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  • Clare Reed CBT Therapist

How To Be More Loving of Yourself with Cancer

How to be more loving of yourself
How to be more loving of yourself

Self-Love is Crucial When You Have Cancer

I remember when I heard the words ‘you have Cancer’ like it was yesterday. Being in my consultant’s warm little office, his kindly eyes looking at me with pity, trying fast to read my emotional reaction. Time stood still for a few seconds where I felt like I was eavesdropping on someone else’s life and listening to their diagnosis - not mine. When I came back to reality, I was filled with horror, and an urgency to deal with the problem took precedent. I wanted the disgusting cancer tumour out, disappeared, gone. I felt invaded and taken over by this dreadful thing. And so, within two weeks, it was cut out of me, along with all my lymph nodes on the right armpit, I heard the surgeon say, "You have no more cancer," in my stupor of grogginess after the operation.

I chose the wrong reaction that day. And encourage you to read on about how you can choose a better path.

I believe in things happening for a reason. I was 42 and had worked so hard over ten years, since establishing my Cognitive Behavioural Therapy practice. I worked crazy hours not getting home until 9.30pm every weekday night. I didn’t eat dinner with my partner, apart from weekends. For ten years I put my practice first and my clients. I became selfless, instead of ‘self-ish’ (I am coming back to this word asap). I enjoyed every relentless minute of it though.

Then one day I woke up with an enlarged swollen gland under my right ear. I thought nothing of it and set about my day. Then a couple of hours later I noticed my ear was bright red. I took myself off to the doctor to show her this curiosity. She took one look at it, and said I had to jump in a taxi and take myself to A&E, as there wasn’t time to call an ambulance! What the… I was diagnosed with Cellulitis and admitted within 5 minutes of arriving at A&E. Placed on a drip of antibiotics for 5 days, it was touch and go whether it would spread to my brain and give me brain damage. Fortunately, I recovered.

What lessons did I learn? Not many. I was soon back in my office working the same hours as before. Even though I knew my immune system had been faltering for a couple of years. For the prior three years I had relentlessly caught colds and coughs off my clients, until I finally started to turn them away at the office door if they looked ill, much to their disappointment. But this Cellulitis episode should have been a wake-up call. It wasn’t.

Six months later I started to get pains in my right breast that coincided with the heating breaking and a freezing house, I blamed the pains on the cold. 2 months later and the pain was still there but I was finding it hard to hug my partner on the right side. I took myself off to a private clinic for an ultrasound and mammogram, the consultant couldn’t find a thing and he asked me to come back in 6 months. Then it was summer and magically the pain went away. Only for it to return in the autumn, fortunately coinciding with the follow up appointment. This time it was finally diagnosed as stage 3 Triple Negative Breast Cancer.

Looking back, I can see clearly what went wrong. I was not loving myself enough. I wasn’t respecting my body enough. I certainly wasn’t nourishing it enough for ten years. I had been running on adrenaline and sabotaging my health one year at a time. My body called time out on this treason, and I still didn’t listen. And it came back to me with a stronger message - Cancer. And I started to listen.

Be a bit more self-ish
Be a bit more self-ish

I have importantly decided to prioritise me over anyone on Earth. Instead of putting me behind my partners needs and my clients need. I choose me first. This is the correct balance for all of us. To be more ‘self-ish’ is to prioritise your self more, there is an ‘ish’ at the end of selfish for a reason, as in ‘moreish’, a little bit more about you. I dislike the way this word has suffered abuse in our language. It’s easy to throw out a barbed comment like ‘you are so selfish’ when we feel a person isn’t acting in our best interests and instead are acting in their own. But the blame game is really our attempt to turn that person into a selfless person for our own needs, instead of a selfish person. So, I am taking back control of the word selfish and treating it with the purpose it was created for.

Treating yourself as a priority can take many forms of self-love. Let’s start with loving your Cancer cells. Speaking to them with love and compassion instead of hate and disgust is so important. Every cell is a part of you. Every cell is there because of you. Maybe you know what led to your diagnosis, maybe you are mystified, maybe it’s genetic, maybe it is always going to be unknown. Whatever the reason, now is the time to show yourself some compassion and speak to your cancer cells with love, as they are sending a big message that you need to hear. Thank them for coming and bringing to your attention whatever you have been doing poorly in your life, even though you may not know what triggered it I bet you have identified a few weak spots. That could be a depleted immune system, poor diet, stress, depression, toxic relationships, too much work, drugs, alcohol, lack of spirituality, no balance, no sleep etc. Now is the time to remedy your life. To take charge and bring your body back into harmony and balance with itself, to be more ‘self-ish’.

This way your body will return the favour you are doing it. You will be more assertive of your needs and desires, boosting your confidence in turn. Your lifestyle improvements will pay off for you. Correcting balance will refresh you. Indeed, think of cancer as a fresh start not something to put behind you but a starting point for the new ‘self-ish’ you. Life can begin because of Cancer if you choose to show it compassion and love.

I am loving the new me and feel ever so grateful that I had Cancer and the important lesson it gave me. It changed my life for the better. I broadened my practice into CBT for Cancer and more importantly I gave up working evenings and only see my clients during the day. I have a balanced day, more energy, more cooking lovely nutritious meals with my partner, and more fun! What’s not to love about this very empowering lesson.

If you feel out of balance and not prioritised let me help you to achieve the right balance and thrive. Book in a free pre-therapy call to discuss your needs and what you would like to see change.

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