This time a year ago I was counting my ‘lasts’ – my last Christmas, my last winter, my last days with my daughter and nights with my husband, my last everything.
There were so many things I thought I would never do again. Like driving a car, riding a horse, walking up a hillside, seeing the Spring flowers, earning a living, even sleeping peacefully through an entire night and experiencing a day pain free.
While I channelled the full force of my will into staying alive, I was simultaneously swept down a stream of seemingly relentless surrender in which one letting go flowed from the last letting go into the next letting go until the only letting go left to me was my desire to hold on.
One of the things I found hardest to let go of was my work with the More To Life programme, in which I had been leading life-changing courses for over fifteen years. I first experienced it when I was an insecure, struggling twenty-five year old searching for ‘answers’ and it completely knocked the tops off my carrots. I have never been the same carrot since.
What I learnt that weekend became the foundation of my life’s work for the next twenty five years, up to and including my approach to having cancer. It was what I called on to pull some power from my powerlessness and to remember that it is darkest just before the dawn.
On the day the ‘incurable’ nature of my cancer was confirmed I recall driving straight to a friend who knew how to do this work with me. Another friend had come to my appointment and we got stuck at the barrier trying to exit the NCP car park because I had taken too much time crying after I paid for the ticket. While other cars lined up behind us and my friend went to find help, I sat in a pool of helplessness believing I was trapped, that my situation was inescapable and the road ahead was permanently closed.
All I knew to do was get to my friend’s house to do the work that turned my life around a quarter of a century ago. It was a pivotal decision. Three hours and a lot of snot later my terror had retreated like a surrendering army and the cloak of despair had fallen like thick velvet from my shoulders into a crumpled heap on the floor. I was still deeply shaken. I was still coming to terms with my new reality. I was still grief-stricken about what was happening. But I could see the first shaft of light brush against the darkness. I could see a whetting blade of possibility on the stone of my uncertainty and a thin wisp of hope seeking ratification. I could see the mist lifting ever so slowly and the road begin to open once more.
I left her house steady that day. Head high, not bowed. Heart open, not broken. Eyes ahead, not behind. I didn’t know what I was going to do or how I was going to find my way through the perilous maze I now found myself in. But I had resurrected Sophie enough to face my diagnosis head on. I had remembered how deeply I trusted life and whatever hand it dealt me. And I had opened up to life again, saying, ‘Yes, I will trust this. Even this I will trust.’
Just over a year later I am about to train the More To Life weekend for the first time in eighteen months. I am being partnered by a bold, wise, feisty and tender Texan called Peggy Jarrett who is flying in from the States to stand alongside me so I can do what I love without taxing my body beyond its limits. I thought I would never do it again. Yet here I am. Here we are. About to pass on to others what has unleashed my creativity and sustained my spirit since the day I was diagnosed. Who knew? Who knew indeed!
Some people who’ve read my book, but don’t have cancer, have been asking where they can learn about the work I do. Well this is where. It is not a weekend for the very ill. The hours are long and the content intense (which is why I am devising others ways to teach this material to cancer patients). But if your body is robust and you are up for one of the most transformative experiences of your life, I invite you to check it out.
I just got home from a detox retreat in Somerset where I found Barbara, one of my early friends from the MTL programme, working on the staff. We hadn’t seen each other for nearly ten years. It reminded me of more halcyon days when I was troubled by the size of my waistline and bank account rather than the scale of my loss and weight of my legacy if I die. It also reminded me where I have come from and just how far I have come.
I awake now to a life imbued not just with the things I thought I would never do again, but the things I thought I would never do in the first place. Like learning to cook sugar free sweets for my sugar addicted daughter (having hated cooking all my life). And enjoying it. Posting regularly on Facebook (to which I was previously allergic) like a personal journal. Doing juicing fasts and coffee enemas (“café derrière” as my husband calls them!) that make me feel fantastic. Admitting the latter on a now widely read blog and not caring two hoots. Making video tutorials for an online course after years of being a camera shy technophobe. Forming deep friendships with people I didn’t get on with before and letting go of friendships I thought would last forever. Celebrating new wrinkles. Blogging. Writing books (yes, a second is in the offing). And fessing up in public to what I’ve really been up to all these years.
Haha! There really is more peeps. More to life than you can possibly fathom. Even when you’re told your life is nearly over and your days on earth are almost done.