Last week, I found the most amazing, potent medicine – in a field.
It didn’t come in a bottle (I wish it did, I’d send you all a freebie), nor a syringe, tablet, nor IV. You can’t get it on prescription, but it IS perfectly legal!
It is the dream made manifest of one extraordinary and inspiring young woman, Sophie Trew, who after her own cancer journey at the age of 23, inspired with a renewed vigour and awakened appreciation for life, created Trew Fields, the UK’s very first cancer awareness and holistic health festival, now in its third year. The description does not do the event justice, for what she has in fact created is an extra-ordinary event that is suffused with joy, and hope and strong community spirit. Her aim is to create a platform for “inspiration, education and celebration” whilst cultivating a space to challenge the old narrative around cancer and illness.
Walking into the festival, I was struck by just how normal everything felt. With cancer at its centre one might be forgiven for expecting a slightly subdued or serious tone to the proceedings, but no, not at all. The atmosphere was as light and sunny as the weather. For a small boutique festival there was so much on offer: delicious vegan food stalls, including healthy sweet treats, a woodland bar selling THE most divine kombucha, here and there a few stalls for those with a hole burning in their pockets selling fab clothes, sage, crystals, rattles and more. I resisted, just!
Hidden away in a field across the bridge where all the baby frogs were hatching, you could indulge in a variety of gorgeous free and donation treatments and massages. It was here we discovered one of our beautiful friends doing free healings which were the talk of the festival.
There was a shamanic tent with introductory talks by the Travelling Shaman, who also lead an incredible mass drumming circle on the Saturday night. There was yoga galore on offer, breathwork, a sunrise silent disco, nutritional info, and talks on subjects ranging from psychedelics, astrology, working with essential oils and building your dream life.
There just wasn’t time to do everything!!!!!!
The main focus of the weekend was the main stage under a fabulous purple and yellow marquee. Sophie had lined up and incredible offering of speakers talking on a wide range of subjects, from keto, the cancer experience of the doctor patient, epigenetics, treating the terrain not the tumour with Dr Nasha Winters, the cultural challenges of ethnic minorities, and discussion panels including stage 4 thrivers and a medicinal cannabis Q and A. I was delighted to finally meet Sophie Sabbage, who had sent me a copy of her book “The Cancer Whisperer” at the start of my journey, who gave an incredible talk on “The Fear Protocol – Facing it, Feeling it and Taking Hold of It”, Dr David Hamilton Phd, author of How the Mind Can Heal the body. And, I can’t pass up the opportunity to mention my new buddy Fi Munro, incredible woman with an incredible story and brilliant message: Live like you are Dying. ( Oh, and then there was me.)
And for my chosen subject I spoke on “From Cancer Victim to Cancer Rebel” looking at the personal experience of cancer from a psycho-spiritual perspective, with particular reference to my background as a yoga teacher, shamanic healer and even as an actor. The aim of the talk focusses on taking one’s power back: from our dis-ease, from medical professionals, from expectation, from fear etc. And how I challenge myself to see cancer as my teacher and guide, not simply my enemy, in order that cancer become more than just an ordeal or something to be endured, but an opportunity to expand and fully engage with the precious gift of life. In particular I explored the healing power of gratitude, being the alchemists of our own healing, and mind as medicine discussing techniques I have found beneficial such as visualisation, and working with altered states of consciousness ie trance, and plant medicines.
Being a cancer rebel was inspired by participating in the April climate emergency protests in London. It really sparked something very deep inside, after several difficult months. I saw my own life reflected as a microcosm of the bigger picture: there we were in our thousands, from all walks of life: pensioners, students, mothers, fathers, teenagers, families – “rebels” committing acts of non- violent civil disobedience in order to save the fragile balance of life on earth. Before time runs out. Life on earth faces extinction and the hour glass is almost empty. It’s almost midnight. For me too. Time is running out. I reject the expected notion of being passive or a patient or of being a victim, and I am prepared to try almost anything to “save” my life, even if, like the XR rebels it means breaking the law, just a little. Besides, I ain’t got nothing to lose.
When the Spring rebellion finished I wrote “The Cancer Rebel’s Manifesto for Life” as a reminder to myself what it takes to keep your head above water, to thrive, and to keep on keepin’ on while living with cancer and defying expectation every single day.
I shared it at Trew Fields for the audience to use as a template for their own rebel manifesto, and I share it here with you. It’s a work in progress. And I’m more than fine with that.
A CancerRebel’s Manifesto for Life
Against the fear of cancer
Against my prognosis
Against negative expectations
Against being told what to do
Against pity from others and myself
Against being diminished by cancer
Against being defined by cancer
Against restricted by cancer
Against being bullied by cancer
I EMBRACE the strength of my spirit
I embrace every opportunity that cancer gives me to learn, to grow, to expand
I embrace my own instincts
I embrace the path on which I find myself
I embrace the glass half full
I embrace healing
I embrace laughter
I embrace joy
I embrace hope
I embrace gratitude
I embrace spirit
I embrace the strength of my ancestors
I embrace magic and miracles
I embrace doing it my way
I embrace love of myself and of all beings
Above all else I embrace LIFE
For I am a CANCER REBEL with a fierce heart, an independent mind, a warrior spirit, and an ocean of desire to keep on keeping on and making a difference and making a noise as long as there is sweet breath in my body.
To LIFE. Long and sweet may it be for us all.
For me, one of the main things that I took away, was the opportunity to be in the presence of so many people who are in the same boat as me. It doesn’t happen too often. It’s an unspoken recognition in their eye and in their heart that says –“I know”. The world outside and its narrative and belief system and expectations around cancer can sometimes be exhausting to challenge and to live with on a daily basis; being the person “with cancer” places you outside, it makes you different, it labels you.
But at Trew Fields, you get to look beyond the cancer. What you see instead, is an incredible, awesome, beautiful gathering of humans who just want to celebrate life in a safe and healing space in whatever way they can. And, let me tell you – we made a pretty damn good fist of it!!!!!!!.
A week on and the TREW FIELDS magic is still coursing through my veins. My husband says it has filled me with vitality. And it’s true, I feel a -shimmer with life. And if that is not medicine, then I don’t know what is.
So a massive thank you to everyone at Trew Fields – speakers, therapists, teachers, workshop leaders, stall holders, all the volunteer behind the scenes helpers, festival goers – and to the incredible medicine that is Sophie Trew, for being the vessel through which the universe gave us all Trew Fields.
Ps. Many people have been asking if the talks will be available for those who were unable to attend. The answer is YES – hopefully around mid-August. Trew Fields is not run for profit, so contributions will go into the pot to break even this year and contribute towards TF2020.