11 Years + Spreading AWAREness
Today is what I have come to call my RE-Birthday. September 20th. On this day, 11 years ago, I got back on a airplane to head back to my last year of university after 3 solid months of a blindsiding run in with ovarian cancer. This day symbolizes so many things for me. Rebirth. A Second Chance at Life. Perseverance. Transformation. Awakening. New Beginnings. New Perspectives. A long road to recovery and making sense of one catastrophic summer. It is a day that I always take to reflect on my life and my journey, connect with my soul, and honour the fact that I am ALIVE. And if you're reading this, you're ALIVE too. So, pause and breathe in the gratitude for all the places, spaces, events, people, and experiences who have impacted and polished all that you are today.
Today I want to share about 11 years of Awareness. Today I want to spread AWAREness. Here goes:
Ovarian cancer day was back in May. Ovarian Cancer month is September.
As some of you may have noticed, I am not a big advocate for cancer awareness. What I mean by this, is that I do not participate in fundraisers, go to cancer awareness events, or the like. This may seem peculiar given my experience with ovarian cancer at such a young age; however, let me explain: I have found that most (not necessarily all) “cancer awareness” is often coming from a place of fear, which actually creates more fear and perpetuates the problem.
For example, Medical News Today states that 1 in 2 people will develop cancer in their lifetime. Why do you think, even though so much funding goes into cancer awareness, the prevalence of cancer has been steadily on the rise? Does that awareness create expansion? Not for most folks.
So how could it be possible that cancer fear mongering actually fuels the metaphorical cancer fire, so to speak? Well, by creating a fear response in the bodymind, the nervous system goes into protection mode, aka fight or flight mode. I am sure you have heard of this in one way or another. You can feel when your body has a fear-based overreaction – you get sweaty, you hold your breath, your heart rate spikes, and you get ready to defend yourself or run away. The thing with our nervous system is that it only has two modes of operation: fight or flight (sympathetic) or rest and digest (parasympathetic). When your bodymind is triggered into fight or flight, your body is only concerned about your survival. Thus, it is inevitably unable to heal, rest, or digest as it’s simply not a priority. Thus, fear-based cancer awareness can actually encourage a fear epidemic, which puts immune systems in freeze mode, and in my opinion creating greater susceptibility to cancer. (Again, from my perspective and in my option).
Now just let that sink in for a moment. You hear someone’s horrific cancer story and think “Whoa. OMG. I hope to God that doesn’t ever happen to me. Holy shit, I’d better book a physical!”
Whoa nelly! Now, hold up just a minute.
What if instead of spreading fear-based awareness about cancer, we started spreading awareness about SELF? What if we started spreading body awareness? What if we started helping people connect within, to listen to the body’s clues, to express emotions, take care of their mental health, and to actually follow their hearts? What kind of revolution would be created then?? Breathe and reflect on that for a moment.
Now, this may sound out there. And this isn’t to say that being aware of symptoms to pay attention to your body is not helpful. This also is not to say don’t take a stand for what you believe in. However, I do believe that the way awareness is currently spread about cancer typically creates a fear response in the body when it’s pointed as “check your boobs, or you else you’ll die from cancer.”
So, how can cancer awareness actually create true awareness (expansion) rather than fear (constriction)?
The idea that comes to mind for me is: what about spreading the growth stories that have come from people that have used their wake-up call to shift their perspective and create change? What if we shifted the focus to sharing aha moments, profound realizations, and life-altering actions that people have taken, rather than adding to the fear epidemic by spreading more fear? There is enough fear in the world. What are you doing to turn your wounds into wisdom? What are you doing to express your emotions, share your truths, and break down your fears so that cancer does not have to become your reality? That is what I feel could create some real change.
As a 21-year-old cancer patient, the questions that went through my head and the understanding I craved to wrap my head around were incredibly indigestible. How could such a catastrophic health event happen to someone who was so (physically) healthy? In the almost 11-year quest that has led me deep into the depths of my soul, I have moved deep into consciousness, healing, belief systems, and beyond. Along the way, I have uncovered some pretty profound truths.
In order to portray this evolution, let me paint a picture of the young woman I was BEFORE cancer: I was a headstrong, very left-brained, athletic girl, that was determined and stubborn. I was extremely logical, rational, judgmental, and very intellectual. I was an elite athlete on an academic and athletic volleyball scholarship studying sports medicine, who juggled high grades, daily practices, home games, team roadtrips, and workouts, with a bit of a social life mixed in. I had extremely outrageous expectations for myself and was intensely self-critical. I was driven. I pushed my body to extremes, thinking “no pain, no gain.” Mind over matter, right? But I didn’t understand how poorly I was treating myself. I took care of myself in the physical realm only – eating pretty healthily and exercising almost to a fault. Speaking of faults, I focused on those a lot. I believed in what I could see – the physical and tangible. I believed emotions were weakness, so I stuffed them deep down within myself. I needed an intense wake-up call to get my attention. Boy, did the Universe deliver!
Here is what I discovered: I was so disconnected from my mental and emotional aspects of myself that I didn’t notice the red flags and the caution signs along the way. I was quite emotionally and mentally abusive to myself. My rational mind was so strong, that I regularly (if not completely) discounted my intuitive intelligence, which led to going against my truth time and time again, and instead doing what I ‘thought’ I should do. This often led to a whole whack load of guilt, along with a slew of other emotions that were perpetually stuffed back down into my body.
I uncovered that I had no idea what I actually wanted without being told what I was good at, or what I would be likely to succeed at. I never paused to ask myself “What lights me up?”
Almost 11 years after the cosmic hammer of ovarian cancer, I’m sure that 21-year-old me would not remotely recognize the 32-year-old woman I have become. For that, I will be forever grateful for the brief, but profound, awakening I received with divine timing.
Now, you will see a woman who listens to the messages from her body with connected awareness, connects with her emotions on a much more immediate basis, communicates much more openly, and devotes a lot of time to self-care, reflective journaling, meditation, and thinking outside-the-box. I am often found imagining the impossible possibilities that 21-year-old me would