June Issue

Break the Connection Between Stress and Illness

Finding My New Normal

by: Alexis Acker-Halbur

My diagnoses of Stage IV colon cancer were a spiritual turning point. In many ways, I did die in my two near-death experiences from cancer. I could feel myself sinking into the hospital bed mattress, unable to grasp that I was traveling further away from life as I knew it. I saw my deceased mother who beckoned me to come with her. Yet, I found myself sobbing and shaking my head. My mother smiled and said, “Never give up,” and with that she was gone. Both times I returned to life exhausted, but with a clear understanding – I had a choice. I know that I’ve been changed forever. My values and beliefs have evolved, and I no longer fear the world like I did. To survive, I found that I needed to create a meaning for my traumas and illnesses.

Months later I recalled these experiences and had a decisive moment. If I can make meaning out of the trauma I had experienced, then maybe I could live a healthier and more fulfilling life. I did a lot of soul searching to understand why I almost died, and finding a meaning was extremely healing for me. The way I choose to think about myself, and my life circumstances, influenced the amount of energy I have for healing. Rather than asking myself “why” I got cancer, I needed to take back my control. So instead I ask, “Now that this has happened, what am I going to do about it?” This reframing puts me back into control. “Why” questions are emotional queries that have no answers. Instead, I now ask myself what I need to change so I do not get ill.

I call this my “new normal” and at first it freaked out my friends and family, because they expected the “old Alex” to rant and rave about my misfortunes. Through reframing, I now believe that traumatic experiences are really opportunities to heal from life’s darkest times.

Finding meaning to trauma and illness is not easy to do, but once I reframed my why questions it was easier to accept my new normal. I know this to be true because I am now living a life filled with love and purpose. Gone are the fears that made me ill, the belief that I was damaged, and the attitude that I was loathsome. I am not the same woman I was before cancer – that woman died.

The new “spiritual” me spends my days meditating while walking my dog, eating healthy meals, praying while writing, and helping others heal through my workshops. Life now offers me a love for discovery, listening, and learning. I cherish my days of silence and times of wild rapture. I am living the life I was meant to live – because I will never give up on the authentic woman I have become. The world is so much richer than I ever expected! I changed into the best woman I can be.

If you like these articles, please let me know. I’d love to get your comments on my website. Thank you.

Never Give Up!