What I learned about infertility when diagnosed with breast cancer

 

 

Something really strange happened on the day I got diagnosed with breast cancer.

I was sitting in a patient care room at the George Washington University Hospital here in D.C., somewhat listening to the young female Doctor telling me about my cancer when I thought "Wow, this is how it must feel for women to get a devastating health diagnosis. Like infertility. Ha. Now I get it. Wholeheartedly gutwrenchingly get it."

A memory of Ellen, whose story I tell in chapter 6 of my book The Joy of Later Motherhood, Your Natural Path to Healthy Babies in Your 40s, also flashed through my mind. When Ellen miscarried her long-awaited first baby she actually retreated to her bedroom, lit candles and put on soothing music.

She was well aware of what was happening but in her wisdom and despite all her pain and heartache this woman was able to go beyond her own experience - and spiritually connect with the countless women who came before us and who miscarried their babies.

Through this awareness and connection, she was able to make peace with her own loss and be grateful for knowing how pregnancy felt, even if for a short time only (subsequently Ellen birthed her beautiful Rose at age 46 when the whole family was ready for the girl). 

In a sense, I now understand what Ellen experienced. 

I, too, felt the connection to countless women before me who had to face a diagnosis of such magnitude. And it does not have to be a diagnosis of cancer to be equally devastating - whoever among us ever faced infertility will understand what I am talking about. 

And I strongly feel that this experience with cancer (which I thought would be over in May, but now I am heading toward a double mastectomy in August) makes me a better coach and teacher. 

So today I'd like to share three things I've learned since my diagnosis that hold true for any diagnosis, may it be the Big C or the Big I. 

In short: 

1) You are not your diagnosis and this is NOT your fault! I strongly believe that most of the illnesses we see spreading so quickly and widely are a manifestation of life in the 21st century.

2) Take all the time you need to move the emotions through you. Don't stop them, don't override them, let them flow! Have the emotions move out of your body. 

3) We are not responsible for our illnesses but TO them. And, much more important, we are responsible to our health. Focus on what brings you joy!

With love, gratitude, and respect for your journey!

Bettina

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