CANCER: A Test Of Self Love

By Sari Huhtala

When Louise Bergeron received the call from her doctor asking her to come in to discuss the results of her biopsy, it hadn’t occurred to her that even that moment was somehow part of the universe’s plan to help her grow in her capacity to love herself. She was always the pillar in her family, the one who balanced it all, and never asked for help.

Even in that moment she was being called upon in a test of her own self-love. This upcoming appointment, in November 2011, would be where Bergeron, a Greater Sudbury resident, would receive her diagnosis of breast cancer. “I remember thinking to myself, I’m the strong one so I’m not going to ask anyone to come with me to the appointment for the diagnosis,” Bergeron recalls. “I was the strong one. I was not the one who asks for help.”

What she will later come to realize is that accepting her sister’s offer to accompany her to the appointment was part of loving herself. “When you love yourself, you allow others to love you because you believe you are worth it,” Bergeron says. “You affirm that you are loveable, and people get to love you. Why do we stop that? “We give to others, but we don’t accept their love for ourselves because we don’t fully love ourselves. That was the disconnect that I needed to bridge.”

What if everything that happens in our lives is a test? And the really, really big stuff –  the mud of life – like the cancers, the divorces, the loss of a job or the loss of a loved one, is the final exam? “My (journey with cancer) was like my final exam for my own PhD of life,” Bergeron says. “And the formula that I would come to understand at a deeper level is love is greater than fear.”

“I think the universe has a funny way of getting our attention – when we’re not getting it she sends more signals.” Cancer was not this great enemy to fight, she says, though it is always portrayed and marketed as a “fight against cancer.” But with a different level of awareness we begin to recognize that cancer is just something that happens. It is loss. It is change. It is no different than any other illness, or a divorce or a loss, she says.

In this chapter of her life, she would not fight cancer; instead, she would become a “warrior of love.“ The diagnosis of breast cancer was her final call to wake up, to fall in love with herself, wholeheartedly, so that she could get to the other side, and become a gift to the world. She had already transitioned from the corporate world before the cancer diagnosis – a $100,000 annual salary, a company vehicle, a pension plan – she had left it all behind.

“I had left my busy, stressful, chaotic life for health and happiness, and that decision led me to what ended up being my decision to become a life coach. “By the time the cancer came I was not the same stressed out person just trying to keep it all together – the person I was before becoming a life coach. When I was in the corporate world I wore five or six capes because I felt like I was superwoman.

I was trying to control everything because I wanted people to be happy, to be okay. I know now I was living in a place of fear. I was doing more, giving more because I never felt like I was enough. And then I got onto this journey about coaching, about myself, which allowed me to make decisions that made sense for me.”

“The cancer helped me evolve spiritually so that I get to be a gift to the world,” Bergeron says. “I would never have been able to say that before – to see myself as a gift to the world.” One of the most powerful messages delivered to her was at the beginning of her journey after the diagnosis. “I went to a counsellor at the hospital and one of the things she said was ‘This is all about you.’

This time I was really going to make it about me,” she says. That decision was empowering, she says. It created a space that allowed her to let go of the busyness in her life, which she professes had been her drug of choice, and just be so that she could listen to the guidance she needed in order to heal. “My body needed me to surrender – to surrender to the universe, to what really wants to happen.

I think we as human beings are such amazing beings that our free will gets in the way sometimes. Our body may need to rest, but we override it. I’m not listening to my body if I’m busy.” The consequence of not listening to the body is the effect it has on one’s personal energy, she says, hence the reason she called her business Personal Energy Coaching.

“Let’s say there are a couple of weeks I haven’t been exercising,” Bergeron explains. “I haven’t been outside in nature, I haven’t connected with people I love, maybe I’ve drank a little less water than usual and ate a little too much sugar, and said yes to a couple of commitments that I should have said no to. Once you understand the impact on your personal energy you realize how it affects you.”

Surrendering without judgement is crucial, she says. The body may ache for rest; allow time to rest, without judgement. Self love calls for non-judgment of self. “I cried sometimes when I needed to and crying was hard for me because I was the post in the family, but crying is fantastic; it’s a release. You’re allowing your body to do what it needs to do. If I love myself, then I don’t judge myself.

I allow my body to do what it needs to do – cry, rest or whatever it needs. “I learned there’s physical, emotional, mental and spiritual and it all works together. If one slows down, it affects all of these.” “The contrast to loving myself would be that I’m judging myself. I’m feeling guilty because what is happening in my life is impacting others, feeling I’m a burden, then I begin looking at everything that’s wrong.”

Several spiritual teachings suggest that there are only two emotions: love and fear, and that all other emotional states are simply variations of the two. Acting from a place of fear, one experiences emotional states such as anger, resentment, jealousy and guilt. Feelings of joy, gratitude, peace, courage and compassion are simply expressions of love.

“I believe that anything that’s coming from a place of fear (guilt, anger, resentment) is just going to feed the cancer. Every minute I’m on that side of fear, I’m not looking at what is working. Fear is not the driver in my life, and I think it was before. “You can’t really be in both camps at the same time, but I don’t think we are meant to live there. I don’t think fear should ever be equal to love. My fear, I’ve allowed it a part-time job. I listen to it. I ask myself what’s really going on.

Can I blast it? Is it irrational or is it telling me something? I give my fear a voice by journaling or a walk in nature, then I make a plan.” One’s capacity to love others is only as strong as one’s capacity to love oneself, she says. Her “final exam” question, during her journey through the illness, was “Can I truly love myself and honour myself to be courageous enough to tell people what I want?”

Bergeron says she can’t imagine what that chapter of her life, her journey with cancer, and undergoing treatments of chemotherapy and radiation, would have looked like had she not already unveiled the spiritual side of her life through meditation, journaling and study. “Had I found out I had cancer when I was busy, when I thought I was the GM (general manager) of the universe, I would have judged myself.

I would have taken care of everybody around me to make sure everyone else was okay, but this is the time to love and take care of yourself, so you can get to the other side and be a gift to the world.” Journaling was a tool that allowed her to open new perspectives and develop a deeper understanding of self –  to recognize fear-based emotions and access feelings of gratitude and courage.

Creating a vision board that captures all positive aspects is another great tool. Reading the works of spiritual authors like Marianne Williamson, Esther Hicks and Debbie Ford was also part of her healing. The question that surfaces in any change, like cancer or divorce, is “Are your ready to get through the storm?” “The stronger I am the more I can weather the storm,” Bergerons says.

“If I don’t take care of myself, if I don’t love myself and the storm comes through, then I get flattened, but if I’m strong, I can weather it.” But after the storm, there is always growth. Ask yourself – “Where am I and where do I want to be?” When you know something is out of sorts, you have to be ready and you really, really have to want to make changes.”

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