On Friday night I held a shamanic ‘Cancer Divorce Ceremony’ on St Andrew’s West Sands Beach as I said farewell to my cancer. Not because my cancer has ‘gone’, far from it, but because I no longer want to be ‘married’ to the labels of my disease.
You see, I think many of us, unknowingly, become married to our cancer following a diagnosis. Very quickly we find ourselves in a co-dependent relationship with our disease, avoiding looking at aspects of our lives because we are using our cancer as an excuse to hold us back. I’ve been there too. I’ve done this and I speak from experience.
I believe, it is only once we ‘divorce’ and detach that we are able to say ‘who am I without this’ and ‘how has this relationship with cancer changed me, my values and my beliefs.’
I no longer want to ever use cancer as an excuse not to do my inner work, not to look at who I am and what needs to heal, not to show up in the world as my authentic self. So, I chose to divorce from it.
The ceremony itself was an energetic releasing of the ties to cancer. It was an acknowledging of all that it has brought me (good and bad) and all that it took away (also good and bad).
But it wasn’t just about me releasing the ties. It was about my loved ones doing the same too.
Each of us wrote a private letter to my cancer in which we expressed our farewell wishes. Some people expressed anger, some expressed gratitude, but ultimately, we were all saying goodbye.
None of the letters were read by anyone else, which meant that everyone was able to expre4ss their feelings in unfiltered, raw and open honesty. How often are we able to do that in life?
On the night I used shamanic rituals to open a space, calling in the four directions as well as inviting in guardians of the space in the form of the energy of loved ones other members of the circle had previously lost to cancer. I asked many of my shamanic friends to attend the ceremony and together we held a circle of energy for the ritual. I felt truly blessed to be joined by such incredible people.
There was music, drumming and chanting as the energy of the ritual built before we each took our turn to burn our letters on the fire and say our final goodbyes to cancer. Many of the group members had experienced cancer in their family lives too and their goodbyes went beyond my own cancer.
We also burnt the letters of my loved ones who were not at the ceremony too. In fact, over 30 letters were burnt on Friday night.
Everyone who wrote a letter mentioned how healing it was to acknowledge how my cancer has made them feel, to say the things they’ve longed to say, not to me, but to my disease.
This ceremony was an acknowledgment that it hasn’t just affected me, it has affected all of us.
I wanted to share with you all the letter that I wrote to my cancer. It’s not the whole letter. The whole one was nearly 4000 words. I’ve pasted it below. May it bring you peace and insight into the magic that can unfold when we open a conversation with our disease and with our limitations.
I want to say that I’m just really angry with you but that would be a lie. In truth, anger is not all that I feel towards you. I am also unbelievably grateful to you too.
You see, you enabled me to leave the life that wasn’t serving me. Yes, I could have done it on my own but you and I both know that I wouldn’t have. I needed to get sick. I needed an excuse.
You gave me that and, in doing so, you enabled me to not feel guilty when I left that life behind and started to forge a new path in the world. You also enabled me to say no to doing things that I didn’t want to do. I didn’t have to say ‘no’ as such, instead I was able to say ‘no, because of cancer’. It meant that people weren’t angry with me when I said no to things. Instead they were angry with you. I hid behind you in so many ways. You gave me an excuse. I told people that you made me more authentic but, I realise now, that, in so many ways the opposite was true. You actually enabled me to be less authentic. You gave me a mask to hide behind.
So, saying goodbye to you is actually really hard because now I will have to do all these things for myself. I won’t have you to hide behind anymore and that’s really scary because, in reality, I’m often really fearful of what other people think and I am often terrible at setting boundaries. With you there I was able to act like I wasn’t but that’s only because people don’t care what you say or do when you have cancer. Well, it’s not that they don’t care but I certainly got away with a lot more while I was able to blame you. I realise now that I’ve been using you as my scape goat. That is so hard to admit but it’s the truth. I’m sorry about that.
But, because of you I have grown so much. I have looked at so many aspects of myself that I never would have looked at previously. I have learnt to deal with a lot of things, and I am also healing a lot of aspects of myself that I hadn’t previously known needed healing. Thank you. I am so grateful.
Sometimes I wonder if it would be easier to go through life being ignorant. But actually, it wouldn’t be easier at all. It would be simpler yes but not easier. So, although it’s hard I am ready for the healing that it will bring me to say goodbye to you and to the excuses you gave me. I am ready to go even deeper with my healing work. I am ready to discover who I really am behind the mask of you that I wore for so long.
I am also so grateful for the relationships you brought me. There are so many people in my life now, some of them my best friends, who I only met because of you. Thank you. I genuinely can’t imagine what life would be like without all these people that came into my life because of you and the path you placed me on.
If I’m honest, I think that you likely saved my marriage. It’s not that it was failing or in trouble before you arrived by any means, but I was certainly on the trajectory of working harder and harder and pushing myself more and more in a bid to not look at the past traumas and buried emotions I was feeling. I was pushing Ewan (and many other people) away because it was easier but, because of you, I have slowed down and I now value him so much. He is such an incredible and precious man. I took that for granted before. Thank you.
I am thankful for all of the amazing experiences I have had because of you too. There have been so many things, too many to mention, all because you came into my life. Thank you.
But I am also angry. I am angry at how you sadden my Ewan and my loved ones. I am angry that by being in my life you make them sad and scared. But as I write this, I realise that it is not sadness that they show; it is love. I can’t help then but also be thankful for this too. You have shown me how very loved I am. I didn’t see that before. I couldn’t. I didn’t feel worthy of love and now I do. Now I know that I am worthy and that I have a purpose. You put me on the path to discovering who I am and what my life’s work is, and I am so grateful.
It feels really hard to say goodbye to you. I realise that I have interwoven my life with you. We are entangled. The life I have forged over the past four years is so engrained in you. I am scared of what it will be like for me to be authentic without you. I am scared about how I will show up in the world and how I will be received without you as my safety net.
I know that I want to change the world, or at least a small part of it, but not because of you. I don’t want that to be my legacy. I want to inspire people because of me. I don’t want people to think of me and then think of cancer. I want my cancer to be a distant memory, but I want my words to inspire, motivate and stay with people, long after my passing.
More than anything I want to live a long and healthy life. I don’t want to feel the pain anymore. I don’t want to feel the fear. I remember, before you, thinking that I would live forever. I want that feeling again. I don’t want to be worried constantly that I don’t have time to do all the things that I want to do. But then I guess this is what I tell people all the time, that we may die at any point and so we have to keep doing what we can with joy and passion in our hearts for as long as we are able. So, I guess I am making a commitment now to keep pushing towards my dreams and accept that I could live for many, many years but that I could also die tomorrow. The same could be said for any of us.
I really want that you know. I really want to live for many years. I want to be healthy. I want to become an old lady. I want to be free from you. I want you to leave my body. I want you to let me live my life now. It is my greatest wish. My long sought after dream.
But, regardless, I promise to commit my life to self-healing and growth and to the healing and growth of others. I promise I will keep striving forward to make the world a better place in the words I teach and the lessons that I share. This is what I want for me. This is what I want for the world. Whether I live until I’m 90 or die in my 30s, my dreams and focus will remain the same.
But I know that in order to do this, that I need to energetically say goodbye to you. It’s really hard. You’ve been a part of my life for so long. I am more scared of life without you than of life with you. In fact, it terrifies me. I am terrified of who I will be without you. I am terrified of what my life will be like. I am terrified of how people will treat me. I am terrified of what I will have to face inside of myself. I am terrified of the emotional and spiritual healing work I will have to do on myself and the authenticity I will have to express when I no longer have you to use as an excuse to express it. I am so scared of receiving rejection when I don’t have you to validate my words.
But I am more scared now of who I will be and how I will be remembered if I don’t release you. I am more scared now that if I don’t do this that I will become overwhelmed by you, and so will the memory of me. I am more scared now of losing sight of all I have the potential to become if I keep hiding behind you.
So, as hard as it is, I know that I need to say goodbye to you. I need to find out who I am without you. I need to find out how I can show up in the world without you as my safety net. I believe, only then will I be able to become the best version of myself and the person I was destined to be.
So, while I will be forever thankful for so much that you have given me and so grateful for the path you have put me on, it is time for me to say goodbye to you.
With gratitude and love for you always. Goodbye.