WHEN ADVERSITY strikes, we have two choices. We can either wallow in sorrow, or we can find the blessings which lie beneath each of life's many tests. When the Lord visited my family with a serious health challenge recently, we weren't prepared for the bad news, but we should have been. Now, we are solely focused on turning this adversity into joy, which is often a daunting task.
My companion of 16 years Natu, a health advocate and alternative health practitioner, was diagnosed with colon cancer. His family history finally defeated his 40-year effort to beat it and we were stunned. Although his mother had died from the disease, getting this type of challenging news is always a shock. Especially since Natu's awareness of his genetic pre-disposition, had years ago prompted him to try to beat his odds by eliminating meat, cigarettes and alcohol from his diet. He's kept his 62-year-old body in good shape by practicing Tai Chi and Yoga and stretching daily. But none of that matters. Cancer strikes whom it wants.
When he came out of emergency surgery a few weeks ago, I was afraid that Natu was about to die. Doctors, who had gone in to remove a ruptured appendix, also took out three feet of his colon and I had never seen my man so sick. As the possibility of losing him flashed before my eyes, so did all of my guilt and I immediately felt sorry for all of the times that I was angry at him or said an unkind word.
I quickly shut out negative ideas and vowed to help him fight hard for his health, an effort which requires me to be more loving and compassionate. Although Natu's cancer stopped our family in our tracks, it has also brought about tremendous blessings. By forcing us each to view life through a fresh pair of eyes, we are reminded daily of how finite we are and this realization has helped us each let go of the nonsense. Forgiveness is a powerful tool in strengthening relationships.
As a master acu-pressure therapist, who teaches massage, Natu has helped many students and clients with their healing process, but apparently he suffered. In retrospect, we realize, he had symptoms, but stayed in denial.
The fact that colon cancer kills about 150,000 people every year is a grim reality when someone you love has been diagnosed with it. The good news is that more people are beating this cancer every day. The blessing is this: Cancer reminds us to live in the now, because tomorrow is not promised. My role as caretaker is to keep peace in the home (not always an easy task) and to nourish my mate with prayers, love, food, and good spirit. Conversations about its psycho-spiritual dynamics with several healers, have prompted me to take a deep look at myself and our relationship.
Iyanla Vanzant, a friend and spiritual life coach told me: "I don't care what type of treatments he takes, if there is no joy in his life, the cancer will continue to spread." Her own daughter Gemia died at age 31, four years ago on Christmas Day, following a fierce battle with colon cancer. Iyanla's counsel prompted me to immediately analyze my own contributions to Natu's illness. Another close friend, Dr. Sakiliba Mines, an internist, is optimistic and encourages me to continue feeding him healthy foods, seasoned with love. As we anxiously a wait the oncologist's staging, we are reminded that love counts more than anything else in relationships. As we research his treatment options, we are each becoming more diligent about self- improvement. Kinder words float through the house, and the kids are more responsible about helping out.
It would be so much easier for all of us to whine and moan about the fates being unfair during this holiday season, but we don't expect any special favors as other families face similar hardships. Natu and I are both wiser about illness now and are working to understand its metaphysical components, self realization and psycho-spiritual dynamics.
Most essential to healing, is optimism. After being reminded of how precarious all of our lives really are, we are each striving to be more grateful and appreciative. And by giving God all of the glory, each of us has become more thankful for each day that we live on earth. *
Fatimah Ali is a regular contributor. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.