“I own the world!” was my exact thought when my doctors entered my bone-marrow transplant unit and said I was cancer-free! That joyous moment lasted a few seconds because they immediately declared, “Be careful, you have a 30 percent chance of recurrence from the same cancer and X percent chance of XYZ …”
I don’t remember the entire conversation as I stopped listening. My body became numb, and I was pushed into fear mode again. That began 20 years of living in fear, stagnation, and confusion! By 2020, I had chronic painful, bi-weekly shingles, low energy, brain fog, bloating, lung damage, was overweight, and suffered from paralyzing anxiety.
My rock bottom came when I returned home from a hectic day at the hospital and found my sink exactly as I had left it that morning, full of dirty dishes. I was fuming! I felt disappointed, exhausted, and aggravated. The cleaning lady, who had been living for free in my house since she and her daughter became homeless, didn’t feel obligated to put a few dishes in the dishwasher. An insignificant oversight, one might think, but in those days, that was the last stroke.
That day, before work, I prepared breakfast, lunch boxes, and cooked dinner while she was sipping coffee and telling me she had nothing to do and intended to sit around with the animals (my dog and my cat). At work, it was business as usual. Nothing major occurred until the phone call from my dad, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease on his 70th birthday. The same doctor visit also cost him his driving license. He was my mother’s sole-primary caretaker and now couldn’t even go shopping. He seemed to have given up on fighting this ridiculous diagnosis. He sounded hopeless, as if he really didn’t care about anything.
“Think about what you want to do with your mother when I’m gone,” he said. I replied, “Dad, trust me; you don’t have Alzheimer’s disease. You received a superficial diagnosis. We will fight this and win.”
I was devastated and extremely worried. I thought, what if he has Alzheimer’s? They surely wouldn’t give him such a permanent, life-altering diagnosis if they weren’t positive. I felt powerless, worried for both parents, and uncertain about their future and mine.
At that moment, a sharp chest pain took my breath away. Self-diagnosing the symptom as shingles, I reached for an antiviral to stop the spread, reduce the pain, and shorten this bout.
I started having bi-weekly shingle outbreaks the previous year. After blood tests, my doctors decided I should do a bone marrow biopsy to exclude a form of cancer called myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). Hearing those words shocked me, even though since my cure, I worried that I would die from a recurrence and my kids would become motherless. “I knew it,” my doctors had warned me!
I couldn’t breathe! I gasped for air, but very little oxygen flowed through my recently damaged lungs (from inhaling toxic amounts of formalin at work). I felt like I had five elephants sitting on my chest. I took out my inhaler, did my usual two puffs, and returned to work.
Back home, standing next to the sink, my anger started boiling. I had hoped my guest would clean the sink, at the very least. Also, when she heard me arrive, she was eager to eat the dinner I had prepared. I was infuriated, tired, felt used, and unappreciated. I previously had great intuition but now had nothing. I thought, what is wrong with me? I knew I had to figure this out.
Little did I know that this event was the best “worst” thing that happened to me that day! If it weren’t for my cleaning lady saga, I would never have achieved this fulfilled, healthful, and authentic life I’m living now. Shortly after that circumstance, I was cured! Mine was a different cure; it was internal, real, and nothing could take it from me, not even my doctor’s data! I no longer experienced fear, sleepless anxious nights, shingles, or physical and mental pain. I stopped using inhalers and pills! I lost weight, regained focus, mental clarity, and built fantastic relationships! Now, more productive than ever, I enjoy my time on the beach without feeling chased.
How did this happen within a few months? It was easy once I realized what had happened to me. Since my last day in the transplant unit, I have lived with the fear of cancer returning. I have existed in survival mode ever since. That caused me to steer off big dreams, desires, and fighting for my cause. As a result, I lived a meaningless life, estranged from my values, childhood dreams, and passion. Ultimately, I stopped myself every time things got tough because my doctors had told me, “Be careful or else cancer will return.”
I wish they had told me something else. I wish they had told me, “We know how to cure cancer, but now you need a cure for your thoughts because a surviving mind is very different from a thriving mind. Since we don’t know how to do that, find someone who knows.”
The thriving mind blooms when it has the freedom to make its own decisions, connect deeply with people, and master its desired passion(s). Thriving is about pursuing your life’s purpose.
Dear reader, this is what I wish someone had told me in 2000: “You just recovered from a physical and mental war; take your time healing from both with excellent foods for your body, mind, and soul. Nurture yourself, and when ready, go back to the whiteboard and write down your values, passion, and purpose. Make it your new direction in life. Anything else is unimportant if it is not aligned with your goals. Fight hard for your purpose in life, and don’t worry about unnecessary stress. The fear and anxiety that stem from not fighting for your cause are the slow killers!”
Samone Zarabi is a certified health and life coach.