Vanessa Beeley – Blinking in the light: taking cancer personally.

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I was diagnosed with breast cancer April 2013 in Gaza, after days spent wrestling with over exuberant porters, Egyptian Intelligence and army at the Rafah border, this was not the outcome I expected. Two ultrasounds and a rather barbaric mammogram later i wandered out of the clinic in Gaza, bemused and dazed.

I sat on the beach and watched the sun go down over the horizon dividing Gaza from West Bank and reality from fantasy. It felt particularly crazy to be grappling with this in the midst of all the devastation that is daily life in Gaza, the day before another motorcycle assassination metres from my apartment. A young hospital porter blown to pieces by an Israeli drone missile.  Another murder that would never be investigated or prosecuted.

Gaza in her inimitable fashion gave me a strength and resilience that i didn’t know I had. I cried all night and woke up to the sound of gunfire as the fishermen dodged Israeli bullets on their way back to port. Life goes on, a wry smile on my face and the realisation that I had no choice but to accept my circumstances as we all do at any given moment. From that realisation comes peace and grace, truly it does.

The friends I have in Gaza gave me support, courage and love beyond belief. They held my heart and my hand as they always do. May God bless each and every one of you.

The rest of the year passed in a hazy maze of tests, operations, treatments and recovery. Today I am squeaky clean and cancer free.

I am proud of the scars, they are the footprints of my soul on my body and as such I honour them as part of the great adventure that is my Life.

We all carry cancer within us, it is not something that “happens” to us. It is the enemy within and every time we don’t love ourselves, respect ourselves or we neglect ourselves we open the door to its army. This is the most profound lesson I have learned from this experience. I am responsible 100% for my choices in life and for what I allow into my life, nobody else.

This has been a battle with myself as much as with the cancer because only by recognising my own worth, my own resources and discovering my own reservoirs of fortitude and self respect have I been able to combat the internal invasion of my cells by toxic forces.

So…somehow this has turned into a message for all women out there. Pay homage to the temple of your soul, your body, heart and mind. Treat it with kindness, compassion, respect and LOVE. Accept nothing less from others. Your soul is a separate entity but the body is the vehicle and every time you allow a violation of your body, mind or heart you incur damage to the vehicle. Some of us protect our cars better than we care for our bodies, a sobering thought!

As women, we are taught to nurture and in many cases to sacrifice our needs for our husbands, our families, our children, our friends, our jobs. We are the quiet warriors, the unseen anchor, rudder and sails on the ship of Life. Sometimes we need to sit back and let the wind take us where she wishes or let another pick up the oars for us. I beg you all to accord yourselves the same compassion and generosity that you give so liberally to others.
Life is too short to regret lost chances, missed opportunities.

Chase your dreams, fly your kites, walk barefoot in the rain. Do what is in your heart without hesitation.

Fight for justice, yes, but fight also for yourself for without you, Justice is only a word on a flag fluttering in the breeze. Fight to be heard but listen to your inner voice, it will whisper to you when its time to be still, to breathe and to be YOU. You are beautiful, stay that way…its in your hands and in God’s heart, He loves you and He is waiting for us all to learn to love ourselves as He loves us.

Lastly, thank you with all my heart and soul to those close to me who carried me on their shoulders through this voyage. I am blessed to have the shoulders of giants to rest my head upon and the hands of angels to guide me when the darkness fell. May Allah/God, the Universe,  bless each and every one of you. You know who you are, your names are engraved on my heart and tiptoe through my dreams. I love you and I love me…through you, through me, through life.

Thank you for listening.

Originally published (The Wall Will Fall)

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