There’s something personal and difficult that I’ve wanted to share with you, my beloved community, for a while now, but I just wasn’t ready. I didn’t have the words because I was still processing my feelings. Plus, I was in game plan mode and maybe even experiencing a little PTSD. In the fall of 2016, my phenomenal dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Typing those words still takes the air out of my lungs.
I had just finished speaking at the very last Hay House ICDI event in Ft. Lauderdale when my family’s life changed forever–yet again. Because my plane was delayed, I decided to stay with my parents in Connecticut rather than make the longer journey back to Woodstock. On the drive to their house, I found myself daydreaming about all the things I would focus on thanks to my newfound spaciousness. Maybe you can relate to my “once this is done I’ll relax and take care of myself” mentality.
What’s the famous John Lennon quote? Life is what happens when you’re making other plans? Ain’t that the truth.
The first clue something was wrong: I pulled into my parents driveway around midnight and all the lights were on. The only time that used to happen was when I was late for curfew and about to be grounded. My mom greeted me at the door, fully dressed (not in PJs), we said our hellos, hugged and briefly caught up. But all the while I was suspicious–waiting for the shoe to drop. And then it did.
“Listen, there’s something I need to tell you,” my mom started, “I don’t know how to say this so I’ll just say it, Dad has a mass on his pancreas and he needs to get a biopsy on Monday.” His pancreas? Shit. Shit. Shit.
I kept my cool but inside I was falling to pieces.
My dad is one of the most treasured people in my life. He has always been there for me, especially when he adopted me. Without my dad, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. He truly is an earth angel and when I needed him most (when I was diagnosed), he was the first person at my side. He almost created a traffic accident rushing to the hospital where I was sitting by myself, waiting for the results that would change my life forever.
“Can I come to his biopsy with you? And can I stay for as long as it takes to help you figure this out?” I asked.
“Oh, yes, please” my mom responded. We both cried and then we did what the women in my family do, we put on our game faces and started creating a healing (save-our-ass) strategy.
I didn’t sleep at all that night and I sadly don’t fully remember what I said to my dad the next morning. What I do remember vividly was his biopsy. He was still a little groggy when he came out of the procedure wearing nice “slacks,” dress shoes and a crisp button-down shirt, because in his words, “you have to look spiffy for these things.” Rest assured, I was not wearing my Sunday best when I had my own biopsy. It was a miracle I even brushed my teeth!
As I walked him to the car, holding his arm to steady his balance, he told me that he was sorry that my rock (him) was a little wobbly. This gutted me, but I didn’t let him see it. Later I stuffed myself into a closet where I could scream and cry into a pillow and he wouldn’t hear me.
But in that moment I just told him how honored I was to get to be his rock for a while.
And that’s exactly what I tried to do, as best as I could. For the first time in my journey as a patient, I experienced what it’s like to be a caregiver. Boy, do I have a whole new respect and understanding for all of you who have walked this path–especially my mom. My mother’s strength, grit, grace, love and unwavering determination are immeasurable. Let’s just say that when life kicks you in the teeth, she’s the kind of person you want by your side.
I also have more compassion for fellow-patients. Because I’ve never had treatment, I could previously only imagine what it was like for people. Well, this time I got to witness it firsthand. I had to learn how to take all of my knowledge and expectations and adapt them to my dad’s day-to-day reality, because sometimes he was too sick to rally around my self-care agenda. And that was OK.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I don’t use the “gift” lingo when it comes to cancer. Yes, there are many life enriching blessings that come from the journey, but a gift is something different (at least to me). However, the fact that my family and I had learned so much as a result of my own diagnosis was indeed a great blessing. In fact, I’ve sometimes thought that the reason I got sick was so we’d have half a clue about what to do when my dad needed us most.
Now granted, I have this rare, stable, stage IV disease that I’ve managed to live with for 15 years now. I’ve never had treatment and so far I haven’t needed to, which is amazing because there still really aren’t any options for me.
My dad’s situation was the opposite. His disease was aggressive and if he didn’t have chemo, radiation and surgery, his chances of survival were slim. In fact, after his Whipple procedure (one hell of a frickin’ complicated surgery!) his talented and compassionate surgeon told us that if it hadn’t gone well, my dad may have only had about 2 months to live.
Typing those words also takes the air out of my lungs.
Thankfully his treatment was a success and today my dad is in remission, which is why I’m ready to share this story (with his permission). It’s also why I’m writing this blog today.
Over the years I’ve promoted several online summits that I think could add immense value to your life. But many people have encouraged me to create my own specifically about cancer and prevention.
Though I liked the idea, I was often busy with other projects, and to be honest, I didn’t really want to dedicate a year of my life (the time it takes to create an online event like this) talking about cancer. Maybe because I spent so much of my early days sharing my story or maybe because I’m still a patient, and sometimes need a break from it all.
But when my dad got sick and we flew into action, finding the best doctors and surgeons, helping with dietary and lifestyle changes, and ultimately creating a healing plan that continues to this day, I was reminded of just how much my family and I know—and how many world-renowned experts I have on speed-dial.
That’s when Reid Tracy, the wonderful CEO of Hay House, circled back and said that if I was ready to host my own cancer summit, they would partner with me to help my team and I share it with the world. Reid had been checking in on me often, like the good friend and solid citizen he is. He knew what I was going through personally, but he also knew how healing this would be for countless people–including me and my dad. I knew he was right.
I also felt totally inspired by my dad’s strength. I watched this man, who is so dear to me, go through the valley of the shadow of death. And yet he did it with such grace, humor and resilience. He even skipped to the hospital at 5:30 a.m. the morning of the surgery! WTF? His motto was “hold fast” and he did just that.
So I said, “HELL YES! Let’s do this, Reid.”
That’s where the Healing Cancer World Summit began.
Whether you’re a cancer patient, survivor, thriver, caregiver or interested in prevention, this summit was created with your needs in mind. I carefully selected and interviewed 20 of the world’s top integrative oncologists, wellness experts, dietitians, spiritual teachers and remarkable survivors to bring you the most comprehensive and inspiring wellness event you’ve ever experienced.
And here’s something else you should know: This event was not about fear. It wasn’t about scaring you with statistics or telling you that cancer is your fault. This event was about giving you the hope and support you need to tackle whatever comes your way. While the summit has now concluded, I took the results and compiled a modern-day guide for navigating cancer that you can find here.
The truth is, there isn’t a magic bullet or a one-sided approach to healing. If there was, we would have won the so-called war on cancer by now. It’s also not your fault if you’re facing this situation. We don’t always have the tools and knowledge we need to avoid illness, and sometimes our genes are at play, too.
But each of us has the beautiful opportunity and responsibility to care for ourselves and that’s what I focused on in this summit. No fear. Only positivity and possibilities–which is exactly what I needed in my own journey.
Your turn: Let me know if you attended the Healing Cancer World Summit or read my new cancer guide and let me know what you think in the comments below.
Peace and healing,
I collaborated with experts I’ve met through my experience with cancer and compiled a modern-day guide for navigating cancer with courage, clarity, and confidence. Whether you’re a cancer patient, survivor, thriver, caregiver or you’re interested in prevention, Your Cancer Guide was created with your needs in mind. Learn how this 7-step roadmap for prevention and recovery can help you in your cancer journey here.