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The Dark Slime of Loneliness: Grateful After Breast Cancer

I am convinced that we stretch the band with of our feelings in both directions when we experience hardship.
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I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2015. I share the learning that jolted me back on track to a new life. This is my sixth posting.

When I started to keep a notebook of my cancer experience, I was determined to be honest. How else could I learn? But it was hard to write this chapter.

Loneliness is painful and even during cancer it has a touch of shame. But I felt lonely. At times, it was overwhelming. The feeling of loneliness crept into my consciousness. To me, it was dark and heavy, kind of like slime.

I was not afraid to die. I knew all along that I would get well. My form of cancer was slow and not aggressive. I pictured my cancer like a lazy, fat cat.

I learned from my coach Osiris that when I feel lonely, it is only a part of me who feels this. We all have a small child inside. I had a little girl who craved nurturing attention. Not getting that, I quickly took on the role of the martyr. This happened, over and over again.

My martyr had many roles to choose from; I have cancer, I am single, and I am alone in Stockholm... I knew intellectually that this was not who I really was, but I still let the little martyr girl come forward.

When she arrived, it was almost nice. I felt at home in the misery. But she always left in the end. I have read somewhere that most feelings only last a maximum of three minutes, but feelings must be recognized in order to dissolve. But all minutes do not have the same length.

I asked Osiris to help the needy martyr inside and he advised me to embrace the feeling with my presence. "Imagine that you get so big around this feeling that it is absorbed inside of you. Then you feel connected. That is self-healing."

It helped, but I still longed for a hand to hold at night, to be cared for. Instead I learned that I could always count on me and that the sun will shine again.

These summer weeks were my "in-between-weeks." I waited for the radiation therapy to start. My energy level was lower than normal, yet I did not feel sick.

I was busy taking care of irritating side effects of the operations, gaining strength from yoga practice and acupuncture. It was a full time job to get well. It was not a time to run away. I was learning to embrace whatever came along.

Stretching the Band-With

I believe that we have a huge capacity for being happy. There is a happiness that goes beyond smiling and feeling content. I am talking about the exhilarating, bubbling wave of happiness that all of a sudden is present and lifts you up to fly high.

On my second day of radiation, that was the feeling I woke up to.

I had been worried yet eager to start the next step of cancer treatment which was 16 days of radiation at Södersjukhuset in Stockholm. I silently cried in the waiting room getting ready for my first treatment. I felt so very sorry for myself; for having cancer; for having to spend the next three weeks going to the hospital every day.

I was very tired after the first radiation. It was a Friday and I spent most of the weekend reading and resting. But on Monday morning everything fell into place. The sun was shining and I started the day with yoga, followed by meditation and breakfast. This morning was just beautiful.

Osiris had asked me to write a daily 'Wellness Journal' to capture my physical and emotional state during my healing period. On this particular morning my physical activity level was 11 on a scale from 1-10. I so relieved to have started the next step. I now knew what it felt like to get radiation; I knew how to drive to the hospital, how to check in, and how long it took. The removal of my worry had thrown me into a wave of happiness. I had passed a hurdle. I could do this.

I am convinced that we stretch the band with of our feelings in both directions when we experience hardship. Imagine it like a rubber band that gets longer because it is pulled tautly in one direction. When the pull is hard, unexpected and difficult, it does not jump back into the same length as before. It is stretched and we can experience a higher level of happiness.

This logic would of course imply that we would feel more pain the more happiness we experience. But luckily, I do not believe in logic. I believe in magic.

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