"Some women are lost in the fire. Some women are built from it."
—Michelle K.
The Fire Within Blog
Finding Peace While Fighting Cancer

It’s the damnedest thing. Despite this month being my 40-year anniversary with high impact pain and while I battle an aggressive breast cancer recurrence, people tell me that I look healthy and happy.

Stranger still, I feel more grounded and centered than ever. In fact, I’m down-right peaceful. So much so, when I recently saw my osteopath, she said that I no longer needed her treatment because I was “in the flow.”

After delving deep into this disconnect, I’ve unearthed the workings that have brought me to this sacred place. And now that I’m here, I plan to protect my peace.

To start, I’ve learned to neutralize platitudes and their associated shame. When people blow by the gravity of my cancer recurrence by assuring me that staying positive will save the day, I politely dismiss their cliché as unhealthy and unrealistic.

There’s no one alive who could face a second round of breast cancer without being mad as hell. That being said, I’ve given myself permission to move through the five stages of grieving – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance – which has allowed me to come to an authentic level of positivity… and peace.

Also, I’ve taken control of my cancer care. This is a big deal. After listening to my oncologist’s by-the-book treatment plan, I shared that, while well-intended, I thought his recommendations would kill me.

Instead, he and I sought guidance from trusted sources, and agreed on a plan that was tailored to my individual needs, including the complications that Complex Regional Pain Syndrome present. I won’t lie to you, the treatment is at times brutal. But I’m choosing it, and with control comes peace.

And there was a miracle.

With the synergy of my current treatment (low dose chemo, immunotherapy infusions and a robust dose of self-care), my tumor quickly dissolved from the size of a ping pong ball to one that can’t be found. Wearing a Cheshire cat grin, my oncologist recently shared that in his 45-year career he’s never seen such a response.

So how did my body do that? Yes, the med cocktail certainly played its part, but I’m convinced that finding peace is my secret sauce to healing.

Besides taking control of my medical care, I’ve become religious about upping my terrain-game for the healthiest body and mind. I’ve switched to a vegan diet with lots of fish, committed to an hour-long workout each morning, get in bed early to promote deep sleep, and have radically reduced my stress by identifying and removing toxic people from my life. These are the self-care strategies we hear of time and again, and for good reason. When practiced, they work!

For more peace, I’ve vastly upped my game by adding a “paths-less-taken” approach.

Like most of us with pain, I suffered much childhood trauma, the foundation of my un-wellness. I’m working diligently on trauma release using various methods, one being forgiveness. Through daily visualization and meditation, I’m practicing the art of letting go of trespasses.

Instead of allowing anger and hurt to turn into psychic stagnation, I acknowledge the negative emotion, thank it for lessons learned, and send it on its way. Forgiveness is a choice, and I’ve decided to free myself from poisonous energy so I can move forward with peace.

I often remind myself that when a person is cruel, it’s not about me, but rather a challenge they’re experiencing on their life path. And when I can, though still a work-in-progress, I light a candle and wish them well.

Most surprising, I recently stumbled upon my biggest trauma-releasing, peace-inducing tool, as I intuitively knew this blast-from-the-past would move my wellness ahead by eons.

Several months ago, I surprised myself by bringing my grandmother, who passed long ago, into my visualizations. Soon other long-gone relatives arrived. Of particular interest was my Aunt Grace, who continues to lead my healing rituals.

Grace died a couple decades before I was born, but I’ve always felt a bond so close, I’ve dedicated my life work to her. She is my guide and my angel.

I now understand that our connection comes from sharing similar traumas. We were both the “fixers” of impossibly broken families and both got profoundly ill at 21. Tragically, Grace died from leukemia. Mine was a different death when CRPS ravaged my body.

Through arduous work and by facing hard truths, I now see that, like Grace, most of my ancestors suffered profound trauma, and by sharing their genes, I’ve inherited the injury that binds me to disease. Science calls this epigenetics.

By healing the wounds of my ancestors through rituals, I’m healing myself. Additionally, I’m breaking cyclical familial patterns by not passing along the burden of traumatic energy to those I engage with.

These seemingly “woo woo” rituals appeared novel – hell, I thought I’d invented a breakthrough therapy! That was until I described them to an integrative trauma expert who shared that “Ancestral Healing” is a real thing, scientifically proven and all.

Life is precious. So is our life preserving, life enhancing peace. Whether I’m on my way out now or have 30 more years of kick in me, I’m focusing on protecting this essential resource.

I’m convinced that most of our pain, physical and emotional, springs from inner tumult driven by deep wounds, many of them handed down. Through intentional work and practice, we can quell that upset and find peace. Then the challenge is to hold our peace sacred, to protect it from internal and external “vampires” that aim to trip it up.

My mom turned 90 last month and is suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s, I believe brought on by trauma. That trauma has passed down to me, seeding a lifetime of illness.

I recently spent time with Mom at her new memory center, and later that day delighted in meeting my newest grand-niece named after this beautiful, generous and loving woman.

I hope that by healing the wounds our ancestors couldn’t, I’ll help this li’l darling have a pain-free, peace-filled life, one she can, in turn, hand down.