When Cancer Calls, Choose Love

We don’t get to decide when illness comes knocking at our door. None of us would sign up for the wild ride of cancer or any other illness if we had the choice. When cancer came knocking at my house last year, I had the opportunity to practice what I preach in my psychotherapy practice.

LOVE – PRESENCE – SURRENDER

My 6 year-old daughter and I were in San Francisco for a “girls only” night away when my husband, Eliot, called. He told me he had just found a lump on his neck. I felt my stomach drop to the floor. I immediately reminded myself that I needed to be present with my daughter and not let my fear-fueled ego run away with my mind. Eliot kept me informed as he went through his doctor’s visits and as the reactions of the people he met with assured him that something was really wrong. It was 2 weeks before he was given a diagnosis of Squamous Cell Carcinoma. The doctors didn’t know where it had originated yet, but they knew it had metastasized to a lymph node in his neck, which is the lump Eliot had felt.

We each had our own reactions to this news. He has written an article that I’m linking to here about his own experience. My reactions included terror, sadness, anger, blame, self-pity, shock, and then around again. These reactions would come in waves and I would have to remember not to get carried away by them. I kept bringing myself back to LOVE. The only reason I was having any of these reactions was because I loved Eliot so much that I was really invested in sharing my life with him. Although we had shared a life together for 15 years at the time of this diagnosis, I had hoped for more like 50. But whether we got 15 years together or 50 years together, the fact that I loved him would not change. Love was the constant that I kept returning to. I don’t get to control anything other than how much love I show this man through this journey of life.

As we walked through doctor’s visits, decision-making, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, IVs, researching, reactions from others, talking to our children, celebrating birthdays and holidays, medications, sleepless nights, and the GREAT UNKNOWN, I kept reminding myself to love him. No matter what I knew I could do that. I didn’t know what was going to happen tomorrow, but I knew I could love him today. Presence. I didn’t get to control what was happening, but I could love him. Surrender.

In some ways the day that cancer came knocking feels like it was yesterday. In other ways it feels like a lifetime ago. I could have never gained the wisdom that I gained through that journey any other way. Eliot walked through the pain and uncertainty with so much grace that it made my job of loving him even easier. We both have a greater appreciation for life that comes from never taking it for granted.
Eliot gained a renewed vision for his hypnotherapy practice as a result of his illness. He has started to work more with people who are facing illnesses and physical challenges because the techniques he used to get through the physical and mental challenges of throat cancer really helped him. His doctors have been blown-away by how fast he has recovered and by how well he has been doing. They have been asking him for insights into what helped him because they wish every one of their patients could manage the process with as many tools as Eliot had.

Please read Eliot’s article. If you know anyone who is going through an illness who could use mental tools to manage pain and uncertainty, please forward this to them. One of the ways that I love my husband is by supporting him in his work because it gives him a deep sense of purpose and joy. I love that about him.

And if you need to practice love, presence, and surrender and you’re feeling stuck, please come in for some help. There’s no time like the present.

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