Our favorite meditation and mindfulness author Paige Davis shares an excerpt of her new book, Here We Grow: Mindfulness Through Cancer and Beyond to inspire us all.
Ever since I can remember I’ve had a dream of writing a book. However, Here We Grow: Mindfulness Through Cancer and Beyond isn’t the book I thought I would write. This is the story of how I realized my Valentine’s Day breast cancer diagnosis wasn’t my crisis point, but a landing pad of spiritual and life experiences inviting me to integrate my mind-body-spirit and awaken to the divine love inherent to us all. In many ways, this book wrote me and helped me to reclaim parts of myself I didn’t even realize were lost.
Upon my diagnosis, I sent an email to my family sharing some of the guidelines I wanted to share including treating this as a love journey. I expressed my desire to stay away from words such as fight, battle or poison. Not because I was naïve about the aggressive nature of cancer, but because I needed to balance that reality through a more compassionate lens. I shared the integrative practices I wanted to incorporate including mindfulness, meditation, visualization, and acupuncture. And I expressed my desire to celebrate milestones along the way. One such milestone was the mid-way point of my six-month chemotherapy regime. I called it my “chemocation” and I’m so grateful to share this excerpt from my book:
It’s midsummer in Texas and miserably hot. While I’m craving a vacation, it’s difficult given my weekly Taxol treatments. My friend Rachel comes for a visit. She is unfamiliar with July in Texas and is convinced it will be a welcome change from the gloomy San Francisco summer months. Rachel and I have been travel buddies since our twenties, when we both lived in San Francisco. She was part of my goddess crew along with my friends Regan, Tina, and Jamie. We called ourselves the soul sisters, in every sense of the word.
In her early days as a travel writer, Rachel was assigned various destinations to visit. Until she met her husband, I was her plus-one on adventures. We’ve visited five-star resorts, budget roadside motels, and outdoor yurts. It’s only fitting that Rachel is the one to take me on my first “chemocation,” a couple of days in the Texas hill country an hour outside of Austin.
Rachel swoops into Austin, so happy to see me. Rachel runs at a fast pace; she talks fast, moves quickly and her intellectual capacity is remarkable. We head to dinner and have a lovely meal catching up but her phone keeps ringing. She’s mysteriously distracted throughout dinner and keeps apologizing but she needs to take a call outside. I’m confused but ignore it. We finish dinner and head home. Rachel’s phone rings again as I’m preparing for bed. She answers quickly and then hangs up. “Wait! Don’t go to bed yet, I think I saw something outside.” “Rachel, what are you talking about?” She’s kind of freaking me out. I head to the door and open it to show her it’s probably nothing. I’m shocked to see our friend Regan, all the way from Boston, in the doorway. Tears spring. I’m so confused, trying to process how Regan is standing in front of me and how Rachel was able to keep a secret. We stay up most of the night catching up on their lives, their kids, and my cancer. We reminisce and giggle and it feels like nothing has changed.
The next morning we head to Whole Foods Market and I note how happy I am. We grab coffee, breakfast tacos, and some sparkling water for the road. We arrive at the Texas hill country resort around noon, just in time for poolside lunch. This is the first time I’ve put on a bathing suit since my surgery. I’m thrilled that my breasts are small enough that I can actually wear a bikini. Even though these are my best friends and I know they won’t judge, I’m insecure. I feel incomplete. I still have expanders, which don’t feel like they belong on my body. I compensate by putting on a swim shirt, justifying it by recalling that chemo makes me more sensitive to the sun. We are enjoying lunch, laughing and talking about everything except cancer. I feel so grateful. I even gain the confidence to take off my swim shirt and go in the water in my bikini. The water feels amazing on my body. I’ve grown so accustomed to simply surviving that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to feel physical pleasure. I really let go as I swim. After a few laps I’m a new woman in a new body. When I come up out of the water, Rachel and Regan are smiling at me. They must sense the pride I’m feeling.
When I drop Regan and Rachel off at the airport the next day, my stomach is sore from laughing so hard. I am floating on a cloud of gratitude, love, surprise, and laughter. It’s just the boost I need to move into the chemo homestretch.