This weekend I had the joyful experience of not only attending Trew Fields Festival in Surrey, but standing on the stage as one of the event speakers.
Trew Fields Festival was set up by Sophie Trew, an incredible woman and fellow cancer warrior who wants to make a difference in the ‘cancer community’ by highlighting the many ways in which our bodies can heal holistically alongside our minds and spirits.
The festival runs over two days during which there are many speakers ranging from stage four cancer thrives, to doctors, health specialists and so on. There are also workshops on yoga, breathing, diets, medicinal mushrooms and even ice baths. There is live music and dancing until the early hours each night and above all there is so much joy.
Sophie and I did a short video together the week before the festival which covers some of the stuff I discussed on stage.
The festival isn’t large and I hope it never is because this is part of it’s charm and magic. The friend I went down with (who isn’t a cancer warrior by the way!) commented that it was like a family wedding and that is a perfect description. It was fun and happy and intimate and over the course of the weekend the people I met became more than just friends, they became my cancer family, my tribe.
Throughout the weekend I heard so many stories as everyone shared their own journey. It wasn’t just the talks on stage that fascinated me, but the chance meetings under the oak tree or lying in the field, or the circle of women that formed in the circus tent after my talk. In all of these encounters I was emotionally moved and recharged as we shared and offered hope to one another.
The magic and energy of the whole weekend was palpable. I can’t have slept more than 10 hours over the four days but I was high on life, dancing and jumping about, buzzing with energy as I engaged with so many powerful people.
Then, at one point I made a sudden revelation…
These people that I danced with, shared stories with, laughed and joked with; these people so full of energy and life were walking contradictions. Nearly every single person I met had stage four (or similarly late stage) cancer; like me, they had heard the words ‘inoperable’, ‘incurable’, ‘terminal’ and yet here they were FILLED with energy, vitality and an infectious vest for life.
There was no sadness, no doom nor gloom. There was only life: vibrant, beautiful, abundant life.
These people, my fellow warriors, my cancer family and community, had not been cured by some magic protocol, many had never even been in remission, but they had been touched by death and with it they had felt the magic and wonder of life. They had all chosen to LIVE.
Many had, in fact, lived for years with stage four cancer. I met more than one who had lived over 10 years with stage four cancer and even an incredible woman with stage four ovarian cancer (same as me) who has lived 28 years following her diagnosis! AND during that time she had trained as a doctor and naturopath so that she is not only the best informed for her care but also so that she can help others too.
As I sat on the grass with this woman who 28 years previously, at the age of 19, had heard the same words as me and chosen to live instead of die, she told me:
“I’ve never been in remission. I do not hate or fight my cancer. I made friends with it and it taught me how to live.” I couldn’t agree more I thought as I realised I had found a unicorn. I was sitting face to face with the very thing I had been told didn’t exist. A stage four cancer warrior with OVARIAN CANCER that has been alive for nearly three decades and who looks healthier than most of the people you see walking down the street! “My cancer is like spiders in my home,” she went on. “I tell them they are fine to live here, but if they go in my bed I will kill them!”
The more people I connected with the more hope and joy I felt and I began to realise I startling truth: remission is not the aim, life is.
Us cancer warriors are often led to believe that we must attack our cancer; that we must hate it; fight it; cut, burn or poison it. We are led to accept that cancer is the end; that being made sick by treatment is the only (and best) option we have; that our diagnosis is the worse thing that will ever happen to us. But what if that weren’t true?
What if there were another way? What if we could live long, happy lives filled with hope if we let go of remission as the aim; if we learnt to live with our cancer; if we befriended it.
I still have cancer in my body. I chose not to have chemotherapy. I was told by some that this was selfish, wrong, naive and yet here I am living an awesome life. I have no pain, no weakness, no fatigue, no sadness. I have just travelled for 20 hours in four days, partied and danced, camped in a field, belly laughed and connected with some of the most amazing people I have ever met. I am living an incredible life not in spite of my cancer, but BECAUSE OF IT!
This weekend my talk was entitled ‘how cancer saved my life‘ and maybe if we all stopped fighting our cancer and instead befriended it; if we let it teach us the lessons it had for us; if if we stepped away from remission as the aim; maybe then it would save all of our lives.
I don’t know, but I do know one thing for sure: the people I met this weekend at Trew Fields Festival – the people that ‘should’ be dead, or ‘sick’ or in a hospice – were the most alive people I have ever met in my life and if that is what befriending cancer looks like then I would like to tell my cancer right now:
“I will not fight you, my aim is not to get rid of you. I will befriend you and, provided you don’t make a bed out of any of my vital organs, I am happy to learn your lessons, to walk and dance with you and to live a fucking amazing life. Thank you for saving my life.”
Imagine how cancer care would change if everyone – cancer warriors, oncologist, doctors, nurses, etc – went to a festival like Trew Fields and realised that cancer is not the end?
I was so inspired to LIVE after this weekend I signed up for a three year(!) training course to become a shaman! Boom! Life dream right there, happening BECAUSE OF CANCER!
Wishing you all a healing journey in which you can befriend and accept your own ‘spiders’.
Love and light, Fi xxx