cherie-book[Editor’s Note: Cherie Rineker is the author of A Pilgrimage Without End, How Cancer Healed My Broken Heart. Cherie has pledged $1,000,000 to multiple myeloma research when one million copies of her book have sold. To purchase a signed copy, visit http://www.cherierineker.com.]

Allow me to explain why I believe my story stands out from other stories about multiple myeloma. First of all, this is not a story just about cancer. I am neither cured, nor am I off chemotherapy. I have had to learn to live with cancer as well as with the continuous treatment, and I learned to do so in a positive way.

Secondly, my story includes a difficult childhood, something many people can relate to. I have received many positive reactions about this, both from the parents who came to understand what their actions did to their children, and to the ones that were hurt and felt they were given a voice through my book. My story describes the emotional pain I carried into adulthood, and how I was able to overcome it, even thrive, despite it.

Lastly, I think my story brings a very important message about the importance of Hope, Love, Forgiveness, Perseverance and Strength. I did not come into this world any more special than anybody else; I merely chose to use the hardships and cancer as stepping stones to get to a place of Peace and Understanding. I saw my "problems" as opportunities to grow spiritually, rationally and emotionally and was therefore able to overcome heartache and pain.

I believe that God’s main purpose for us is to love and accept one another. The Bible teaches that we have to change and become like little children. I have given this a lot of thought. What is so different about children from us? They come into this world innocent with only two fears: the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. A child is, in a sense, like an empty cup. No judgments, no opinions, full of wonder, and eager to learn. Are we? Even those of us that are on this spiritual path, sometimes especially those on this path, can be very closed off to new ideas. Some of us believe we have it all figured out, and though we are willing to teach, even preach, we are not always willing to listen and learn.

cherie-hospitalApplication, the most important part of this journey, can be our toughest challenge. Yet, when we stop resisting and let life take its course, it becomes easy. Humility is another very important thing to learn and live. Boy, have I eaten my share of humble pie. In the beginning, my ego was not happy with this lesson at all. It tried to argue everything that went against my beliefs. Have you ever had that friend that is all messed up, and you know you can help them, but for every good piece of advice you give them there is a “but…”? I have been the friend giving the advice, and I have certainly been the one receiving the advice. It used to drive me crazy when people gave me the “but….” until I realized that what they did with my advice was none of my business. I was there to help, not to convince. The desire to change their lives had to come from them, not me.

It is important to look at the world and people through the eyes of our inner child. Society, our parents and life itself have done a really good job beating fear and judgment into us, and now it is up to us to let go of it.  Surrender and let go of your fears and worries. Accept and appreciate your life as it is today. This does not mean, that if there are things you want to accomplish or habits you want to get rid of, you sit back and wait for it to be “fixed” for you. Accepting things the way they are simply means being okay with life as it is today without letting go of your dreams for tomorrow.

Look at my situation as an example. Just because I was told that the cancer that had invaded my body was “incurable,” this did not stop me from living life and doing everything I could to prove the doctors wrong. Nor did it stop me from finishing school even if it meant writing an essay during the worst part of my treatment and disease when I could barely sit up and think straight. It did not mean waiting for the end to arrive. No, when I could no longer do massages, I started working at a little health food store making much less money than I had in the past. And when I could no longer do that, I started writing, and turned it into a book that got published. Me, a runaway girl from Holland, who never finished high school, came to America, got her GED, and took English 101. Some may think that if anybody had the right to quit, it was me. But if you quit, you kinda die, even if you don’t, if you know what I mean.

I was determined to make these weeks, months and now years (and hopefully decades) count even more than the first part of my life. I know I am living on borrowed time. I should be dead, but I am alive and I am going to make the best of the time I have left!

I recently received a message from a friend of mine that got me thinking about all the advice I have been given since being diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Please don’t be offended by his rather outrageous declaration, I wasn’t. Maybe some of you have had similar thoughts about the sick; I certainly did prior to my diagnosis. It made me stop and think about our Belief System—something I have come to refer to as our BS. How desperately do we feel we must hold on to our BS in order to feel we have some level of control over our lives and our bodies? Though I am all for believing whatever gets you through your day, when we push our BS onto others, it quickly turns into judgments, which is never healthy, for either party!

“Dear Cherie, stop telling yourself that you have cancer. Instead, declare that you are completely healed! Not in the future, but RIGHT NOW!! Remember, there are no incurable diseases; only incurable people.” Of course, his assumption was that I had not been saying these things for years, when in fact, I had believed this too!

I would be rich if I had gotten a dollar for every well-meaning piece of advice I have received. Here are just some of the things people have recommended. I am not saying some of the advice hasn’t been beneficial for a healthy life, but to tell a cancer patient that what they are doing is wrong is not helpful at all.

Just the other day I had a very well-meaning friend tell me I had to cut out all dairy and meat and take a certain supplement he was taking. The supplement he took was similar to the one I was taking, and I explained to him that I was diagnosed when I was a vegetarian, and that without my whole organic milk, cheese and yogurt, I would be at least 15 pounds skinnier and look very sick indeed.

When I flew in to Denver this past Sunday, I was chatting with a man who was drilling me on all the things I might be doing “wrong”. “What are you eating?” he asked. When I told him my cancer had likely started while working at a vegan holistic resort in Arizona, he looked puzzled and instantly went on to the next question. “What were you breathing?” I told him I lived in the mountains in a village with only 800 people where the air was very clean.

I understand why people ask these questions, and I patiently let them. I am the “inconvenient truth”. They have read that when we live the way I did, you can’t possibly get cancer. Hearing that someone like me got this diagnosis makes people feel uncomfortable and scared. Remember what I said though: it is fear that ruins our happiness, more so than even a cancer diagnosis. Take it from someone who knows. We so desperately want control over our lives and cancer seems takes that from us. That is, if we let it.

Hope & Love,

Cherie Rineker, author of A Pilgrimage Without End – How Cancer Healed My Broken Heart

To purchase a signed copy, visit http://www.cherierineker.com.  Also available on Amazon and in Kindle.

 

Stay tuned next week for Part II of Cherie’s blog, where she shares more of her story and how cancer cured her of low self-esteem and loneliness.