The Exorcism


For a while I thought I got cancer as punishment because it was my fault that my first marriage ended.  I hadn't exactly followed my vows with dotted I's and crossed T's.  It reached a point where I had to come clean and even after confessing my wrong-doing, my then husband extended the olive branch, and I still said, “No, I want a divorce, this marriage isn’t right for me.”I was the one who had done something wrong.  And so I had it coming to me.Before I go on, let me make a few things clear: 1) This is not a public confession and 2) I am not seeking your forgiveness or your validation.  This happened YEARS ago, and I have already been graciously forgiven by the people I hurt. Lastly, I'm posting this because after sharing it with a few cancer/ chronically sick friends, I was met with a resounding, "YES, ME TOO" (although all of their stories are different than mine). And as if that weren't enough, last week I asked my chemo nurse, Beth if many of her patients blame themselves for their cancer and she nodded her head and said, "almost every single one, and it needs to stop."Way before Sam and cancer, Mike and I were on a trip and we were talking about past relationships.  He was urging me to let go of my shame and guilt surrounding my less-than-stellar actions, but I couldn’t.  In fact, I refused.  I was crying in the car and I distinctly remember saying, “What does it matter if I let this go or not? It’s my cross to bear, it has nothing to do with you or anyone else; this is my shit.  I can take this sadness to the grave with me if I want to.”  And he dropped it.  Because I was crying.  He usually drops things if I’m crying.  But from time to time, it would get brought up again (mostly with too many glasses of wine over a long dinner) and the tears would fall and I would feel the same gut wrenching, pit in my stomach kind of aches; because that’s what you get for cheating on your husband.So last year when I got my cancer diagnosis while sitting in my maternity room with Mike holding our 3 day old baby, I knew this was my penance.  It had finally arrived.  In the form of cancer.  During what was supposed to be the happiest week of our lives.  Sam would only get a month of breast milk because radiation and chemotherapy would start thereafter.  Not only would I have to suffer, but so would my new family.  Because that’s how life works.I whole heartedly believed this and never told a soul.Until January when my friend Jerry's number showed up on my phone.  I refused the call and texted him, “I can’t talk, no voice, can only text.”  Because by that point, my throat had closed up so much that water didn’t even go down it and my voice wasn’t a  whisper because a whisper has tone and this was just mouthing with some air forced out.  I was laying in bed in between fevers/sweats and coughing up mucus.  He didn’t text me back, he called again.  So I “answered” and he said, “Do you think you’re getting fucked with energetically?”  I didn’t know what he meant so I started mumbling about these dreams I was having and he stopped me- and because we both share the same educated Christian background, he said, “let me put this into simple terms that you can understand- do you think demons are holding onto you and that’s what is keeping you from getting better?”  And I stopped.  And I envisioned the evil spirits from The Little Mermaid and the witch from Snow White (I was a Disney kid when I learned about good vs evil) swarming me in my bed and I said, “I think I have cancer because of what I did to my ex husband.”  To which my ever loving, and always perfectly timed friend replied, “that’s just fucking stupid.”  And I started to cry because I thought he meant that I was stupid and I thought I had spilled the beans for no reason.  But he didn’t hesitate.  “That’s life.  That’s just what happens.  You really don’t believe that you got CANCER from cheating on someone, do you?”  But I did.  And then, because Jerry is a Man-Angel sent from The Divine into my life, he coached me for about an hour.  He drove it home.  “That’s what THEY (this negative energy) want you to think, so that they can control you, they can keep you down, and evil can win.  You don’t actually believe in those black and white absolutes that you were brought up with anymore, so why are you applying them to this situation in your new life as a Spiritual free-thinker?  I don’t believe that YOU actually think this.  You’re getting fucked with energetically and the only way to stop it is to tell the energy to get out.”  And so I did.  I was already bed ridden, it wasn’t like I was going anywhere.  I laid there sweating through pjs and sheets, and in between pouring tylenol down my feeding tube, I said over and over again, “get out, get out, I don’t believe you, get the fuck out of my life.”  And I swear to God, less than 48 hours later I was freed from their taunting, freed from their chokeholds and and free from the guilt and shame.My exorcism (yes, I like adding a little drama, so that’s what I’m calling it) was THE best thing that has come from cancer.  Better than realizing my love of writing.  Better than the bond that has glued Mike and I together even more than I thought humanly possible.  Better than feeling gratitude for each day.  I want to shout from the hillside, “FREEDOM!” just like Mel Gibson in Braveheart.  Those demons haven’t come back since.  It’s over.Soon after this big awakening, I took my soul for a test spin.  I was hospitalized for a week right after the exorcism (then released 7 days later when I magically felt better) and I told my Brigham 16 Oncology nurse, Erin about my newfound freedom.  She’s likeminded, no bullshit, but with the right amount of compassion.  When I was talking, there was no shame, no quiver in my voice and instead of looking at her for her judgement or for her understanding, I kept direct eye contact and spoke as if I were talking about the weather outside.  And that was it.  The scarlet letter had been ripped right off.Here’s more of what I know to be my truth: You don’t get cancer from “past sins.”  And further than that, I don’t believe in sins.  I believe in being honest or not being honest.  I believe in being kind or not being kind.  I believe in owning choices/mistakes, in learning from them, in growing, and then in giving and receiving Grace.  I believe in logical consequences (example: put your physical hand on a hot stove and your physical hand will get burned).  I believe in good Energy and I believe in bad Energy; it can reside within us and outside of us. I believe in cleansing the body of toxins.  I believe that holding onto things-that-we-have-done/things-that-have-been-done-to-us without dealing with them and letting them go is just as toxic as bpa’s in plastics and smoke from cigarettes.  That shit causes cancer.  Self loathing is too much stress and pressure on the body.  And it’s not necessary.  We spend so much money buying foods without chemicals in them, but we forget to invest and nourish our souls to find our own truth, our own happiness, our own freedom.Funny to think back to that “penance” of a diagnosis now, almost exactly a year later.  It seems less complicated.  The reality is that I got cancer from one rogue cell that went bad.  That’s the truth.  It can happen to anyone.  Just.  One.  Cell.  Instead of dying off like all cells do, it multiplied.  Because that's how cancer works.  But out of the bad, came the good.  I wasn’t ACTUALLY Hester Prynne, I was just a human being with a tumor.  A tumor that slapped me upside the head and made me face my demons.  And I was met with a community of love.  And that love multiplied.Because that’s how life works.img_3263