What happens when a staunch supporter of holistic healing finds themselves in the foreign world of the medical system, facing a major health crisis? Lauren was to discover the answer firsthand.
A curious forecast
It was January 2017. The air was thick with heat, and my body, in happy surrender, had languidly melted into a deckchair with a cold ‘glass’ in hand.
Sitting on the back of my parents’ wooden veranda, it was a classic summer snapshot of my family: me idly daydreaming, Dad fully engrossed in his latest novel, and Mum regularly punctuating the silence by enthusiastically reading aloud snippets of a spiritual magazine.
“Do you want to hear the prediction for 2017?” she asked with a playful smile.
Mum continued to read in her clear, strong voice, “A light will be shone into all corners, no stone will be left unturned. We will be forced to face our deepest fears – we will be forced to face ourselves.” There was a brief and heavy silence, incongruous with the shafts of sun that playfully painted our feet with light, not unlike the fierce storm that brews behind the horizon on a sticky summer’s day.
I forgot about that prescient moment out on the back veranda. That is, until I found myself right in the middle of those black, heavy clouds.
Fast forward six months, and the three of us are unexpectedly gathered in a very different setting; we are seated in the doctor’s waiting room. It’s time to get the test results.
As I held Mum’s warm, slender hand, my gaze flickered around the room: off-white surfaces, stiff chairs, noisy posters, well-thumbed magazines. But regardless of where I looked, my attention was continually drawn back to the reason for our visit: my Mum’s tummy, which now resembled a pregnant woman well past her due date – a particularly unusual sight for a woman in her early 60s!
Two worlds collide
This whole situation was so far out of all of our comfort zones. The three of us rarely visited a doctor – we didn’t even have a regular doctor to call upon – and we all lived a healthy lifestyle. We ate well, we exercised frequently, we laughed often. And, if needed, we reached for the preventative measure or took the holistic healing route.
But no amount of healthy eating or body detoxing or energy cleansing or mindful meditating had made a dent in this expanding mass. In fact, as our efforts grew, so too did the ‘bump’. It defiantly sat there with us that day at the doctor’s office, and it was inviting us to do something else entirely.
It was inviting us all to surrender
Mum, whose name is Karen, had a deep-rooted fear of the medical world, stemming from early childhood experiences and a deeply traumatic episode in her early twenties. She equated the medical system with a loss of power and a loss of choice.
While Karen passionately welcomed emotional and spiritual healing, she just as passionately rejected medical intervention. For more than two decades, she had been unwavering in her commitment to know herself on a deeper level and to heal past hurts, but there was one area she refused to go… until now.
To be honest with you, as a mind-body practitioner, I was deeply confronted. I remember thinking at the time, “So, what’s all this self healing about then? Given all the tools, awareness and knowledge we have, why can’t we heal or shift this?”
Sensing doubt and desperation, my egoic-mind went into overdrive. As the reality of the situation fell upon me and squeezed indiscriminately at my insides, I thought, “Oh no. Why did we let it get this far? Could we have intervened and convinced her to seek medical help sooner?”
I was not only having a professional crisis, I was also experiencing a deeply personal one. I was emotionally distraught, stoically holding it together in public, and then fearfully crumbling in my private moments.
I’d adapted to living on the brink of tears; whether I was buying a coffee, doing my weekly shop or chatting to a friend, I had a great choking lump in my throat that swelled and surged in impotent frustration, resistance, and despair.
Far beyond being a mother to me, Mum is my best friend, my greatest support and my truest confidante. She is vital and vibrant. Zany and steadfast. She is kind and compassionate, yet direct and unflinching. She’s as hard as she is soft, and as fierce as she is flawed. Quite simply, Mum is one of the most delicious mixes of contrasting extremes that I have ever encountered in another human being.
And here I was being forced to face the very real possibility she wouldn’t be here; that this incredible life force and divine soul essence could be finished with this Earthly plane, and I would have absolutely no say in it.
True to her complex nature, Karen wasn’t finished with surprising us all. The same woman who abruptly cut off any talk surrounding her growing ‘bump’, who refused to see a doctor for even a diagnosis and who recoiled at the thought of the most basic medical tests had undergone an extraordinary transformation.
The catalyst for this transformation was facing one of her deepest fears – showing up to that very first doctor’s appointment. This signalled a major turning point in her life, and her healing. Karen was sending a message to the universe. “Okay, I choose to trust. I choose to surrender. I am willing to be vulnerable and I am ready to ask for help.”
The woman who sat beside me in the doctor’s surgery that day, awaiting the test results, possessed an inner peace and a calm resolve that was unshakeable. It was as though all of her life’s learning and all of her soul’s innate wisdom rose up and met her in that moment of surrender.
And now it was time to discover which path Karen’s life – and our lives – would take
The doctor was quick to smile as we entered her office, “Good news, it’s an ovarian cyst.” The doctor saw our relieved yet puzzled faces, as we tried to reconcile the tight, bulging belly before us with a mere cyst. She reached for the x-ray and ultrasound images: “Ah, yes, it’s big… very big, over 30cm in diameter.”
In fact, the cyst – a 10kg benign tumour – had grown to such a size that it was taking up most of Karen’s abdominal cavity, pushing up into her ribs and putting significant pressure on her internal organs and lower spine. This was a particularly heavy weight to carry considering her slender frame.
It was hard to believe that until a few weeks ago, Karen had experienced little to no symptoms, apart from feeling deeply self-conscious of her protruding belly. She had even ridden her bike recently, her balance only slightly impaired. There were even family members, friends, and acquaintances who were unaware of her changing body, as she cleverly hid herself in large jackets and artfully arranged scarves.
After we received the diagnosis, it was as though an invisible light flashed green; the metaphorical gates swung open and everything smoothly flowed in an almost pre-choreographed dance. At every step and every turn, Karen encountered only warmth, compassion, and understanding.
In the weeks leading up to her surgery, I was to witness firsthand a most extraordinary example of self-healing. Physically, Karen’s condition had not altered; in fact, her body was rapidly deteriorating and she was in excruciating pain 24/7, yet energetically she was becoming more radiant and luminous with each passing day.
I remember looking directly into Mum’s eyes and saying to her with absolute conviction: “Regardless of how all this turns out, you are already healing.” I cannot express how strongly I felt those words. I knew, without doubt, this to be true; her physical body was in a transitional process of healing, regardless of how it was currently presenting.
Throughout this period, Karen radiated a fearless love for herself, her body and for all those around her. She unconditionally accepted the situation and she took responsibility for the life choices that had led her to this moment in her life. This soul-guided approach was to influence everything from her complication-free surgery to her startlingly quick recovery.
Family members were not the only ones to notice that something out of the ordinary was happening here. I still vividly recall the surgeon’s words to Karen post-surgery, “There is something special about you… When we were in surgery, there was so much love; we could all feel it. And everyone in theatre acted with such respect towards you.”
I had never heard a medical professional, let alone a surgeon, speak like that before. A couple of the nurses would even drop into Karen’s room just to “soak-up some of the calm in here”.
My family might have been smack-bang in the foreign world of a hospital ward, but we still chose to approach this holistically. We didn’t just drop our healthy lifestyle batons and blindly follow hospital procedure. We questioned what we felt needed to be questioned, and Karen was empowered; she had authority over her body throughout the entire process.
Essentially, we took the best from both worlds – natural and medical. We combined our knowledge, awareness, and gifts and we used them pre and post-surgery to aid Karen’s healing. For instance, only hours after surgery, we connected Karen to an earthing/grounding device for its anti-inflammatory benefits. (That raised a few curious glances from the nurses!)
This whole experience made me realise what is possible when it comes to health and healing. I think, unlike many patients, Karen was fully prepared for surgery – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
My focus is still very much preventative. But now, rather than seeing a divide between mainstream medicine and complementary medicine, I see an opportunity for collaboration.
Earlier on in this story I questioned myself, “So, what’s all this self healing about then?” In the most unlikely unfolding of events, I received my answer.
Even if Karen had encountered complications and died, I still would have regarded her as having healed herself. Because what I witnessed prior to the surgery was true self-healing, which is not dependent on an external source or a particular outcome of living or dying.
In this particular case, I see surgery as having provided Karen’s body with the chance to choose whether or not it wanted to regenerate and continue on this journey with her.
Today Karen is healthier, stronger, lighter, and more wonderfully infuriating than she’s ever been! She’s honest and upfront about where she’s been, and she’s clear and enthusiastic about where she’s heading. She may have a 25cm scar (which we refer to as her ‘healing line’) running vertically down her abdomen, but this extraordinary experience was the catalyst for healing much deeper wounds.
One of the most common questions Karen hears is, “How could you ever have let it get to that size?” Her answer is as simple as it is complex: fear and denial. Perhaps in the end, facing death is much more about facing life, and surrendering to the unpredictable path of healing.
Incredibly, it’s approaching a year now since that summer’s day on my parents’ back veranda. I can almost hear Mum’s voice calling from the future, “Do you want to hear the prediction for 2018?”
*It is with Karen’s permission and blessing I share her personal experience.
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