How getting diagnosed with cancer let me be myself and practice gratitude.
I’m human. There are times when I have a lot of traumas going on. My mother just had a heart attack, my husband has severe Alzheimer’s, and I’ve been living with cancer for nine years. So how is it that I find myself in a place of peace? And not only peace, but gratitude and joy. How is that possible? So I spent some time trying to figure it out. This is what I came to.
First of all, life just happens.
Life happens. Lemons are lemons. Cancer, losing a job, the works. There’s always something imperfect— something that makes you think you’ve done something wrong or you aren’t doing enough. Before I got cancer, I was constantly trying to improve. And I didn’t spend a lot of time recognizing why. Why am I doing this? And I think why we try to improve is because we think that we aren’t accepted as simply who we are.
When cancer knocked on my door, didn’t wait for me to answer, and put it’s feet up in my living room, I realized that I needed to focus on my physical body and my emotional body. I couldn’t care about other people seeing me a certain way. Somewhere along the way in the ebbs and flows of crisis, I learned the value of being Lindsay. I learned which traits are natural to me. More importantly, I am not any of the things that I have to deal with—cancer, Alzheimer’s, and everything else. I’m just me.
What is radical acceptance?
Radical acceptance is what I felt when I stopped striving out of ego. When I began to sit with the reality that I have cancer and that it isn’t going away. When I began to be who I truly am instead of trying to please others.
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is recognizing the joys that I have in my life. Even the microjoys, like how good my cup of tea tastes in the morning. When things are bad, I’m able to find something that gives me joy. That’s a gift to me. I don’t know where it came from, but I know I feel it. In my last blog, I talked about sacred spaces. This place of gratitude is a sacred space. It’s a state of peaceful mind.
Finally, being who you are is pretty cool.
I also learned that it was okay to love yourself. I think the switch flipped when I got cancer. The world shifted. All of the sudden, I saw the world as a whole. In a health crisis, it would seem that it should’ve been just about me. But as I sat in those doctors’ offices, I looked at everybody else that was going through something similar. I looked at their caregivers and how much they wanted to help. And my oncologist who treated me as a human, not a diagnosis. Something in me calmed. The cancer said it’s okay to take a break from the striving—something I’ve had my whole life. Because I knew that continuing out of ego would not have a good outcome. When you’re dealing with cancer, ego doesn’t have anywhere to hang around. And when you remove ego from your actions, you’re left with just you. Your authentic you. And when I was in that place, I had a chance to heal and take myself on this journey gently. Gentleness started to pervade everything else about me. I saw the world differently: it was not a competition. It was a place to be myself, to carry myself in my heart, and to look at the world from a place of peace.