This is really something I wrote in response to a question about what I’ve learned from breast cancer, but I thought that this title would get more attention … For an article I was asked to contribute to, I thought long and hard about what I have learned from breast cancer, as a loved one, an observer of more women with breast cancer than I even feel like counting. Here’s my answer to that question ~ thanks to breast cancer, I have lost three dear friends, and made at least one wonderful new one. Based on what I’ve seen and experienced through these women, as a caregiver and supporter, I’ve learned that it is a disease that seems to afflict those that are exceptionally giving to others. I’m referring to the kind of women whose love and concern pours out, with a particular emphasis on caring for others, sometimes at the questionable expense of pleasing themselves. What I have concluded is what they have in common is an effusive quality of nourishing love and attention to those around them, and even to the collective greater good as seen in their contributions to the world through their healing, art and mothering. Yet in a subtle way, their own ability to truly care for themselves, by honoring their purpose and deepest hearts’ desire, has been thwarted. I knew these women well, and have met many others at various stages of breast cancer. What I discovered from each of them, was that there was a way in which they were not fully meeting their unique needs. This has led me to believe in a phenomenon that I mention delicately so as not to infer in the slightest way any fault of their own, or to even assume that I know whether they were conscious of playing any part in their disease process. Those familiar with Louise Hay, author of the groundbreaking Heal Your Body, and those who believe in the power of reversing mental patterns and the affirmations that serve as antidotes to the germination of the disease process, will recognize my eluding to the mental and metaphysical aspects of illness. I’ve talked with and read of others who have had or been touched by breast cancer, and have often heard breast cancer referred to as “the pleasing disease”. I feel it’s worth mentioning and looking more closely at. It seems as if the abundance these (mostly) women share, is to a degree obliterated by what they are or were not giving to themselves.
I published Each Moment We’re Alive, The Musical and Photographic Story Inspired by Cancer Survivors, featuring the award-winning photography of my late friend Monica Schwartz Baer illustrated by the lyrics of the song she asked me to write. Not long after its publication I met my now dear friend Cindy Sheridan Murphy, a triple negative breast cancer survivor, who wanted to use the song for a marketing video she was making to publicize her breast cancer story. That began a journey of partnership, solidarity, and friendship born of the mutual desire to grow in understanding and reaching out to support and inspire survivors and their loved ones. What I have come to see through her eyes and her beautiful heart, is that her fierce drive to find purpose in her life, in her case through coaching other cancer survivors, appears to be an integral if not essential part of her healing. In essence what I have learned and come to believe, is that breast cancer survivors in particular are inspired to dig down to discover their deepest hearts’ desires. To find new ways to live for themselves that have nothing to do with the needs, wants or desires of those around them, however much they love and are devoted to them. Around the time two of my friends were losing her battle with breast cancer, I heard Anita Moorjani speak of her near death experience, told in her book Dying to Be Me, that was plucked out for publication by Dr. Wayne Dyer. Her message is in alignment with what I have come to see ~ that caring for our deepest self and purpose is critical to our health and well being. My friend Cindy is a beautiful example of this. She continues to give openly and abundantly and has a heart of gold, as did my sweet friends Monica, Annie and Ginny who have passed on. Cindy experienced her disease as a wake up call. She chose to pay especially close attention to her needs and the purpose she’s learned to actualize both in her personal and professional pursuits. Through loving these women and being drawn to understanding the essential nature of disease and how it can be mitigated, I have come to see a truth about breast cancer. It is my hope and deepest prayer that through this writing a spark of awareness or recognition may result in someone altering their own path of healing breast cancer.