!
So What is Spirituality?
To help explain our role as parents in helping our kids tune into their spiritual side, I would like to share a poem I wrote in my Junior HS English class
Oh God you must help me
I have a friend who’s confused
He doesn’t believe you are there
Help me explain how I know that you are
Here on this earth everywhere
A short time ago
I neither could find
The God that I longed for to see
I thought that God lived in the sky with the stars
How far from the truth could I be?
But I finally found where my real God exists
For think to yourself while I say
You will find that God breathes in the eyes and the smiles
Of the people we meet everyday
Do you see now my friend that God does exist
That God’s even a part of thee?
And by helping your friends
You are loving your God
And that is all that God asks you to be.
Aurelie Cormier 1973
This poem gives the basis of our Spirituality:
God lives in us- “God breathes in our eyes and smiles” and is expressed through us by our kindness, compassion, caring presence
God is love-“by helping our friends we are loving our God”…we manifest God’s loving presence in the world through our being
God is our connection to all beings in this life-“……God is out there in the Universe, but most importantly, God lives inside of us and connects us to all we meet in this life”
We are innately spiritual beings and when we realize this it gives our life purpose, meaning and a focus!
One of the Best Tools available to assist in our healing is FORGIVENESS. Forgiveness is one of the quickest ways to heal our mind/emotions, body/health, and spirit/soul. As parents, we know that there are always challenges in life in one form or another and each person in this life is guaranteed to face varied challenges. As parents, one of the most important things to remember is that we become role models for our kids of how to handle these challenges so that they can develop resiliency in the face of life’s ups and downs.
One real life example was the shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in June 2015 in Charleston, SC. This was a tragic and horrific event but there are numerous examples out there today of these tragic events happening all over the world that our kids are being exposed to on a daily basis. While not a cancer, I found that there were some stellar examples of how parents can respond in the face of tragedy that was so helpful for all of us to witness and especially helpful to our children. The wife of Reverend Clementa Pinckney who has 2 young daughters was a role model of the practice of Forgiveness to her children and to the world. I admire that woman and she is a living example of Christianity in action.
As parents, we can RESPOND by being good role models for our children/teens to help kids know how to respond themselves and be resilient in this world. As parents, we can help our kids to focus on FORGIVENESS…by releasing anger, hurt and hate from our hearts by drawing pictures, writing letters, talking and praying. In this way we still hold individuals accountable for their behavior but we are able to release our own anger, hurt and hate from our hearts and bring the message of God within us to the world-one of kindness, compassion, peace, joy and love. Forgiveness is one of the MOST POWERFUL HEALING TOOLS available to us. Try it and see the results!