The Accidental Cancer Pilgrim

So, as the seismic shock waves of the summer’s events rumble off like thunder into the distance with the fleeing autumn, I emerge bruised, blinking mole-like,  and  poke my head from beneath the rubble to survey the damage.

The good news is  –  I am alive. Yay.

The bad news is – oh yes, the bad news. The Bad news, or should I say the BAD NEWS!!! Is the small matter of the cancer that has just sat down at the table uninvited and spoiled the party.

In September this year, I was diagnosed with stage 4, inoperable lung cancer, after a very brief, bizarre out – of – the – blue illness. To all intents and purposes and completely unbeknown to me, my number was seriously up, the grim reaper was tapping and peering in at the window  and crooking his finger at me. Through a series of fortuitous yet alarming and unpleasant events I ended up in A & E one Saturday night, just in time, where within hours I underwent an emergency procedure to drain a litre of fluid from around my heart, an act which undoubtedly saved my life.

Since that day, which I shall refer to as B.C (before cancer diagnosis) life has changed beyond measure, as you would expect; NOW  every day is a bonus. Life is now completely unrecognisable from how it was before and I no longer feel as if I am the same person.

But then, I’m not sure  I want to be.

The diagnosis of cancer has thrown down the gauntlet, challenging me to address and face up to what is dis-eased in my life, to heal and mend all those  things, the relationships, the unreleased emotions, and unresolved issues etc etc that are the very cause of illness. It has shown me what love and generosity and kindness and compassion there is in the world. And, again and again, I keep coming back to the powerful words of Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, 

our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure”

Because, it’s when we are up against it, when the tidal wave of fear is overwhelming and the options are fading, that we need to tap into that inner warrior, that inner teacher, inner doctor,  priest,  shaman,  child, parent , guru, healer so that we can be empowered just at the very time when the wind has been knocked from our sails, just at the very time we need an army of support and a rampart of resilience.

Just when you want to curl up, give up, scream, cry, when all seems lost, that is exactly the moment when we need to remember the truth of these words:


So, cancer, (and no, I am not going to elevate your status with a capitol “c”.) I accept your challenge – and I accept it because  a) I have no choice and b) oh yeah,  I have no choice.

BUT – one thing, cancer, I do know; and I make this vow. I am NOT giving all my power away to you. You cannot destroy my life entirely, you cannot steal my humour, my capacity for love, you cannot keep me prisoner in a richtus of fear, you can’t stop me laughing publicly at inappropriate moments, or dreaming of the future, or dancing or praying, drumming or rattling or singing loudly in bad Spanish.

No, cancer,  you might have created the mother of all Tsunami’s in my humble little existence the day I heard the words: “I’m so sorry blah blah blah lung cancer blah blah can’t operate blah blah, so sorry, palliative, blah bloody blah. ”  

But, I want to thank you for the opportunity to really discover who I am, where I am from and why am I here. In the days since you made yourself known to me, beneath the shock and fear and tears and grief, I have glimpsed something in this existence so exquisite, so inspiring, more beautiful than I can find words to describe. How, cancer, can you be at once something so terrifying and yet so illuminating.

This then, is a journal of my journey, my quest, my pilgrimage to health, wellness and wholeness, with cancer as my teacher and guide. Musings, meditations, and curious meanderings through a mind making sense of an uneven playing field, in the dark with no torch. Grasping my #glasshalffull in one hand and my laminated membership card to the cancer club in the other, come walk with me, an accidental cancer pilgrim, keep me company, as I will you, as we wend way along the camino of Life.

47 thoughts on “The Accidental Cancer Pilgrim

  1. My god, you are so inspirational and in the face of cancer. I feel ashamed of my own patheticness at facing my own minor troubles. You truly are a warrior and I so admire you!
    From the woman you encouraged to start changing her life when you came to visit our school. I am in your debt for your loving encouragement.
    Sending you lots of healing hugs xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Sandra, you are welcome. And, believe me, there’s nothing pathetic about being overwhelmed or not being able to cope as well as we would always like. It’s certainly a place I know well. Keep going. Keep believing in yourself, I do. Go read the poem again and let it remind you who you are. x


  2. Go for it girl, you are so much bigger than this! Cancer, for some can be the greatest adventure and healing of their lives, for others it’s a death sentence not to be challenged or questioned… you were never going to be one of the “well I better just lay down and die” ones Leah/Ali. Good luck on your epic journey my love and shout if you need to explore some of the unforgiven, unknowns… or just simply talk. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Leah,
    This is very beautiful and brought forth many tears. I too was given membership to this club. But I had a ‘good’ cancer on the thyroid so I having had friends die of cancer, fear was big inside me. I was determined to do all the healing I could alternative. So having come to the conclusion that I didn’t want to die – and this was big as it has been with me since childhood. I too began to see the world in a beautiful light. The little things of nature called out to me. The trees became my friends. I could touch life in a new way. My learnings through the various therapies I tried and mainly the shamanic work I did all helped me enormously.
    But after 4 years and some traumas, it grew very large and was affecting my neck and head. I decided surgery was the best option. I feel I have my life somewhat back again and do struggle with the daily chores but keep trying to choose the path of love. What has happened though is that through these 4 years of searching and coming to terms with friends dying. I made inroads with making peace with death. Become friends with and accept it. Death processes we see around us all the time. It is a transition, a renewal, a transformation, an adventure, a soul journey and the way we must all travel.
    I wish you so much courage and strength in this time. And send you so much love. x

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very touched by this Leah. Happy first Advent to you as we celebrate this in Germany with lightening the first candle before Christmas. All my Love and I miss you. Ingrid xx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Leah in every way you are my ideal woman.. slim petite dark haired and of course bright and smart. As a man roughly your age who has never found love I can only dream of having someone like you in my life. Your recent bad luck is so undeserved and im with you.. I wish I could hold you close right now.. there I go dreaming again…Anyway your words are moving and I admire your positive attitude. I feel you will beat this and I pray you do. Lots of love Xxxxxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ali, I have just found out tonight. I have no words. These words of yours are beautiful. I’m sending love and prayers and all the good f**** ju ju your way.


  7. Great news Ali, very pleased for you. (I sat next to you in clinic 3weeks ago, waiting for pharmacist)
    I hoped that your treatment meant you are positive for EGFR.
    My darling husband was also diagnosed with stage 4 terminal lung “c” in Feb this year. Thankfully, after 6 cycles of chemo, he is now on maintenance chemo, which was completely unexpected. It’s been a rollercoaster of a year….but the care and people at MCC are just brilliant. So pleased you managed to get there.
    Wishing you all good and positive things going forward


    1. I remember you, Nikki. thank you so much, and the very best of luck to your husband so glad he is doing better, that’s really positive news, wonderful. Yes, EFGR, it is, by the way. I wish you and your husband and family all you wish for yourselves, many blessings. May see you there next time.


  8. Hi lovely lady, I don’t write much as sometimes I cannot find the words but you are always in my heart and prayers. hope to see, you soon. With stories about adventures in frogland. Love Bev. X


  9. Hi
    Thanks for your good wishes. This note is for you, not for public posting.
    It’s such a small world….
    We did meet briefly many years ago, at Lyall Watson’s funeral. He was a dear friend of ours, I’d known him since the early 1970s. I have never forgotten you speaking at his “farewell”. Very moving. (I’m still in touch with Judy, who had been married to him.)
    I hope you don’t mind me mentioning this, (we didn’t know young Lyall)
    Good luck, hope to see you again


    1. Ah, Nikki, you should have said. Anyway, lovely to re-meet you, and I do wish you and your husband the very best. I shall be back down at UCH in a few weeks time . I do hope that you have had a peaceful Christmas, all best wishes, Ali (Leah) x


  10. Hi Leah, I’ve been following your journey and wish you the best. I was diagnosed with female nonsmokers lung cancer (alk+) this year too, at 53 years old. I’ve been wondering as to cause, and have a theory it may be cat litter – but no way to do research, so want to ask — did you have a cat these past few decades? I wonder if litter could be a cause — I have changed brands and use a face mask now, just to be safe… Take care, it is nice to have a public and charming companion in cancer


    1. Thank you Susie, I don’t know about cat litter. I’m sure it isn’t great as there’s bound to be chemicals in there, so a mask is a great measure. I do have cats, but they don’t use litter. I wish you so much luck with your journey, do keep in touch and let me know how you are getting on, all love L x


  11. Hey Ali, you may wish to start taking “Life Mel Honey” – it targets cancer cells by inducing cell death while leaving non-cancerous cells unharmed. (Two teaspoons of Life Mel Honey a day.) Medical research has been recorded related to lung cancer plus many other types of cancer and patients are now being advised to take the honey throughout their treatments. It isn’t cheap about £40 for a small jar of it but the benefits far outweigh the price tag. If you have time please google it as the information relating to it really is quite fascinating plus it has been tried and tested by the medical profession. Its something I always suggest to my clients who are undergoing various cancer treatments. It wont do you any harm but it will be of great benefit, worth considering. Hope you don’t mind me suggesting it?
    Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “A woman is like a teabag – you never know how strong she is until she gets into hot water.” May your positivity and strength continue to flourish. Take care, Lisa


  12. I left a comment a few days ago, hasn’t shown up – wondering if you were exposed regularly to cat litter, as I too have nslc and thinking of possible causes (I gather you smoked ages ago, but your age is similar to mine, which is more a nonsmoker’s age/cancer) – hope you’re holding up well, please reply

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi Leah,
    Just had to say that these are the most inspirational words that I have ever seen written about cancer. After having stage 3 bowel cancer, following the initial shock, anger, upset and fear, you simply have to be positive. People find this positivity difficult to understand but what is the alternative? I love your attitude, spirit and determination. Whatever is in store, I wish you and your family all the best and much love xx


  14. Hello Leah I saw someone in the last episode of Sherlock who reminded me of you, and that led me here, wondering how you are getting on? I understand the ideas of cleansing and healing yourself by letting go of all the past judgements, resentments, dis-ease, etc, but how do you actually go about it? It’s always seems the hardest task, to my mind. Maybe the realisation of a life and death situation help you to realise how small these ungrateful are? Sharpens your perspective? I would like to think I could heal myself, but where to start is the hugest question! I hope you are making progress, sending hugs, love and prayers x Denise x


  15. i have stage 4 lung cancer and wonder if my being in a relationship that is very stressful has been the cause
    It is not easy to remedy. I love the man but we are not good for one another. 10 years together and since my disgnosis last september he is trying to leave me.
    i don’t want him to stay and feel hemmed in,
    He has been taking trips by himself for the past six months so he has been no support anyway. I just want him to be honest and say i am looking for someone else. He won’t but I know he is now seeing others. It is worse that he is pretending to care but he actually can’t. I know he just wants to cut loose from me now i have cancer


    1. Hello Katya, I am so sorry to hear of the situation you are in. Please do seek some one to talk to, it’s so important now, more than ever to find a source of support. Try Macmillan or look for a cancer support group near you, for group or individual support and counselling. I wish you the very best of luck, and do try to incorporate doing things that you know help you unwind. I recommend yoga, meditation, mindfulness, singing, excercise, tai chi, being in nature, a massage. Blessings, with love.


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