Welcome Peace and the Healing Path will be Profound

Colleen McMahon-Grace, Cancer Survivor

In March 2020, I was diagnosed with stage 3A colon cancer. I had colon resection surgery within a few weeks of diagnosis, and started six months of IV chemotherapy in May 2020. Upon diagnosis, I immediately felt like my life had come to an abrupt halt and I was facing two separate and distinct paths in front of me. One path was going in the direction that I always imagined my life would follow and the other path led to a whole new existence that cancer was creating. I didn’t know how long or dark that new path would be and it terrified me.  

I was overwhelmed and felt like my life was spinning out of control. I no longer recognized my body or my thoughts. Anxiety and depression jumped on board and quickly increased in intensity. The cancer diagnosis took the trust that I had in my body and mind and tossed it all out the window. I was emotional and lost and I didn’t know how to manage it all. Lying in bed one day in the middle of a chemo-induced haze and complete overwhelm, I felt a strong distinction between mind and body. In that moment, I knew that in order for me to make it through my cancer journey with the least amount of personal harm, I needed to hand my body over to the doctors with my full trust and start focusing my energy on my mental and spiritual well-being. I decided to devote my time to what I thought would bring me the greatest sense of peace and that was a calm mind and spirit. 

Several years ago, my limited experience with mindfulness taught me to look at my life from a place of acceptance and appreciation. Over time, I had lost my practice of mindfulness with all of life’s daily interruptions. When I realized that I could bring mindfulness back into my life, I felt relief flood my soul. That was the moment that I started my deep dive back into mindfulness, meditation, and honesty with myself about what I was going through. I stopped running from the scary stuff and allowed myself to feel all the feels. I found life-changing calm and stillness and it saved me. I had the freedom and the choice to wake up each day knowing that I could face my challenges with an open and grateful mind. I was able to go through one of my most difficult hardships and feel more peace than I have felt in my entire life.  

I am currently six months post-treatment and as my world sees that I look stronger, it assumes that I’m also back to life pre-cancer. My days are again filled with life’s joys and complications and I’m not taking as much time to care for my mental health as I did when I was in active treatment. I’ve gradually been losing my sense of peace that I found during treatment and it deeply saddens me.  

I don’t want to forget that cancer gave me the incredible gift of peace, so I’m committing my days to finding it again. I’m seeking out emotional connections through Swedish Cancer Institute survivorship classes with other people touched by cancer, meditating daily, being honest about my cancer story, and striving to move through my days feeling grateful for each moment. 

 I fully accept that my cancer path will be long and it will twist and turn, and rise and fall. I also know that no matter what happens, if I continue to welcome peace into my life, my healing path will be profound. 

For more information about Swedish Cancer Institute's Survivorship Clinic and classes,
visit www.swedish.org/survivorship or call 206-320-8266.

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