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State of Grace

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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.

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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 http://www.bantuhealth.org/tadalafil-buy/.


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.


State of Grace 2

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.

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Comments(28)

  • Steb Fisher
    1st Apr 2015, 9:39 pm  Reply

    Sending much love to you, Sophie, though tears – happy ones – and marvelling at your grace.
    From far away down under
    Steb x

  • Steb Fisher
    1st Apr 2015, 9:39 pm  Reply

    Sending much love to you, Sophie, though tears – happy ones – and marvelling at your grace.
    From far away down under
    Steb x

  • 28th Mar 2015, 11:36 am  Reply

    I wrote this before I was diagnosed whilst sitting in the wild meadow within a local churchyard, it maybe says something different too me now. A priest friend who was in Southern Sudan when he heard of my illness, invited me to become “a blessing to everyone you meet”. So I try and incalculable blessings have come my way in return…

    Grace

    amongst the gravestones
    she came out to play
    through grasses gently stirring
    birdsong and tree sway sounding
    only the silent watcher sitting
    saw her pass
    delicate upon the green and lush
    flowers wild in her eyes
    and breeze upon her lips
    stepping so lightly
    through the veil

    always she keeps her tryst
    if you but rest awhile
    and gently wait

  • 28th Mar 2015, 11:36 am  Reply

    I wrote this before I was diagnosed whilst sitting in the wild meadow within a local churchyard, it maybe says something different too me now. A priest friend who was in Southern Sudan when he heard of my illness, invited me to become “a blessing to everyone you meet”. So I try and incalculable blessings have come my way in return…

    Grace

    amongst the gravestones
    she came out to play
    through grasses gently stirring
    birdsong and tree sway sounding
    only the silent watcher sitting
    saw her pass
    delicate upon the green and lush
    flowers wild in her eyes
    and breeze upon her lips
    stepping so lightly
    through the veil

    always she keeps her tryst
    if you but rest awhile
    and gently wait

  • burleigh59
    26th Feb 2015, 10:48 pm  Reply

    Sophie, your courage is inspiring and warrants sheer admiration All your posts are written with such eloquence. I feel privileged to share your remarkable journey.

  • burleigh59
    26th Feb 2015, 10:48 pm  Reply

    Sophie, your courage is inspiring and warrants sheer admiration All your posts are written with such eloquence. I feel privileged to share your remarkable journey.

  • Ann McMaster
    19th Feb 2015, 12:10 pm  Reply

    I can and have read and re-read your posts. This is what you were born to do, part of your journey to wellness, teaching us all about wellness … about living in the freedom that grace brings.

  • Ann McMaster
    19th Feb 2015, 12:10 pm  Reply

    I can and have read and re-read your posts. This is what you were born to do, part of your journey to wellness, teaching us all about wellness … about living in the freedom that grace brings.

  • Susan
    17th Feb 2015, 4:52 pm  Reply

    You changed my life, in one weekend, by helping me acknowledge what I’d got that I didn’t deserve, and how to use it to transform my life. Since then, I have been living in an ever greater state of grace, eyes and heart wide open to life’s myriad opportunities, which I seize with joy and curiosity, every day…. Reading these blogs lifts me to another level of understanding and gratitude; you are a remarkable woman, mother, wife and friend, Sophie. I am blessed to know you. With huge love and eternal thanks, S x

  • Susan
    17th Feb 2015, 4:52 pm  Reply

    You changed my life, in one weekend, by helping me acknowledge what I’d got that I didn’t deserve, and how to use it to transform my life. Since then, I have been living in an ever greater state of grace, eyes and heart wide open to life’s myriad opportunities, which I seize with joy and curiosity, every day…. Reading these blogs lifts me to another level of understanding and gratitude; you are a remarkable woman, mother, wife and friend, Sophie. I am blessed to know you. With huge love and eternal thanks, S x

  • 15th Feb 2015, 6:28 pm  Reply

    Sophie, I have just read through all your blogs to date and I feel overwhelmed by your courage and beautiful spirit. It is truly inspiring hearing you transform and grow despite such a devastating diagnosis. There is no doubt that you are an incredibly gifted writer and I am so grateful to you for sharing this experience with so many of us for it’s transformative and positive messages. We have never met but I feel full of love for you and your family and send you a hug through the ether! Sophia

  • 15th Feb 2015, 6:28 pm  Reply

    Sophie, I have just read through all your blogs to date and I feel overwhelmed by your courage and beautiful spirit. It is truly inspiring hearing you transform and grow despite such a devastating diagnosis. There is no doubt that you are an incredibly gifted writer and I am so grateful to you for sharing this experience with so many of us for it’s transformative and positive messages. We have never met but I feel full of love for you and your family and send you a hug through the ether! Sophia

  • david c
    13th Feb 2015, 12:54 pm  Reply

    Sophie thank you for the courage and transparency in your sharing. I have just read all your words and sit here so deeply moved with many tears in a recognition of our humanity and the gifts and struggles that we walk with.
    May grace be your companion and your joy.
    With much love,
    David

  • david c
    13th Feb 2015, 12:54 pm  Reply

    Sophie thank you for the courage and transparency in your sharing. I have just read all your words and sit here so deeply moved with many tears in a recognition of our humanity and the gifts and struggles that we walk with.
    May grace be your companion and your joy.
    With much love,
    David

  • 7th Feb 2015, 5:59 pm  Reply

    Sophie, you write so beautifully – as always you are pure inspiration. I am grateful for the things you share, grateful for the insights you give and grateful for feeling not only close to you but also much closer again to my Dad. I will practice forgiveness….. more and more….. I wished I could be in London….. Love Anja

  • 7th Feb 2015, 5:59 pm  Reply

    Sophie, you write so beautifully – as always you are pure inspiration. I am grateful for the things you share, grateful for the insights you give and grateful for feeling not only close to you but also much closer again to my Dad. I will practice forgiveness….. more and more….. I wished I could be in London….. Love Anja

  • Olivia Clarke
    7th Feb 2015, 9:26 am  Reply

    You were born to write and serve. Cancer, I think, is part of your Dharma …..the way you can serve humanity, shining the light with your brilliance and humour, compassion, tenderness and startling joy. You are like a rose blooming in sunlight, serving awakening through the experience of cancer. I find your writings the very opposite of depressing; radical, fresh, revolutionary and inspiring. Poison can be turned into medicine and adversity met with courage. Write on and be the trailblazer that you are! The world needs you and your insightful, Wisdom Sophia musings!

  • Olivia Clarke
    7th Feb 2015, 9:26 am  Reply

    You were born to write and serve. Cancer, I think, is part of your Dharma ..the way you can serve humanity, shining the light with your brilliance and humour, compassion, tenderness and startling joy. You are like a rose blooming in sunlight, serving awakening through the experience of cancer. I find your writings the very opposite of depressing; radical, fresh, revolutionary and inspiring. Poison can be turned into medicine and adversity met with courage. Write on and be the trailblazer that you are! The world needs you and your insightful, Wisdom Sophia musings!

  • JillyM
    5th Feb 2015, 9:12 pm  Reply

    This is really helping me to understand what my friend went through Sophie. Thank you for sharing, your candour and beautiful prose.

  • JillyM
    5th Feb 2015, 9:12 pm  Reply

    This is really helping me to understand what my friend went through Sophie. Thank you for sharing, your candour and beautiful prose.

  • Miho
    5th Feb 2015, 7:45 pm  Reply

    Sophie dear, I have whizzed through all your posts and am in awe of your courage, life force and a sense of humour. You are an inspiration to us all. Keep writing/shining and share your experiences. Love, Mxxx

  • Miho
    5th Feb 2015, 7:45 pm  Reply

    Sophie dear, I have whizzed through all your posts and am in awe of your courage, life force and a sense of humour. You are an inspiration to us all. Keep writing/shining and share your experiences. Love, Mxxx

  • frances
    4th Feb 2015, 9:23 pm  Reply

    It’s nearly Wednesday the 4th and I think by now you must be home with your family, experiencing all of the sweetness of reconnection… further blessing upon further blessing. I hope so anyway and that you haven’t been held up en route anywhere. Thank you for your exquisite expression above… and the entire site. I learn from you – again. You speak so accurately of things Adrian and I have come to experience too, in this weird, upside-down world of the advanced cancer journey, which Adrian shares with you, and I share with John as companion. Each moment the offer seems to be to find magic in the tiniest of things. Every breath taken is another wonder in itself. Every glance between us a burst of unexpected blessing. Every new pain a new friend. This really is what reality actually seems to be, it’s amazing, and the mystery is that God appears in absolutely everything and everywhere one looks. May you have much gentle rest now, and recovery from your substantial labours and travels, in the arms of your beloveds, xx Frances (and Adrian too)

  • frances
    4th Feb 2015, 9:23 pm  Reply

    Its nearly Wednesday the 4th and I think by now you must be home with your family, experiencing all of the sweetness of reconnection further blessing upon further blessing. I hope so anyway and that you havent been held up en route anywhere. Thank you for your exquisite expression above and the entire site. I learn from you again. You speak so accurately of things Adrian and I have come to experience too, in this weird, upside-down world of the advanced cancer journey, which Adrian shares with you, and I share with John as companion. Each moment the offer seems to be to find magic in the tiniest of things. Every breath taken is another wonder in itself. Every glance between us a burst of unexpected blessing. Every new pain a new friend. This really is what reality actually seems to be, its amazing, and the mystery is that God appears in absolutely everything and everywhere one looks. May you have much gentle rest now, and recovery from your substantial labours and travels, in the arms of your beloveds, xx Frances (and Adrian too)

  • kate edwards
    4th Feb 2015, 3:25 am  Reply

    What a gift to be able to write like you can. I love reading your written words and get a lot of what you say. I get the gift thing. It’s lovely when blasts from the pasts step back into ones life when the shit hits the fan. Am now going to catch up on all your other blogs. All love to you Kate xxxx

  • kate edwards
    4th Feb 2015, 3:25 am  Reply

    What a gift to be able to write like you can. I love reading your written words and get a lot of what you say. I get the gift thing. It’s lovely when blasts from the pasts step back into ones life when the shit hits the fan. Am now going to catch up on all your other blogs. All love to you Kate xxxx

  • Kate Bartholomew
    3rd Feb 2015, 10:41 pm  Reply

    Sophie – as one who counselled against blogging – I was wrong :)
    You were born to write and to teach – I salute your courage for doing so in this format – and I thank you.
    With much love
    Kate xx

  • Kate Bartholomew
    3rd Feb 2015, 10:41 pm  Reply

    Sophie – as one who counselled against blogging – I was wrong :)
    You were born to write and to teach – I salute your courage for doing so in this format – and I thank you.
    With much love
    Kate xx

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