Most of us have heard this quote, that we can’t know how deep out strength goes unless it is tested. It can sound pretty cliché, and I always thought so, until mine was actually tested. When cancer came knocking on the door of my life, I discovered that there is absolute truth at the core of this saying. We cannot blossom into who we were meant to be and do what we were put on this earth to do if we do not face and overcome challenges, big and small. We have no way of knowing what we are capable of and what we should push for in our lives until we are pushed ourselves.

I talk about the gifts of cancer a lot, which for me were many. I feel really lucky that this was the case for me, that I was able to approach cancer from this perspective, but I can tell you that I didn’t have this view at the beginning. I was as scared and uncertain and as angry and resentful as anyone after a terrible diagnosis. The turning point came for me when I started to address my mental and emotional health alongside my physical.

I was heavily, heavily focused on researching my physical healing after I was diagnosed, but something that I kept coming up against was the importance of addressing your mental,  emotional, and spiritual health as well in order to support your physical healing. I was never a very spiritual person, and I had a certain level of discomfort surrounding ideas of God and religion, so I definitely ignored the spiritual aspect of my healing, writing it off as “not for me”. I did, however, see the value in learning how to manage my stress more effectively and reduce it overall, so I decided to start meditating. 

That choice did more for my healing than I ever could have imagined then. 

Meditation started off pretty typically for me. I didn’t find it too difficult to sit for 5-10 minutes at a time, and I found some guided meditations on YouTube that I liked. Then, I started to sign up for meditation challenges from places like The Chopra Center and people like Gabby Bernstein. I noticed the usual things, like more immediate calm in the moment and a stronger sense of peace and groundedness for a while after a meditation. But then something else started to make its presence known.

I don’t remember the exact meditation I was listening to, but I believe it was a guided meditation for healing, and part of it involved visualizing healing light coming down to you from heaven. I immediately felt the familiar twinge of discomfort at the mention of “heaven”, but the person narrating the meditation said that you could replace “heaven” with anything that felt right to you, like the Universe. That struck a chord with me. It sat right. It felt right. And in that moment, a door opened within me that I had kept firmly shut up until then. It was a door that would eventually lead me into and guide me through realizing the depth of my strength and ability through finding my spirituality.

The opening of this door was the unexpected beginning of my spiritual awakening, as corny as that may sound to some. Through meditation, I started to feel this inexplicable connection to something bigger than myself. That one connection spidered into many, like I had removed my finger from the dam and all of this Universal wisdom came pouring through. The lessons and the gifts of cancer that I discuss so much started popping, constantly and unbidden, into my mind. I started realizing things about myself that cancer was helping me to overcome, like my people pleasing and lack of standing up for myself and my needs. I started making connections between events in my past and my current behaviours and ways of looking at my life and the world. I started connecting to and trusting my intuition, which navigated me through my healing and treatment decisions so effectively I can’t help but believe I was channeling some unseen guiding hand. I realized I didn’t feel myself worthy of love, and so I began focusing on my self-love and self-worth. This particular realization came to me through reading a book by Brené Brown, a book I never would have considered picking up in the past, but because I was developing this connection to myself and a connection to whatever higher power is out there (what I call the Universe but what you might call God or the Powers That Be), I recognized and listened to the voice that said, “Pick that book up!” I began to see how deep my strength goes and how many gifts of my own I have to share.

It was impossible, with all of these gifts and lessons and this growth that came to me, not to accept (and more than that, not to feel in my heart and soul) that there must be some sort of higher power out there that knows better than I do. And with the acceptance of that higher power, it became impossible not to also accept that cancer was the push I needed to grow into who I was meant to be. With that, I felt my anger and resentment and sadness surrounding my diagnosis dissolve, which I’m sure did more for my physical healing too than I know. 

The Universe recognized that I needed to grow and change if I was going to become the person I am today, the person who believes she has value and worth and gifts of her own to share with the world, and it also recognized that I was never going to get there on my own. It gave me a big, whopping challenge that was impossible to ignore, one that would require me to use and develop the gifts that I now adore sharing with the world, and one that would allow me to explore the depths of my strength and capability, giving me the courage and the faith to step into this new life. It sure as hell didn’t feel like it at the time, but I feel now that for me in my life, cancer has been the greatest teacher and a therefore necessary event. 

And that strength and spiritual connection have continued to serve me so very well since cancer. I wouldn’t have started Orenda if I didn’t have faith that I can do hard things, that I am worthy of love, that I have value and unique gifts to share with the world like each of us do, and that it is my responsibility to do so. Faith and strength work synergistically; faith develops our strength, and strength makes it easier to hold onto faith. Both have been incredibly helpful in supporting me through cancer and through the pursuit of my dreams, Orenda and acting, two things I wouldn’t be doing right now had the Universe not presented me with the opportunity to prove to myself the depth of my strength and the importance of following our hearts. 

A day or two after I was diagnosed, a friend offered to take me to her minister, who had been known to heal people in the past. I didn’t take her up on the offer because I didn’t believe in God and had this discomfort still surrounding spirituality. And that scared me. I remember saying to Jesse, “What if I need to believe in or have faith in God to heal? What if he is real and I won’t get better unless I believe in him?”. While I still don’t believe in the typical image of God that this title conjures up, because of my experience healing from cancer on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels, I can no longer ignore that there are bigger powers than ourselves at play in the world. So no, I don’t think you need to believe in God to get well, but instead, I think that you have to find your own way to connect to whatever it is out there that is bigger than us that feels right to YOU, be that the Universe or Mother Earth or God or something else. I may not believe that a belief in God as we see him in Christianity is required, but I do believe that a spiritual element that feels right to you is necessary for true and complete growth and healing; it’s what will allow you to tap into that strength when it is being tested; it is what will give you the faith in yourself required to keep going when things are hard and uncertain.

It takes strength to surrender to life, and having faith in something bigger than ourselves makes that possible. We can’t control or plan everything (just look at COVID), and as much as we think we do have control, ultimately we don’t (just look at cancer). We can find peace in the moments when we are able to stop struggling and fighting to know it all or to plan for everything and just go with what the Universe brings us, trusting that things are unfolding as they are meant to. 

When you are feeling like all of the uncertainties and unknowns that surround us right now are hard to accept, try to focus on the present moment and what you can do with it instead of worrying so much about what the next moment will bring. Put your energy into releasing anxiety and feeling good instead of feeding those stressful emotions. Try to be as productive as you can be and feel good about what you accomplish instead of fretting over what isn’t getting done. Trust that you will be able to look back on this time and discover your own nuggets of gained wisdom and growth and strength. Be it personal growth, a push to finally go for your dream, proving your own strength, or something else entirely, there is a reason for everything, but only if you decide to search for and nurture what that reason is for you. Faith and strength will get you there.

Happy Healing ❤️

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