Susan's Story

Susan's Story

In March 2020, I was sent home from work, being told that because I had “terminal” cancer and was “high risk” for other illnesses, I would be contagious to other people. That made no sense to me. Cancer isn’t contagious and I never got the “normal” things everyone else seemed to get when the seasons changed. Regardless of the cancer, I was the healthiest person I knew, somehow I let their mania scare me. Alone and with too much time on my hands, my phone
became my best friend. It seemed that everything I read online was one extreme or the other. No in between. Feeling depressed I’d leave the house and wander in the woods. To my surprise I was angrily confronted by people because I was not  covering my face while alone outside. I knew if I am going to rid my body of cancer that fresh air, sunshine and exercise was essential.

To make matters worse I was traumatized as a child and sexually assaulted by my dentist. Since that day, I’ve had trouble breathing if anything was on my face. I made the decision I would continue to hike daily and added swimming in a dozen alpine lakes. I ended up putting over 4 million steps on my watch in 2020, including a trek to the top of Mount Saint Helens. On the way down, the temperature dropped and the wind picked up. I had sunglasses, but they did
very little for the wind blasting us with ash and sand. Then it got very dark and our headlamps weren’t powerful enough to see the next white post, showing us the way. I sat down and cried, twice, wondering how I’d ever make it back to the car but I did. At that time I had active cancer in both legs and my back, where I broke it in 2007, was so tight I could barely move.

One week after Mount Saint Helens, I decided to walk into the Salish Sea. I thought It would either help with the pain in my body or some sea monster might rip out my organs and eat me for dinner. Something had to change and I didn’t care if I ended up dead. I walked in, up to my neck and decided to stay awhile. It only took a minute to feel a release. The cold hurt, but not as much as the pain I was already feeling. At about 7 minutes, I was totally numb. I stayed where I could touch the bottom. Something shifted in my head. Not only did my body feel better, but my brain seemed to decide that I no longer needed to think about all the division going on in the world. I started thanking the water. I found several things to be grateful for and remembered my gratitude practice from 2019. After only 10 minutes, I had joy that I hadn’t felt in so long, I wasn’t even sure what it was. I no longer wanted to die. The cold water was going to teach me to love myself.

I skipped the next day and the doom loop started circling in my head again. I stopped it as soon as I realized it. I used one of my breathing meditations and decided I’d go back to the water the next day. I’ve skipped very few days in three years, no longer feeling like I have to, but knowing the cold water fuels me. I am now close to cancer free, I feel the cold water permeates into the rest of my life and has made everything else better!

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