When faced with a challenge, and sometimes that challenge is cancer, we each dig deep into our inner resources for help with this unexpected event, and hopefully, open ourselves to the wisdom of others who have walked the same road. As I was working my way through breast cancer I came across this quote from Eckhart Toole, “Some changes look negative on the surface, but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.” This brought to mind the phrase ‘look beneath the surface’ which became my mantra.
I slowly began to realize that just as we know there is a lot going on under the ground we walk on, or the ocean we swim in, beneath the surface of our tough experiences there are gifts to be discovered. Once I realized the richness of what was happening to me beneath the surface, I thanked my Higher Power and followed my instinct to explore this further. This created a heightened awareness of the treasure this quiet time apart from my usual activities was offering me.
Here is some of what I discovered beneath the surface of cancer. One of the most valuable gifts I received was the gift of getting to know myself more deeply, clarifying my priorities, and changing some personal choices. A part of myself I did not know had gently invited me to come closer for a deeper befriending of myself, encouraging me to let go of the negative attitude of unworthiness and transform how I see myself. This meant honoring my limits and letting go of an activity that was meaningful for five years to refocus my energy in a different direction.
Other gifts took the form of new empathy for anyone who has lost a body part, dealt with skin grafts, or needed multiple surgeries (I had six surgeries in ten months). At a deeper level, I experienced the value of a tender touch, which can often say more than words. Hugs are serotonin boosters and powerful healers. Another discovery was the miracle that happens when we let go of someone we love who needs to make their own way, mistakes and all, by themselves. From my husband’s help and patience I received the gift of more love than I thought possible, which strengthened our bond because we no longer take life for granted, but instead savor every precious moment. And, beneath the surface of cancer, I found the beauty of support groups who understand, as only one who experiences it can.
Challenging as my journey has been, after all the tears were cried (and there were a lot of tears including an uncontrollable bout in Publix), and the losses acknowledged, for me, looking below the surface and seeing so many gifts has more than balanced the scale. Susan Vreeland sums this up well with this quote, “No matter where life takes you….the place where you stand at any moment is holy ground. Love hard and love wide and love long, and you will find the goodness in it.”