Compassion and Cancer

My year long breast cancer journey has taught me so many lessons, but one of the most important lessons I have gained is one in compassion.  When you are facing the fear of your own death, it is easy to become angry, depressed, closed off from your own feelings and from those that love you.  I have had to reach deep and find compassion for myself and my journey.  My friend and Kingston's Candy Co. landlord advised me early on "to be gentle with myself".  That advice has really served me well and I have drawn on it in moments of fear and desperation.

The definition of compassion is a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.  Having gone through a total double mastectomy, two breast reconstruction surgeries, three months of agonizing chemotherapy treatments, countless bad reactions to medicines, and a year of roller coaster emotions, developing compassion for myself was a priority.  Cancer has given me a strong sense of wanting to provide women with cancer that same compassion and hope I had to learn for myself.  There are countless men and women right now facing the same battle and they need my compassion and yours.

It is not always easy to be compassionate.  I think it will be a life long pursuit for me.  The recent elections touched off strong emotions and I am not the only one in the country that felt a deep sense of loss and fear.  I have had to change the way I look at the election, the country, and the people in it, just as I had to change the way I looked at my body, my identity and my sense of loss from cancer.  I am human, just like you, and I am not perfect, but with or without cancer we all need to develop our sense of compassion toward those around us, especially those that we do not understand or feel the least compassionate towards.  There is no such thing as too much compassion.

I spent a morning recently at The Lavender Inn here in Ojai, with eight brave women who all have cancer and were attending the INNcourage cancer retreat.  The women were all so brave and loving toward me, I felt so much compassion for each of their stories and so grateful to be welcomed into their group.  I brought each one of them a Survival Satchel and I was nervous, because they were the first group of women to receive them.  It felt a little like Christmas as the women pulled items out of the satchels and I explained who had made or donated the item. These women are all fighting for their lives, but they had compassion for my journey and they were so grateful for all the gifts they were being given.  I left them with a big smile on my face, so grateful to everyone that had donated to Survival Satchels and feeling energized with the goal to do it all again in February at the next INNcourage cancer retreat.  

Compassion is so necessary right now, so I encourage you to first practice compassion with yourself.  You deserve it, then expand your compassion outwards to those you know and love, then reach just a little deeper and expand your compassion to those you don't know.  Just imagine what kind of world we could have if compassion was practiced in small ways every single day.

Stay tuned for my next Blog:  Setting Boundaries...