Emma Cannon explains why breast cancer made her re-assess her emotional wellbeing
13 years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread to my lymphatic system and needed some pretty aggressive treatment. I have written about cancer before, but I wanted to reflect on how my diagnosis taught me how to receive; and how in order to truly give we need to learn to receive. In order to nourish another first we must nourish ourselves.
Some people talk about emotional causes of cancer. In Chinese medicine emotions are considered one of the main causes of illness. I have to say I find the idea that an emotional imbalance could have caused mine (or anyone else’s) cancer simplistic and cruel. However, I instinctively felt that cancer gave me an opportunity to heal an aspect of myself that was no longer serving me.
But in order to learn to receive more in my life I needed to understand WHY I wasn’t receiving. Where was the wounding, what had caused this wounding and what was the message in that for me.
I started to do some research. In 1946 Dr Caroline Bedell published a ground-breaking theory about the emotional causes of cancer. Almost all cancer patients had throughout their lives been restricted in expressing emotion, especially regarding their own needs. Through her research of assessing their emotional picture she was even able to predict where they would develop cancer.
Often the authentic self is carefully hidden for fear of rejection. There it was; my core wounding – a paralysing fear of rejection that had turned me into a people-pleasing nice girl who desperately craved love and acceptance. Cancer patients have usually been compulsive givers since childhood, this pattern continues through life until they become depleted and exhausted – or get cancer. I guess like most wounds, my fear of rejection and my need to be needed started early in life. I can trace it back to a few events that happened so long ago that for the sake of forgiveness I will not divulge in this article.
But whatever the original source of this pain I came to believe that I must have a terrible flaw, a defect that I must hide if I was ever to be loved. I learnt that the world was not a safe place and I would need to be vigilant. And let me tell you I was excellent at this; but this place was empty and lonely and I constantly sought approval, love, praise, comfort – anything that would fill the void. In return I did everything that was expected of me, I said yes when I meant no, I didn’t receive love for myself, I did not receive nutrition, I ran around like a headless chicken proving I could be all things to all people. Quite honestly it was exhausting – my immune system clearly thought so too and not surprisingly I got sick.
But slowly and surely I allowed myself to be supported and helped. I made time for myself and I acknowledged painful parts of myself that had been hidden too long. Parts of myself that badly needed loving.
Caroline Bedell claimed that there are no incurable illnesses, only incurable people. I am not sure if that is true, but I understand the sentiment. I don’t like the idea that if you don’t get better it is your fault; I think that is taking personal responsibility a little too far. When people hear the word cancer, most quake in their shoes. So conditioned are we to think of it only as a negative… an evil that is to be destroyed or overcome. I wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone; but this disease helped me finally overcome my fear of rejection, allowed me to receive and finally taught me to love myself.
Emma is an integrated women’s health expert, registered acupuncturist and author emmacannon.co.uk
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