[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 1,000,000 copies of her book have sold. To purchase a signed copy, visit http://www.cherierineker.com.]
Cancer gave me the gift of realizing how precious and wonderful this life is, with all its lessons and perceived “challenges.” It has given me the chance to prepare for the end, whether it arrives tomorrow or in a few decades. I appreciate every day in all its wonder and glory, and I don’t take much of what happens in the world quite a seriously as I once did. I have noticed how so many people love to feel outraged. Maybe by pointing the finger outward, they feel they do not have to work on what needs attention on the inside. Yet, it is only there that we can find Peace, Love and Happiness.
This summer I cleaned out my closets and held a garage sale. I put several of my books out with the rest of my stuff. An older gentleman came by and looked at the books. He asked if I was cured, and I said I was still doing treatments. He than asked me if I had a dog. I said, “Yes. I have a sweet little dog named Coco.” Without hesitation he replied, “Get rid of it!” I am not joking! He said it with a straight face; he had read it in some book. Last thing I knew pets are actually wonderful for our health.
Get rid of your root canals. Get rid of your fillings. Get rid of your teeth!? I am not kidding—I have heard them all. I am not saying that root canals are the best things to have in your mouth, but to just go ahead and start pulling teeth, all in the hopes of seeing the cancer disappear, is a leap of faith I am not willing to take at this moment. I never minded losing my hair, but me… without a smile … I am just not ready to go there yet. Quality over quantity, right?
In dealing with cancer, I have tried lots of remedies. Unfortunately, it seemed that no amount of vitamin C, D, CoQ 10, fish oils and turmeric was able to bring my numbers down. I took garlic—lots of garlic! It was wonderful for keeping people away, but it did not keep the cancer away. A very concerned client sold me a drink once and guaranteed me it would help me get rid of the cancer. She seemed so sincere and caring that I tried it. This was at the beginning of my diagnosis, and I was willing to do anything—and pay anything—to get better. She told me to give the drink three months. I religiously drank it three times a day. The bottle was $29, and I went through it in about three days. My numbers stayed the same, and I did not feel any better or worse from taking it.
Three months and almost $900 later, I told her it really had not helped me at all. She responded that I should be drinking a bottle a day. She was in tears! She wanted to see me better, and she knew her drink would cure me. I told her I did not have the money for a bottle a day. “How much is your life worth to you, your children and your husband?” she asked in a rather accusatory tone! I told her that, if she believed it would absolutely heal me, and she cared so much about my welfare, she could provide me with the bottles I needed until the cancer was gone. I promised that when this would happen, I’d happily pay her back all the money for the bottles, and give her a $5,000 bonus on top of it! Interestingly enough, I never heard from her again. Looking back, I am afraid the tears she shed weren’t for me, but rather due to her loss of income. As sad and horrible as it may sound, people do take advantage of the sick.
“Just stay positive!” One of my favorites. JUST!! How do you just stay positive when you can’t even roll over in bed?! When you are permanently stuck with nausea so severe that nothing helps? Sure, I KNOW that being positive IS important, but feeling that you must, or else…… is actually very depressing and stressful, and makes it much harder to just be positive. Leave it up to the patient to get there. Be there for her, listen to him, hold her, but please don’t tell them to … just be positive.
“Chemo kills.” Great! Thanks for reminding me of that as I am receiving this toxic medicine that helps to keep me alive. Heck, I used to think this. I remember meeting a woman who had cancer and was getting chemo. I told her I would NEVER do chemo, because chemo kills, right? I don’t blame her for walking away from me and having nothing to do with me after that well-meant, yet very ignorant statement. Yes, cancer certainly humbled me, and that was not a bad thing.
Most of us are very afraid of chemotherapy. I certainly was. The interesting thing was that when I started therapy, it did almost kill me. For the first two months, the numbers actually increased, and I felt twice as bad, having to deal with both the cancer symptoms and the chemo symptoms. I specifically remember asking myself this question: “Cherie, do you still want to be here?” You see, physically I had all but given up, and I was standing at death’s door. Between the pain and a less than optimal home environment where my husband was emotionally incapable of being there for me, it was easy to just let go. But I had a daughter who had just turned 7 and desperately needed her mommy to be there for her. I had not had a good relationship with my mother, and I so much wanted to be there for my daughter. I wanted to raise her in a loving home where she would have a soft place to fall … ME! Something I never had. And so, on that day I made a conscious decision to FIGHT for life, to FIGHT for her! The interesting thing was that the worst of my symptoms started to disappear within a week of making that decision, and the chemo started to bring down my numbers!
“God never gives us more than we can handle.” I love this one, like God actually handed me cancer. What has God given you lately?
Of course, the one that baffled me most was when my mother literally told me, “Cherie, stop this nonsense. You don’t have cancer!” Sure Mom, as I am sitting on my bed listening to you on the other side of the phone, my head bald from my second stem cell transplant, I am surely faking it! I went through all these horrible treatments just to try and get your love and sympathy. And look, even that didn’t work!
When my friend told me that there are no “incurable” diseases, only “incurable” people, I decided to tell him the conclusions I had come to:
“My dear friend, cancer feels like having a terrorist in my body, holding a hand grenade with its safety lever released, ready to explode at any time. What to do about this terrorist is a choice that is always up to me. Oh, how I wish I had somebody smarter than me, telling me what to do. My oncologist merely suggests me my treatment options. I know not everybody agrees with my decisions. Having to make these life-or-death decisions is indeed a heavy load, something I wish I did not have to make. People come with all kinds of suggestions. Though I believe they are well meant, they do not help me much. Please know I have tried everything that is out there and that I could afford! I live as healthy as I can, both physically and spiritually, and I do believe it plays a strong part in my well-being, as does the medicine and the chemo. When you tell me there are no incurable diseases, only incurable people, what do you really mean?”
You see I believe cancer helped to “cure” me from years of emotional suffering due to my parents’ abuse. I was cured from a lack of self-worth, because I thought that if my parents did not believe in me, surely nobody would. I was cured from a sense of loneliness, because I never felt I belonged anywhere. Cancer helped me get out of my comfort zone, and I was able to build deeper friendships than I ever allowed myself to have before. You see, if I had been cured from cancer right away, I am not sure I would have been cured from these things. Nor do I think my presence would have helped others as much if, after just a couple of treatments, the cancer would have gone into complete remission. You know, many of us think we know the answers, and we want things a certain way. What we don’t realize is that by wanting things our way, and forcing things our way, we might be missing out on a whole bunch of very valuable lessons. I learned to make life sweet again precisely because of my run-in with cancer and other difficult life situations.
Today, I realize that the best way to love and embrace life is to accept all things life brings us, to surrender to its toughest teachers. When we stop fighting them and see the opportunities they offer us, they no longer have us paralyzed by fear. Instead, we can come to appreciate the lessons they teach us. It took a lot of grieving and letting go of old ideas. It meant letting go of my ego—an ego that did not want to admit that which I had previously thought might have been false. And you know what? In going through this process, I found out that this way of letting go doesn’t need to stop when dealing with a disease. It can also apply to our political views, our parental views, and our ideas about relationships to name just a few. And this is what I like to call …. Evolution!
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.