Loving the Dark Side
“I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope.
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing: there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”
One morning six years ago, I woke up with soreness under in my right armpit and discovered a lump. Brushing away the uneasiness in the bottom of my stomach, I dialed my gynecologist. “Please God…” I prayed, “Anything but that.” “That” meaning: cancer.
Well, it did turn out to be “that.” As the surgical oncologist calmly told me the news, I was immediately sucked from his bright, spare office to a dark and chaotic place. I wondered, “What kind of hell is this where a 43-year old mother of two young children wakes up one morning to discover that she is on the verge of a Stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis? “
Then I began to arm myself for the “battle.” Dutifully, I marched toward the standard protocol. Then, I began to have my doubts. The idea of a “fight” against cancer just didn’t resonate with me. I felt there was a fundamental gap in the way I was viewing my cancer. Questions and statements meant to help me solve the mystery: “Does cancer run in your family?” Or, “You should try eating organics…” only perplexed me. 1 in 8 U.S. women are diagnosed with breast cancer. There is an assumption that breast cancer runs in the family. Well, I had no family history to validate that theory. Additionally, less than 10% of diagnosed breast cancer patients have a genetic link. Eating organic foods and exercising regularly will help you avoid cancer. Did that, so now what? Breastfeeding is a sure fire way to reduce the chance of breast cancer. I breast fed two babies for longer than I may have cared and look where I landed!
In my confusion, I went searching for answers. I scoured the Internet, the books in the cancer research hospital library, and talked to other friends and patients. One day, I stumbled across a theory that stopped me in my tracks: metaphysical causes of disease. It started with a thin pink book by Louise A Hay, Heal Your Body: The Mental Causes for Physical Illness and the Metaphysical Way to Overcome Them. The general posit is that negative emotion is the cause of disease. In my case with breast cancer in my right breast, I was dealing with deep hurt and secret grief and I was feeling incredibly afraid and vulnerable. Intuitively, I knew that this was the information that I was missing. While I went through the allopathic treatment of chemotherapy, surgery to remove my breast and all my lymph nodes, followed by radiation, I realized that I needed to heal on the inside if I was going stay healthy. And so, I began my journey to the dark side.
The dark side is in all of us. Many of are not aware or would care to admit this. We go about our day masquerading as somewhat functional people in a society that tends to dream and shape our world based on outward visions of perfectionism. I realized that I was masquerading, living a false self in it’s fullest glory to hide the deep shame inside of me that I was not worthy of even taking a breath of air.
And as I struggled to take up as little space as possible in this big world, cancer was my messenger. Cancer brought me in front of God’s glory and helped me to face this dark side of myself. Cancer saved my life. Cancer motivated me to drop the façade, to go deep within myself to find the hurt and pain, to face the hurt with God’s unconditional love for my very existence, I was able to began embracing my shadows and finding courage with God’s help, to step into being my true self.
And, just like in T.S. Elliot’s poem, I went within myself to the darkest of places. And I did nothing. Not at first. At first, I wanted to change it all. Then I realized that I needed to just be with it, the darkness. Do nothing other than just be in it. This is an exercise in acceptance. This can be very scary and difficult. If it were easy, we all would be wearing the t-shirt. I just sat with it, the darkness. I didn’t fight it. Zero resistance. And, I wept.Then in the instant that I sat empty, a void, without struggle, the spirit of God brought in the light and I experienced the miracle. I realized how profoundly worthy I am of unconditional love.
We can make cancer the enemy. We can “fight” cancer; we can try to annihilate it. Yet, I believe the truth is that we are just killing the messenger. The messenger is here to tell us about the real enemy. Actually, it’s not really an enemy at all. It’s just negative emotions hiding deep inside of us in the dark: the hurt, the grief, and the fear. It takes courage to be able to journey to this place and see and accept these things that we judge as less than unacceptable about our selves. And when we go there and embrace this darkness within us, we can begin to heal. We can do the chemo, the surgery, the radiation and all the walks and pink fund-raisers in the world. (And, please do if that brings you hope and joy.) But also know that: we need to love ourselves, unconditionally, if we are going to be able to heal in the long run. Cancer is the messenger to shine your inner light.