What Cancer Taught Me


I faced cancer thrice and chose life each time — not because of some flowery will to live, but because I’m stubborn and wanted to prove that cancer is not the boss of me.

Multiple exposure portrait of a woman. The sun behind the clouds. Emotional intelligence concept. | Image credit: © - primipil -© - stock.adobe.com

Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Three times!

Cancer number one brought me to my knees. I didn’t have time to get sick. I had stuff to do. I had just spit myself out of the conventional medical system where I spent 20 years as an operating room nurse because I was tired of the same old status quo. It bored me and change was too slow. I started my own business as a nurse patient advocate. It was a trailblazing role that many nurses thought of doing, but feared leaving the security of a job and a paycheck. I didn’t think twice about it, I just did it. I set my sights on the goal and went after it like a dog with a bone.

I treated cancer like I treated the rest of my life — something to deal with and get done. I put my head down, figured out all my options, had major surgery and then went right back to my busy, driven life.

Cancer number two was a blow and a half. I could not understand how I could go after something with such vigor, do all the things to treat and prevent cancer’s recurrence only to find myself with more tumors. And I was broke, to boot. I was pissed off. My anger was a crimson blaze, a seething intensity, an inferno that burned for an entire year. Cancer was not going to get the best of me.

I took a guided psychedelic trip to see God and, instead, I saw how much dis-ease I carried in my body. So much anger, resentment, bitterness. Ultimately that trip came down to a choice. Did I want to live or die? I did not pick life out of some flowery will to live. I chose life because I am stubborn, I wanted to do it my way, cancer was not the boss of me, and I was going to prove it. I picked myself up, had another major surgery and then gave the proverbial middle finger to every doctor I knew.

I was free at last. Except, I knew there was more of me buried underneath and I wanted to know her. I wanted to forgive her, I wanted to love her. I went in search of her and left no stone unturned. It was a year of intense sadness, rage and grief. Repressed memories surfaced of my traumatic birth, childhood sexual abuse, and ancestral conditioning that taught me how to devalue myself. Puzzle pieces that never fit together or made sense started to fall into place, and I saw the totality, the light and dark, the beauty that is me.

Then cancer number three. The third time was different because I knew who I was. I let myself be vulnerable, I let myself be cared for, I let myself be loved. Even more significant though is the love I felt for myself. It is clear to me now that the only thing I am ever called to do is to love myself, and in doing so, I can share love with the world — which we all know the world needs more of. This is the gift cancer gave me.

This post was written and submitted by Antra Boyd. The article reflects the views of Antra Boyd and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.

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