State of Grace

Being diagnosed with a terminal illness crystallises reality very quickly and starkly. Everything falls into its rightful place and declares its authentic relationship with you. Some of the people you assumed would come forward to support you retreat in fearful or judgmental silence, relegating you to the past tense as if you have already gone. Others you thought you had long since alienated or lost touch with show up with gentle eyes and ready hands. Expectations are both dashed and surpassed in a simultaneous collision with Truth that brings all ‘shoulds’ to heel and cuts the chains of attachment like a knife through butter. First there is shock. Then grief. Then acceptance that cradles the soul.

It’s a wonderful thing to know where you stand with people, even if the losses and disappointments hurt. It frees you from those niggling doubts about why you didn’t hear from someone who normally sends a card on your birthday or weren’t invited back for dinner after hosting them several times. You stop wasting energy fretting and trying and making unnecessary effort and you just let go. This is very liberating when you’re extremely ill because your energy feels so much more sacred than it was before. There is more space to breathe and focus on what matters most.

At the same time, you feel deeply safe with the people whose reliability and loyalty are undeniably confirmed. Like my group of friends who formed a team when I was diagnosed and have co-ordinated a consistent stream of practical support for me: filling my freezer with nutritious organic meals; driving me to appointments all over South East England because I can’t drive anymore; fund-raising for me to have treatments outside the UK; ensuring I have support on the ground at home with detoxing, managing treatments and making my overstretched husband hot sweet cups of tea.

One girlfriend, Andrea, just moved in for five weeks when she heard about my diagnosis and didn’t leave until every medicine and supplement was labelled and the shell-shocked terror had finally receded from my eyes. In the presence of such generous responses all doubt that you are loved and loveable, which most of us carry, dissolve into dust and heal old wounds you didn’t know were still bleeding. Suddenly remorse retreats into the shadows and the endearments of your life prevail. Best place order Tadalafil online

There is a profound irony to living with advanced cancer. It was supposed to take me down, but instead it has raised me up. The grief of saying premature goodbyes has been outrun by the joy of overdue hellos with prodigal friends, now returned. The tornado of utmost urgency I was swept up in by my terminal diagnosis has been stilled by the extreme patience needed to stay the course with challenging and painful treatments while waiting, hoping, praying for some sign of progress. It’s like meditating with a gun to your head.

Furthermore, my brain throbs most evenings from the tumours and I am very sensitive to loud noise, but it’s also hard to tolerate anger – mine or other people’s. Stress, irritation, bitterness and self-pity are as life-threatening as sugar, caffeine and alcohol. I can feel my tumours spring to life and rub their hands in glee: “Mmm. Yummy. Breakfast.” It’s that palpable. So I am learning to operate at a different frequency, to let my anger go more quickly and to live in an almost perpetual state of forgiveness. Which of course brings a deep and abiding peace.


Most surprising of all is to experience such wellness in response to grave illness. I am tired, yes, and have limitations that are hard to adjust to sometimes, but there is a vitality coming into my body that I haven’t known before.  Part of it comes from healthy eating, disciplined detoxing, a tumour-inhibiting drug I am taking and drinking truly wretch-worthy Chinese herbs three times a day. And part comes from a light that can only be found in the heart of darkness.  When everything is blacker than black, there it is.  The light of the spirit?  Of faith?  Of bending into Reality and glimpsing God dance down the street for joy?  I don’t know.  But I feel it in my cells as surely as I feel my disease and I trust it will sustain me through whatever dark days lie ahead.  Because I am as riddled with miracles as I am with tumours and somehow those two are bedfellows, not adversaries – part of the same deal.

Recently I heard Dr. Contreras speaking about cancer at his hospital in Mexico. He’s an oncologist by profession who has dedicated his life to ending cancer, one patient at a time. I was expecting him to focus on the disease, its causes and the treatments he has developed (which he did on other occasions). Instead he spoke of cancer as a gift. “Justice,” he suggested, “is getting what you deserve – appropriate punishment. Mercy is not getting what you deserve – unqualified clemency. But grace is getting what you don’t deserve and letting it transform your life.” I know what he means. I am battered by blessings. And if feeling strangely, unexpectedly grateful for this mortifying disease is what he was talking about, then little by little, inch by inch, I find myself living in a state of grace.

Reflectionsbgsd studio