The Beauty of Cancer
When I received the call asking if I would write a piece for Those London Chicks about my cancer journey, I felt honoured. Synchronicity prevailed…for I am discovering I love sharing my learnings and experience of these past 3 years, but have yet to do so in the written word. “Yes please, I would love to!” was my answer, followed by “Goodness, where do I begin? There is so much I could talk about…so much great stuff.”
As I pondered the topic of ‘my cancer journey’ I felt uncomfortable. It didn’t sit right with me. I recognise my journey as one of profound growth, of self-discovery and expansive insight to aspects of myself I never knew I had or indeed existed – it has so little to do with the word ‘cancer’. I tried thinking of that word, but another word kept popping up instead: beauty.
My diagnosis of a life-threatening illness made me STOP. Dead in my tracks. For a part of me did die that day….a part of me however, that I have not missed in the slightest. For as the dust settled, and I raised my eyes again, I saw the world in a new light. All of a sudden I could see beauty in everything.
The ‘degree of beauty’ fluctuated, depending on the day, but it was always there, in some form, even at my lowest moments. I saw the beauty in my friends and family, silently moving around me, supporting me. I saw beauty in the care and excellence of my medical team. I saw beauty in the synchronicities, the way everything just fell into place for me. In time, and despite making me feel so rough, I even saw it in the red toxic chemicals being pumped into my body. It wasn’t all fun, not by a long shot, but there was an ‘other-worldliness’ about the traumatic experiences I was having.
I have considered that there was probably a factor of denial at play: “if I focus on the nice things, I can pretend that this is not happening to me”, but I’m not sure. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, is it not? And the eyes are a reflection of our souls. To sense or feel beauty, there must be an element of acceptance and recognition as it touches us somewhere inside.
What I found, and could not at the time explain to anyone for it seemed so ridiculous, was that despite the ‘destruction’ of my body – for let’s face it, mid-way through mastectomies, hair-less through chemo, and generally pasty and ‘broken’ physically is not a great look – I had never felt so beautiful. I didn’t question why I was feeling this way, because I was enjoying it so much. I dressed in brighter colours, enjoyed choosing my head-scarves, walked taller. I was finding pleasure in my body under the most unusual and surreal of circumstances. I suppose I gave myself permission to feel beautiful for the first time in my life – at last I had become worth it.
The feeling of beauty around me was so freeing, didn’t involve judgement or a need to do anything. It softened my edges, both calmed and energised me, gave me confidence, and created a feed-back system of what I liked, directing me towards more of what made me feel good, and importantly, what made me feel well.
Integrating back in to the world has been bumpy. There was a lot of safety in my little haven of stillness and self-discovery. Stepping out and being the new me is scary. For a while things became darker, less beautiful. But as the months have passed and I have moved from the physical healing to the emotional healing and out the other side, my sense of beauty as a ‘view of the world’ has changed with me. It has become wider, more encompassing of others and more compassionate of myself. There is no right or wrong within beauty, no judgement or control – and this allows me, when I need to remember and catch myself, to look for the beauty in everyone and everything. For the wonder of beauty is that beauty makes us wonder.