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Joy Allen - My Gift Of Cancer
Joy Allen was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999. She combined conventional medical treatment with the holistic approach and support from New Approaches and came through. Five years on, she is training to be a Holistic Life Coach. This is Joy's story, in her own words.
You may look at this title and think, how can cancer be a gift? Cancer brings tears, suffering, fearfulness and trauma, and yes it does, but it also has its blessings. As the saying goes, “every cloud has a silver lining”. It can bring love, intimacy, peacefulness and when you have come through the experience, a sense of fulfilment and gratitude and a feeling of being glad to be alive.
So let me tell you my experience of cancer and what it brought me.
It was 1999 and I had been in my new house for 6 months, a big achievement, as I had raised my two sons in a first floor flat and they had now left home. I had a garden and a conservatory at last and it felt wonderful. I was working as a manager for a well known fashion chain, I was travelling frequently to Australia to visit my youngest son and his family and I had boyfriends and friends and life felt good.
Then everything changed very quickly. I had noticed that my right nipple had started to invert and I thought “Oh well I will mention it to the nurse when I go for my smear test”. So I went along to the appointment, not overly worried, but then she called in the doctor who took one look at it and said he would ring the breast clinic for an appointment straight away.
Two days later I had a mammogram and a biopsy. I was told to come back the following week for the results…. and would I bring someone with me. Well I still wasn’t overly worried as I had already had a mammogram nine months previous and it was clear.
So a week later a friend offered to come with me, and I was told the tests weren’t clear and I needed another biopsy and to come back the next week.
A week later I went along again, still in denial, thinking they must be mistaken. I was told there was a large lump behind the nipple and I would need to have a mastectomy.
Well then it hit me and I lost my voice for the rest of the day. Having to tell my family was very upsetting and emotional. I had known about this for two weeks and I hadn’t told anyone because I thought I haven’t got cancer - there was no family history and I hadn’t had a day’s illness in my life and I felt fine.
But then I had to accept this was happening to me. It was out in the open and my friends and family reacted in so many different ways - it was the shock more than anything.
I was diagnosed in April and I was to go into hospital on May 5th. I felt I was on a conveyor belt - everything was happening around me and I felt I had no choice but to go along with it.
Then a friend told me about Dottie Hook and New Approaches to Cancer. I went along to see Dottie and she gave me some healing and looked at my diet. She told me what to get to build my immune system, to start taking Arnica to stop any bruising and to get some Rescue Remedy to help me relax and sleep all right. I felt I had some control back over my body and I felt empowered.
I was still frightened about going into hospital, as I hadn’t been in before and this was a major operation, but my eldest son was with me and he was still with me when I came back to the ward. It had taken five hours as I had made the decision to have reconstruction on my breast at the same time. (This was done by taking the muscle from under my shoulder blade and bringing it round to form a breast, so that way it was my own tissue used.)
It was about two days later and I was lying in bed, when I heard a rustling noise beside me. I moved my eyes to my left and I saw a huge Angel next to me. It was closing its wings back, as if to say you are all right now. The sense of peace and love that came over me was immense. I believe this was my Guardian Angel - we all have one and I was lucky enough to see mine.
When it was time to go home, my dear sister came to look after me for two weeks as I was very weak. She made sure I had an afternoon rest and washed and cooked for me. We became much closer and shared many precious moments together. I spent time in my garden feeling so glad to be alive and Sweepy my beautiful black cat was always there with me - it was as if she had appointed herself as my nurse. I just watched the birds and the bees and how wonderful nature is with all the different colours - the flowers so bright and uplifting against the backdrop of the green of the trees and the grass.
Then it was time to see the oncologist to find out what further treatment I would need. I was told it was a very aggressive cancer - the lump had been six centimetres big and the cancer had gone into eight out of ten of my lymph glands under my arm so they had also been removed. Because of this, I would need twelve sessions of chemotherapy over a space of ten months and five weeks of radiotherapy. It sounded daunting, but I knew that my attitude would determine whether I would get through these tough times. I thought “I’ve got this far and, with the support of my family and friends plus New Approaches, I will get through this".
So I started the chemotherapy and, even with a cold cap, after the second session all my hair started to fall out. It took ten days and I cried every single one of those days. It felt like I had lost my femininity, losing my breast and my hair. It was about two weeks later when I was looking in the mirror that I suddenly realised that femininity isn’t about how you look outside - its what’s inside that counts, it comes from within. All my life I had been looking at all the externals in my life and thinking that these would make me happy, but they hadn’t. That inner peace was missing and I had kept on searching for the next thing to make me feel happy to give me that inner contentment. And suddenly I had it. I realised for the first time how loved I was by others, and this had filtered through to me and I started to love myself. I’d taken things for granted, my health especially. I hadn’t known that it’s the little things in life that are important - being there for someone, giving up your time, sharing special times and accepting people as they are, we are all unique.
I won’t pretend going through the chemotherapy was easy. I had to call upon the Angels quite a few times when I felt low in energy and spirit, but the holistic approach, combined with the conventional medicine, gave me the tools I needed to help myself get well. I have made many dear friends at the group and we are still there for each other.
After a year I returned to work and then decided to go part-time. I wanted to slow down the pace of my life, my priorities were different - inner contentment was more important than having lots of money. This year I gave up work altogether, something I never thought I would do as I loved the world of fashion so much.
It’s five years this May 2004 since I was diagnosed, a benchmark for me, there are no guarantees, but with a positive attitude and following the holistic approach I feel there are a lot of years to go yet.
I am now studying to be a Holistic Life Coach and hope to help and inspire others on there spiritual journey through life.
And my gifts from Cancer?