Not me, please

 

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”–Jack Kornfield

By this juncture of life, most of us have been dealt a major life curveball—divorce, job loss, death of a loved one, or hearing a challenging health diagnosis as I did.

Looking back, I wish I were told then what I share with you now: STOP. Take in the news, and as you move beyond shock, make a choice in that moment to become your own best friend by embracing yourself with compassion.

You need to give yourself the nurturance and self-care you may hope to get from others. Sometimes, unless someone has been through the challenge you are now facing, he or she cannot adequately support you in the ways you may need.

As Dr. Kristen Neff, author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, explains: “I find in my research that the biggest reason people don’t have more self-compassion is they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent. They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be.”

With gentleness, I share below an excerpt from my newly released book, Cancer as a Love Story: Developing the Mindset for Living.

Chapter One:  Not Me, Please

The room became eerily cold as a tray of cookies and coffee were offered to me. The nursing manager assured me everything would be fine.

Like many women with fibrocystic breasts, I had been called back for a repeat mammogram a few times in the past. This year I was asked to stay for an ultrasound and told not to worry, that this extra step is often needed for a closer look beyond what a radiologist can read on the mammogram.

Yet there was nothing normal about this extra waiting time, or being escorted down the hall to a private room.

With the intensity of waiting for a big, dark secret to be brought to light, I felt suffocated by the terror of what was to be revealed.

How much longer could I hold in my fright, intuitively knowing something was terribly wrong? Too much sweetness and kindness were being offered to me in this secluded room, in the way one feels pity when they are at a disadvantage or about to be told a loved one has just died.

Soon a perky social worker dressed in funky red glasses and a stoned-faced, gray-haired radiologist appeared. In a flat tone with no warmth or compassion, the radiologist informed me that x-rays revealed what he believed to be a suspicious cancerous tumor on my right breast.

The social worker began asking questions about my children and their ages, and my relationship status. My anxiety levels escalated, as I felt like I was being prepared for last rites and asked whom to notify upon my death. “Don’t bring my kids into this,” I wanted to yell in that primal, maternal way. “This is my shock to handle; don’t you dare let it touch them.”

In reality, the social worker was only trying to catch a grasp of my family support system. Suddenly, being a single divorced mother felt even more lonely, as there was no other half of a partnership at home to cushion the news, or stand strong to comfort and/or distract my children while I tried to grasp the enormity of the words I’d just heard.

This was worse than any pink slip of termination I ever imagined; this was potential entry into the “pink ribbon” club, for which I never applied to become a member.

Rattled about the possibility of my own physical extinction, I went into defiance. My survival instincts came roaring forth, fighting the doctor’s medical evaluation. I would not allow cancer to ever become a reality. It wasn’t in my life plan. Maybe if I got angry enough, I could dismiss the words I had just heard.

“Could it be a cyst?” I asked, desperately pleading that the radiologist would change his mind. Looking grimly at me, the doctor said it looked more serious than that.

The tears and terror squelched too long from hours of waiting came gushing forth. I sobbed, “This can’t happen to me.  I am a single mother with two teenage children.  I’ve already been through enough challenges in my life.”

This ‘Why me?’ victim mentality was prompted by excruciating levels of vulnerability at this most raw moment of my life.  I saw briefly a scary picture in my mind of my kids becoming motherless, and of me not being able to watch them grow into adults. The lovely nurse manager listened as I absorbed the shock of the potential cancer diagnosis. I would need a biopsy to see if the radiologist’s suspicions about my lump were true.

Thankfully, a friend who had come to the appointment to support me was there in the waiting room. She took me out for an ice cream. Numb, I knew on that day that any control I thought I had about my life was gone. I could only control my emotions.

* * *

 

To learn “tips” about handling a diagnosis (or other life challenge), please order my book at Amazon. Or, for a signed copy, order directly from me at gailjones@claimyourworthiness.com. I also offer a coaching package “From Shock to Sanity,” which you can learn more about by emailing me.

Here is an excerpt from one of the latest Amazon reviews of the book, by Richard Joseph, who has recovered his health after three heart attacks, a stroke, seven heart operations, seven stents, a pacemaker-defibrillator and a recommendation to have triple bypass surgery.

FIVE STARS: Much more than a story about cancer. This is a story about personal rediscovery:

“Gail has the ability to get to the core of the reader’s emotions, through her beautifully descriptive words and incredibly moving and personal experiences. She inspires people to think differently…to take control…to deal with others…and, most importantly, to regain the love of ourselves.

This is one of the most important books I’ve ever read…a must-read for anyone who wants to be inspired to rediscover themselves.”

 

The above photo of the statue of Quan Yin, Buddhist Goddess of Compassion, was taken by my friend, Sharon Spector, a photographer in Scottsdale, AZ.

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  • As I said in my review of the book, Gail, your book is one of the most inspirational, self-exploration books anyone will ever read. One does not need to be in the midst of a physical or medical challenge to appreciate and benefit from Cancer As a Love Story. You only need to be a human being who has lived life and who has had to overcome challenges or are facing challenges.
    The work that you did in writing this book was a work of love, not just for yourself, but for everyone who is lucky enough to read it. It is a “must read” for everyone.

    • Gail Kauranen Jones says:

      Dick: Thanks again for appreciating this “labor of love” in answering a tough calling. I’m grateful that you, like many others, see this as a book that extends far beyond healing from cancer. I was guided to teach others how to create an elevated life from the inside out! Big hugs, Gail

  • Leslie Evans says:

    I always get so much from your posts. I’m looking forward to reading your new book. I read the first.
    Thank you so much for sharing your vulnerability. I’m so glad I attended that workshop in Danvers on The Secret, with Meg Moran so many years ago, and had the opportunity to meet you. You were my inspiration for entering the coaching field. I can never thank you enough.

    Warmly,
    Leslie Evans

    • Gail Kauranen Jones says:

      Thanks, Leslie for your kind words. It was pleasure to meet you as well—glad our connection was inspiring. Hope to get to Boston soon for book tour. Blessings, Gail

  • Tom Ogren says:

    Self-Compassion, yes, a fine idea. We do need to figure out how to forgive ourselves for our mistakes; we need to work on our own happiness…it doesn’t just happen.
    When we do things like yoga, or any exercise; when we eat only healthy foods, when we meditate, when we take the time to learn new things, all of these are examples of self-compassion, of trying to actually be our own best friend.
    It’s never easy, but it’s worthwhile.

    • Gail Kauranen Jones says:

      Tom: Thanks for sharing all those ways of practicing self-compassion…and your wise insights on the effort it takes to create our own happiness. Blessings, Gail

  • Wayne Benenson says:

    Helpful blog Gail. Developing the mindset for living begins with being gentle on ourself (really are many little selves) as we learn to embrace our Fuller self, our Big love self. That’s a self-compassion that we can bank on. Well done, Gail.

  • Lisa May says:

    Self care, YES indeed one of the keys so thank you for the beautiful reminder, Gail!!! Even when we are aware, it’s a challenge to keep this front and center.

    • Gail Kauranen Jones says:

      Thanks, Lisa: Yes it is challenging to put self-care front and center, as is self-compassion. Many of us are not taught to give the compassion to ourselves that we offer others. Self-compassion is even deeper than self-love and self-care, in my opinion…very tender and loving, and one very significant way we learn to receive. To be able to both give and receive is healthy love. In my experience in coaching cancer survivors and others through life “curveballs” and transitions, many gave to others at the expense of their own sense of health and well-being, not having ever been taught that it is OK to make themselves a priority. Healing from cancer demands that we make ourselves the top priority, sometimes for the first time in our lives. Blessings, Gail

  • Gail Learnard says:

    Whether you have cancer, have a loved one with cancer, are surviving cancer or some other illness this Book Is Awesome. It is written in such a heartfelt way and offers some wonderful healing alternatives that can definitely be combined with traditional medicine. Well worth the read.

    • Gail Kauranen Jones says:

      Thanks, Gail, for your kind words about Cancer as a Love Story…and know, too, that it seems be helping anyone in a major life change, not just cancer survivors. Grateful for your purchase and incredible feedback. Blessings, Gail

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