Healing Your Heart after Cancer

Image via Google Search, unknown Copyright

Image via Google Search, unknown Copyright

The first time I saw a photo of the sculpture titled "LOVE" at Burning Man 2015, by Ukranian artist Alexandr Milov, I was nearly moved to tears by how powerfully yet simply it represented how I've felt about one too many people in the past few years. Some have said it represents people's egos, pride, and resentment, which just allows pain to persist when people are unwilling or unable to resolve bad situations with each other, even though deep inside, the inner child is still reaching out towards the other with love.

I've never had a particularly big ego, but I relate to this very strongly as a young adult cancer survivor that's been through a bit more than your average 30-something. Years of anxiety and uncertainty after cancer, along with depression and post-traumatic stress, certainly took their tolls on myself and people that had been in my life, even if they've never realized that's what it was. Depression and especially post-traumatic stress after cancer is such a dark and lonely experience, and it's taken me years just to start opening up about such a painful part of my life and cancer survivorship experience.

When you’re suffering from post-traumatic stress, your instincts are on high alert and you become hyperaware, and any instinctually perceived threat whether real or imagined can set you off. People that I had loved and cared about actually became triggers for my post-traumatic stress, simply because they didn’t know how to handle me while in such a state, didn’t know how to not say or do the wrong things around me as a cancer survivor going through a difficult time, or flat out didn’t have the best of intentions in mind. They became "unsafe" people to me, and the mere sight of someone, the sound of their voice, or even their smell could cause an adrenaline rush of defensive energy, and the instinctual need to run, hide, or fight back. I’d never been so frustrated, disheartened, and disappointed in my life. I had fought my way so hard through cancer, only to have my mind playing the most terrible of games with me in the years after, with people that I knew I loved and cared about becoming entangled in this expanding matrix of potential triggers, and having to stay away.

Post-traumatic stress after cancer took me to the brink of doing something truly terrible. Turning my back towards various people was never a matter of pride or ego with me, but simply one of self-preservation, I'd been hurting that bad. Those that had the magic set of keys to my mind and knew how to handle me could stay, and all others just had to go. It didn't matter who was who.

Were it one or two people I'd felt this way about, perhaps I could have just lived with it, but I could no longer count how many had become entangled in this web of triggers. It was just too much pain I'd been feeling towards too many people, and it wasn’t the path forward for me in life to be dragging around so many difficult feelings. People needed to be perfect around me, but who's perfect? It's just been impossible at times. People have failed me and let me down as friends, yes, but I'd failed them as well, and I'd also failed myself. I've just wanted to let go of it all to allow such love and friendships to continue, but I just didn't know how.

One thing that cancer did was bring out my personality in full force. I'm a true to their sign Scorpio in that I've always had very powerful feelings about things. It's a gift to be able to feel so much love towards people, but we can hurt like crazy as well. I wasn’t prepared to handle the full force of my emotions when I went from a pre-cancer “Scorpio-lite” to a full force, first decan Scorpio in crisis mode in my initial years after cancer, struggling with all of the ugly aftermath. It’s been a rough ride, and something that I've needed mentoring on, and that I've had to grow into. A big part of my problem was my own. I wanted to be able to forgive and love people again, but forgiveness was a foreign concept to me, and not something that was originally included in my Scorp DNA. I wanted to move beyond this and keep moving forward in life, but didn't know how to cross this spiritual impasse.

The answer is that you have to evolve, and become a better person than you were before.

I'd already found ways to heal mind, body, and soul, but I'd never healed my heart. My heart had just wanted to be able to love people again, and now has finally been the time to follow that instinct for a change, as opposed to consciously holding it back. Once again I've had to evolve myself as a person, for the third major time in four years as a cancer survivor. This terribly unforgiving Scorpio just got tired of this part of him, his inability to forgive and the ongoing pain that it was causing, and burned it to the ground so the he could emerge stronger once again. A Scropio cancer survivor's ace in the hole is that the Phoenix is also a part of our sign, and we have the ability to reinvent ourselves. When something is hurting us, we can immerse ourselves in our own pain until it burns us to the ground, so that we can emerge better and stronger than we were before.

The biggest thing I've learned in this round of reinvention after cancer is the importance of self-love, and that all I've ever needed to be is me. My perceived faults were never flaws, nor even mistakes. They're a unique part of what makes me me, and embracing that helped me to accept all that I am, and all that others are as well. You can't fully love, forgive, or embrace others until you can do the same for yourself. We're all love on the inside, we all try our best, and everything happens for a reason. It's a conscious choice that we have on how we're going to feel about ourselves and others. My choice now is unconditional love for all, including myself. All of the pain and resentment I'd felt towards so many has melted away, and I've finally managed to emotionally decouple these people that I've loved from the terrible matrix of post-traumatic stress triggers that they had become entangled in, simply by choosing to love them again. That trapped and innocent inner child within that's only wanted to love has finally been released, and is free to just love again.

Omnia Vincit Amor. Love conquers all.