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Cancer as a turning point

Everyone's experience is different, yet most would describe it as some sort of "journey." Sharing our journeys helps ourselves and others.

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Cancer Journeys


Acceptance and Beyond – Marlena Field

In July 2000, my husband Jim was diagnosed with cancer in his jaw. This was his second diagnosis, and his second b-out of cancer in fifteen months and it was terrifying.  Talk about life changing again in a minute. Two weeks later he underwent a 14 hour surgery to remove the cancer from his jaw and to have his jaw reconstructed using his  fibula, taken from his leg. He spent four days in ICU, during which time he had a tracheotomy and could not speak to me. He could only write a few words on a piece of paper. For a couple steeped in communication it was difficult. Jim spent another eight days on the ward.  I then brought him home hobbling on crutches and eating only soft foods. Two days later, our daughter Meghan and I were standing in the kitchen as Jim made his way painstakingly down the hall on crutches.  He paused, the skin graft on his leg a bright purple that matched his shirt, and said, "I'm the happiest I've ever been in my life". That was a startling statement.

During the process, I asked myself some very important questions.  "What does this diagnosis mean to me as a person?  What does it mean to me as Jim's wife?  What does it mean for us as a couple?  What does it mean financially?  How do I deal with this?"  I continuously came up with the same response - 'accept it'.  What does acceptance mean?  Acceptance means this is the way it is now; it means facing today's truth.  It doesn't mean I have to like it.  It doesn't mean I have to resign myself to it.  It doesn't mean giving up.  It doesn't mean fighting against it. Acceptance means this is the way it is now.  As I began to accept it, I calmed down and the reactivity like 'Why is this happening to us?'  lessened.  I was able to take responsibility and feel the freedom to choose my own attitude towards this and decide what I was going to do about it.

I chose to put all other aspects of my life on "pause"  except for facing cancer together with Jim.  For a person who works towards balance in her life on a daily basis it was no easy task.  My choice was to show up for Jim in every way I possibly could.  I showed up with my tears, I showed up with my fears, I showed up with my honesty and my humour.  I showed up in the middle of the night when we were really scared and we hugged each other in the dark.  I attended all the pre-surgery appointments, took over much of Jim's personal care in the hospital, made sure friends and family had their calls returned and primarily remained present emotionally for Jim and myself.  My heart and my head stayed open and I stayed strong.  People would comment to me "You are amazingly strong."  My response was always the same.  "Well, I don't like the alternative.  I can be strong or I can be a puddle, and being a puddle doesn't appeal to me."  Being strong did not mean an absence of strong emotion or an absence of tears.  It meant staying strong in my center, in the very core of my being; being strong to face whatever was presented in the moment. I was exercising my ability to choose my own attitude and accept what is.

After surgery, Jim chose to go through radiation, to leave his psychotherapy practice, and to use all of his energy to heal and be well and to write the book that's inside of him.

 Facing life and death has a way of challenging one's present moment and what is important.   Going through this experience I couldn't help but ask myself, "What is important to me?  What do I want to do?  Where is my passion?"  I decided that what I want is to continue my work as a coach because it is the kind of work I love and am passionate about. I now know the power of acceptance and choosing one's own attitude.  That power is in everyone.  

Jim and I have kept our spirits up and greet each day with gratitude for our life together.  The power of love, support, and prayers has been an awesome experience for both of us.  Family and friends have bonded together in their love for us.  It's a great reminder that life can be like this every day, every moment, not just in the face of crisis. 


To find out more about Jim Field and his work with clients on 'Responding to Illness' please visit:


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