Jenn is the Founder of Warrior Heart Wisdom, a holistic healing practice where she serves as a Spiritual Development Coach, Healing Guide, Intuitive Wellness Coach, and Energy Healer to clients around the globe. She also hosts empowering, healing retreats. You can learn more at www.warriorheartwisdom.com.
Being diagnosed as a high-school senior
When you envision your senior year of high school, you typically think of prom, preparing for college, and enjoying the last moments of youthful freedom before moving into adulthood. The last thing that I expected to face was cancer. Yet, I was diagnosed with metastasized Thyroid Cancer only a few weeks into the start of the school year.
My treatment plan included aggressive surgery, and radiation, in hopes that I would walk away with a positive prognosis for a long life. And that I did. But I also walked away with the painful, scary memory of having been a cancer patient, facing my mortality, changes to my physical body, and the fear of recurrence. Everyone celebrates the moment you are declared cancer free; few talk about the lasting effects that cancer has on your body, your mind, and your spirit.
Like many, I couldn’t run away from my cancer experience quick enough, hoping to never look back. However, for years I was plagued with a myriad of symptoms that grew until I could no longer ignore them. Anxiety, depression, fatigue, insomnia, gut problems, and topping the list, the pain, and tightness in my neck, and shoulders where the cancer had been. I thought to myself, “What was the point of surviving cancer if this is what life is going to be like?”
This less-than-ideal state of being pushed me to seek help. I tried talk therapy, medication, and other traditional approaches. After ample time, and little change, doctors were out of options, and I was left feeling defeated. So, I began to look for other ways of healing. I recalled my grandmother using complementary, and holistic modalities to stay free from bladder cancer for 15 years. I began taking care of my physical body with diet, supplements, and movement. I noticed some small changes, but my symptoms still lingered. I continued to dig deeper and came across an article that talked about the effects of trauma. That word, trauma, scared me but something told me to read on.
The Trauma of Cancer & Its Effect on the Body
Only 4 paragraphs in and I had chills. It was all beginning to make sense. I was shocked to learn that any type of trauma, big or small, physical, mental, or emotional, leaves an imprint on our body, our mind, and our spirit. When trauma feels overwhelming or we do not have the proper support, we will suppress it. This happens on a subconscious level, so we’re not aware that we’re doing it but the effects are palpable:
Our body gets stuck in a state of stress with tight and painful muscles, fascia, and tissues
Our nervous system gets stuck in a perpetual fight, flight, or freeze state
Our mind gets stuck in a constant state of worry
Our spirit feels deflated
Over time this drains our energy, depletes our health, and can lead to a variety of symptoms such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, gut problems, insomnia, and the list goes on. After more in-depth research on healing the body from trauma, I turned to massage therapy.
The Power of Healing Touch
As luck would have it, I happened across a massage therapist named Hope who specialized in neuromuscular reprogramming and trauma release. She had a calm, nurturing energy and greeted me with a warm and welcoming hug. Before getting on the massage table, she listened intently to my story and my struggles. Before beginning the massage, she explained that the body cannot be forced to relax or heal. You must slowly and gently work with it, to help it feel safe enough to let go. This approach was a far cry from being prodded, and poked during cancer treatment. Hope told me that our body holds our story; this is also explained in the New York Times best-seller The Body Keeps Score. A great reference book if you are looking to learn more.
I could immediately feel a drop in my anxiety when Hope put her hands on me. It felt like she was communicating with my body; sensing things on another level. As she approached my neck, the site of my cancer, and where I had experienced debilitating pain, and tension, she asked if she had permission to touch this area. I had guarded this area so tightly, yet in her presence I felt safe and agreed. As she touched my neck very gently, tears began to flow from my eyes. I didn’t know exactly what was happening, all I knew is that when I left the session, I felt different, physically, mentally, and emotionally. I continued to see Hope regularly. Part by part, she guided my body in telling its story, in releasing the fear it was holding onto, and ultimately returning to a state of ease, and balance.
This experience gave me the first-hand knowledge that while an experience like cancer can negatively impact the body, healing touch and other holistic modalities can help return the body to wellness, and balance. It gave me great hope that the effects of cancer are not a life sentence, yet an experience to learn from, and to find great strength, and self-love through.