I had not been feeling well for several months. I had a persistent cough (previously diagnosed as asthma), temperature swings and suspected that there was something seriously wrong. On my 58th Birthday (13thMay 2011) I promised my daughter and husband that I would go to the doctor. I was terrified, I knew in my heart it was cancer.
When the GP suggested I probably had a virus and to come back in 2 weeks I was happy to accept this and hide from what I knew to be true. Within 2 weeks the cough became so violent I was coughing up blood. My terror increased. I rushed back to a different doctor who said I had pneumonia, prescribed antibiotics and also sent me for a chest X-Ray. I was expecting the worst. A couple of days later I was back at the original doctor who was telling me it was almost definitely cancer and a large tumour and he would refer me to a specialist. I was in shock and terrified. The doctor offered anti-depressants which I declined. A couple of days later my husband and I saw a specialist who (without a biopsy or any scans) told us at 8pm on a Friday that it was lung cancer, not at an early stage and the prognosis was very poor. I would of course have a biopsy and scans to confirm things.
My husband and I fell off an emotional cliff. Neither of us could stop crying, neither could eat or sleep. We both believed that cancer meant death and in my case, fairly soon. The next day we continued to try to deal with our emotions. I had to pull myself together to phone my 2 adult children and try to sound calm and even in control. That over, we attempted to come to terms with our new reality.
I wanted to go to church. Whilst not a practicing Christian I had always believed in God. I now asked God to help me die well. I had had a good and full life, now I wanted God to help me to die as I had tried to live as an example to other people. I found profound peace in that moment when I asked God for help.
My husband came to church but spent the rest of the day searching the internet. About mid-afternoon he found Greg Andersons book Cancer -50 essential things. He managed to print off some pages for me to read and ordered the book. I hung onto the pages like a lifeline and when the book arrived read it from cover to cover. I read it over and over again. I read it through my biopsy and scans, I followed its advice. I changed as much of the bads in myself as I possibly could. I have always been fit and strong, I continued to swim 3 miles a week and took up walking. I forced myself to eat 2000 calories per day to keep my weight up,
I challenged my assumptions about cancer, I stopped awfulizing, I removed stress from my life. I challenged fear, I looked at it dissected it and removed it. I visualised myself cancer-free, I practiced meditation and said innumerable affirmations. I embraced my spirituality. I talked with God everywhere and continued to visit church. I developed positivity and lived in the moment. I did not push those who love me away but enjoyed being with them, living as normally as I could during my treatment. I shared my positivity with everyone I could. They shared theirs with me. I kept reading the book over and over again. Once I finished, I started again. This was my life’s work.
Once I started the radical treatment of chemotherapy and radiotherapy I continued following the advice in this book. I researched other work by other people including Bernie Siegel and others who recognise the power of the mind and spirit over the body. I found myself changing and changing for the better. Despite the cancer life was GOOD and I felt HAPPY. About a month into the horrible treatment I thought “If I get through this I wouldn’t have missed it for the world” A couple of weeks later that had changed to “whether I beat the cancer or not, I wouldn’t have missed this for the world!” Despite the treatment the side-effects, the nausea, the fatigue, life was really good.
Life has stayed good. I continue to live in the moment, I continue to avoid toxic stress I continue with positivity, I continue to develop my spirituality I continue to talk to GOD.
My treatment ended on November 3rd 2011. Now it is 2013. I have no symptoms or signs of cancer. I do not see cancer as a certain death sentence yet I do not fear death.
I believe that many things played their part in my recovery: my oncologist, my special nurses, my good friends, my family to whom I am closer than ever before, my husband who has shared the worst yet the best time of my life. I must thank Greg Anderson who wrote the book which showed me the way, sustained me through my journey and changed my life. Above all I must thank God who made all this possible.
To me beating cancer is not about not dying it is about living, really living, every moment and every day. Throughout my cancer treatment despite asking and looking there were no survivor or support groups where I live. I was lucky in that I have a very supportive family and circle of friends also access to resources. I know many other people are not so fortunate.
For that reason I was very interested to hear about a new group in Bridport called “The Living Tree”. At first I went just out of curiosity but have found myself going quite regularly. The company is stimulating, it is cheerful, a lot of fun and very informative. The members are an interesting mix who would not have come together had it not been for the cancer they have in common. All ages, different backgrounds, different cancers and different beliefs but we are all there to support each other. A very good way to spend a Friday afternoon.
Sue Rorstad MBE
Please visit my website the-box-of-hope to find out more about me.
Update August 2013
It must be something about birthdays. I was 60 on May 13th 2013. I was happy with life and planning a year of memorable experiences.
2 days later I had a weird spasm in my right hand and must have passed out hitting my head and dislocating my shoulder in the process. My husband loaded me into the car and took me to me GP who could not fix the shoulder. I was sent by ambulance to the nearest A & E. There, under sedation, the shoulder was repositioned and I was sent home in a sling.
NO ONE ASKED WHAT OR WHY THIS HAD HAPPENED despite my history.
4 days later I still felt very strange and decided to go back to A and E and ask for a brain scan. I do not know why I did this. I can only think that I was guided to do so. The CT scan revealed some very small lesions in the lining of my brain which would have been sufficient to cause a seizure. I felt so sorry for the young A & E doctor who had to tell me these results. Obviously this was not good news. I found old beliefs trying to creep back.
Whilst I was referred back to my oncologist and had further scans (which fortunately revealed nothing else and the original cancer was gone) I was again battling fear and hopelessness. Fortunately, this time around, I found God much more easily. All the notes I had made, all the prayers and readings I had saved, all the mantras and affirmations I had said were there for me now.
I commenced radiotherapy within 2 weeks of the seizure and by that time I had reached an emotional safe place where I could trust in God and not be afraid. Now I am dealing with the side effects of radiotherapy to the brain. These are not pleasant and particularly the fatigue is very hard for me as an active person. I am, and have been throughout, exercising almost every day.
Once again I am blessed with supportive family and friends. I also have a new support network of people who I only met through my first encounter with cancer.
Although not always or immediately obvious, cancer does bring unexpected blessings. The lessons of living in the present moment apply to everyone and do no one any harm. I do not know why this has happened nor do I really need to know but I do think that a lesson I am learning is that I need to be patient. Patient with the side effects and the time they may take to improve. Patient with a limited lifestyle while I cannot drive.
Whilst not something I would have chosen, this new chapter has a purpose. I do not know that purpose but I have seen enough to know that God has a purpose in it for me.
I have today, this moment. I am happy today. The world is a beautiful place full of miracles and wonderful people. I am truly lucky to have these people in my life.