I was a normal six year old girl enjoying a carefree life, laughing with my friends, and starting my second year at primary school. I was Daddy’s little princess and my life literally changed overnight. My childhood was ripped away from me and the harsh reality of Dad’s death stole my innocence. It all seemed to happen so fast — my tiny little head did not have time to take in the reality of it all. Having been diagnosed in December of 1977 with a secondary bowel cancer, my Dad died four months later at the age of 36 in April 1978. After my Dad’s death, I was thrown into a world of grief; I no longer had my Dad to comfort and to hug me. I no longer had my Dad to read me bedtime stories, to tuck me into bed at night, to praise me after my ballet concerts, or to hold my little hand when we went for a walk. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my Dad had Lynch syndrome.
Experiencing the death of a parent at a young age is certainly a character building experience and can be the catalyst for a young girl to develop “daddy issues”. These daddy issues manifested themselves in the form of manipulation and promiscuous behaviors during my teenage years. I sought father figures in all my male relationships throughout my twenties, which only led to broken partnerships and a failed marriage. Independence was my armor and I gave power to the masculine side of myself and not necessarily in a healthy or productive way. I consciously quelled the very essence of my feminine side down. I feared I was weak, could easily be hurt, and was vulnerable — I was a survivor who needed to be in control.
My second marriage came with its own set of challenges. Despite our backgrounds and former spouses, our union seemed strong but after ten years of financial pressure, challenging teenage stepchildren and two babies of our own I had started seeking a way out. I began with riding my bike taking every opportunity to escape. I had commenced self-development class once a week in the hope of rediscovering myself, picked up a part-time job, which got me out of the house mainly at nights and on weekends because blended family time was finally taking its toll. I just couldn’t do it anymore. It broke my heart to be despised in my own home every fortnight; I was at a complete loss. The environment around me was becoming so toxic and I didn’t know how to fix it. If I really wanted to self sabotage my life the Universe was about to give me a permanent way out if I chose to accept it.
You know when you just know certain things? Well, my intuition knew that I had cancer even before the doctor’s appointment. My husband and I went up to the mountains and sat quietly in a little tea house. We held hands, cried and made a promise to each other that no matter what the diagnosis we would get through it together. We walked to a small gift shop and I was drawn to purchase a beautiful aquamarine pendant. I didn’t know at the time but the benefit of using this crystal is that it aids you to let go of emotional issues from your past that you have been holding on to. When I paid for the pendant we started talking to the owner of the shop, she just happened to ask what my star sign was. When the word “Cancer” fell out of my mouth I just knew the heaviness in my heart was a fear I wasn’t sure I was strong enough to face. It wasn’t just my star sign, that same afternoon my doctor confirmed I had stomach cancer.
During treatment and surgery something beautiful happened. That little girl that lost her Father resurfaced. She finally had an opportunity to grieve the loss of her Dad. She looked into her own children’s eyes at night and felt the heartache her Dad must have felt, knowing he was not going to see her grow up. She had time to sit on the floor and play with her boys. She had to hand all the masculine stuff over to her husband from the running of the house to the organising of everyone’s life. She only had one job – to get her adult self well so she could love and guide her little boys into men. The cancer diagnosis exposed the my feminine side that had been so carefully hidden high in my subconscious for so long, had finally re-emerged, and spilled back over into my life.
I took my power back, faced my own mortality, beat the statistics, and chose to live a life of self awareness. My feminine side was not to be feared. She is kind, nurturing, creative, healing, and most of all incredibly powerful. Allowing the creative side of myself to explore my emotions through art was my modality for healing during my illness. Painting was my passion prior to my illness but the work I was starting to produce began surprising me.
Yes, I have Lynch syndrome, but it does not take over every thought of every minute of my life. I am not my genes and I am most certainly not the cancer. I have used the experience to empower my life and to make a difference. I count, I am a survivor but I am also a creator, a healer, a mother and a wife. I am grateful for the knowledge of my genetics because I can now be a proactive, happier person who doesn’t sit in drama or sweat the small stuff. My perspective and ability to bring hope and healing to others through my experience and my artwork has changed my life. The cancer and the Lynch syndrome diagnosis have opened my eyes, saved my marriage and awakened me to possibilities far beyond anything I could have ever imagined.