When the Going Gets Tough, Practice

by Milissa on June 19, 2011

in Health,Mindfulness,Nutrition

For years I’ve encouraged my students, family members and friends to do yoga and practice mindfulness meditation, eat a whole grain diet, enjoy nature, and receive regular bodywork and chiropractic care so that they don’t get sick. But during the past month, in facing a major health crisis with my husband, I have to expand that to say: I recommend making these healthy practices integral to your lifestyle now in case you do get gravely ill someday! Or, even worse, you find out a loved one has become ill—which is what I am facing with my husband’s recent cancer diagnosis.

Mindfulness practice has helped me navigate this huge shock, but I’m not going to tell you that I’m all “yogier-than-thou,” as one of my mentors calls it. This experience has shaken me to my core. It has me reeling. A cancer diagnosis completely sucks! That is absolutely the nicest thing I can say about it. You never want this to happen to you, or anyone in your inner circle, or even an acquaintance. But, it might, and, I’m-sorry-to-say, most likely will happen to someone close to you.

When we slipped into the surreal world of CT scans, PETS and biopsies—then got upgraded to free parking at the hospital, because my clean-living, sweet-as-hell husband is a “cancer patient”—I asked myself, Why us? But when I heard that 1 in 3 people in the US will get cancer, I quickly switched to, Why NOT us?

The medical community doesn’t know why cancer takes root in some people—and not others—though we all have cancer cells in our bodies. After my original indignation about the diagnosis—no way, we’ve eaten organic for almost 20 years, he’s young, not a drinker, smoker, overweight—it was a relief to humbly accept that my spouse has cancer. So many people are navigating diagnosis and treatment of this disease. It is something that is part of our times, a part of life.

To paraphrase the Buddha, we are born, we get sick, we die. The good news, for us, is that oral cancer is curable. The bad news is the treatment is tough—debilitating and extremely painful. I’m breathing through my fears of watching my beloved suffer. Yes, I have lots of tools to support and comfort him, and myself. My husband too, has lots going for him healthwise: including being very in tune with his body-mind, knowing a lot about nutrition, herbs and self care. And, no doubt, love is a powerful medicine. But have I been able to serenely breathe through the waiting room hours, the weekend and holiday delays, and all the curve balls the Universe threw at us before we got the prognosis?

Ha ha, right.

When all this came down, did I freak out? Daily. Did I crash and burn? Uh huh. Did I get pissed off and throw tantrums? Absolutely!

But, luckily, since I’ve practiced mindfully putting one foot in front of the other for many years, I’m confident that I will walk this path with tenderheartedness and compassion too. At the very least, I will keep practicing being present with what is. And being kind to myself in the process.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jodi Hiland June 19, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Milissa – First, I’m so sorry for what you have both been through! I can’t imagine what a nightmare this has been. I’ve been going through far lesser difficult times lately, and your message is… well, words fail me… Just – thank you. Sending healing energy to you and your husband.


Sage June 20, 2011 at 6:22 am

You are an inspiration of authenticity, my sweet friend!!! : )


nikki June 20, 2011 at 7:47 am

This piece of writing is wonderful, honest, and healing in itself Milissa. Thank you so much for this. i will be re-reading many times and sharing with others.


Jess June 20, 2011 at 8:55 am

Dear Milissa,
Thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts. I didn’t realize it was 1 in 3. wow. Lately I too have been feeling that most people will get cancer at some point. It has certainly been true in my family. Love, light and blessings to you and your husband.


Elizabeth June 20, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Thank you for sharing your gorgeous, honest, humble-as-all-get-out insights, dearest friend. Inspiring as always. XOE


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