Cancer & choice

Jem Ayres in a wheelchair in hospital after receiving treatment for her brain tumour.


“You always have a choice, no matter how small”

Hilly Spenceley, Founder of Shakti Tantra.


I did not choose Cancer.  The first thought I had after realising I had cancer (as I’m not sure I was ever really told) was ‘but I’ve got no choice.  I didn’t choose this.  Take it back’

I remember saying to my friend and Tantra teacher Hilly Spenceley ‘I have no choice in this’.  To which she replied ‘You always have a choice, no matter how small’.

choice_fear_quoteFrom that moment on I made my first choice, that all my decisions would be from an empowered place.

I had no choice in the fact that I was having brain surgery in Thailand thousands of miles from any friends, I had no choice in the diagnosis of a stage 4 cancer deemed terminal and I had no choice about flying home as that wasn’t an option at this stage due to the size of the tumour.

But every tiny decision I needed to make, I would make fully and consciously.

Everyday a food menu was dropped off at my hospital bed.  Thai food or western food- I had a choice!  I took all my presence and consciousness in making that decision.  That was my power.

Then even in my darkest times when I felt I had no choice, and I couldn’t walk whilst recovering from surgery, I still found a choice.  I had no choice about having cancer, but how I chose to feel about it was 100% my decision.  I would remain empowered throughout cancer I decided.

I could feel the fear taking over my body but I remember just thinking ‘this isn’t mine, this isn’t my fear’

I had no previous experience of cancer, no personal relationship or story attached to it but I could see very clearly others fears and expectations around cancer and what they believed that meant for me and my future.  It felt like their faces were telling a story of how I was going to suffer.  I could have listened to that & with it, invited the suffering in.  But I knew to stay absolutely present and that in that very moment I had no pain and no suffering, so that was my truth. I chose to live my truth in the face of others fear.

Cancers trademark has stamped society with a whole belief system around cancer, recovery, treatment, suffering and death.  I chose that it wasn’t my reality and that story did not belong to me.  I had no idea how cancer would affect me or how it would be, but I wasn’t going to be inviting those thoughts in for tea.  To sit at my table like a festering uninvited neighbour who wouldn’t leave, and start to affect me negatively.

So, with minimal expectations which belonged to me, I set out to make my choice.  Forchoice_decision_quote the first time, I made the decision to live, really live.  Live each feeling, each moment, each physical sensation fully.

Like everyone I had been born into a body and given life, but never consciously appreciated it.  It’s not till the option of death steps closer to you, that you can really choose life.

My life before diagnosis had been full and bursting.  I was creative and organised – a rare and amazing mix.  I ran my own Burlesque Business teaching dance classes.  I was ‘Mumma Mimi’ or Mumma Burlesque as my hundreds of ladies called me across Essex & Hertfordshire and I loved my work, so my work had become my life.  My world felt like a pressure cooker and I had very little space for anything else. But that’s what happens when your work is both your joy and purpose.

When I found out that I would be in Thailand for neurosurgery, and no idea when I would be able to return home suddenly my full to bursting bowl of life was tipped upside down and scrapped out.  Everything I had been working on and all my plans were now meaningless.

Sat in that hospital bed I was left with an empty bowl of a life and I had a choice with what to fill it with.  No important matters existed outside the walls of my hospital room as far as I was concerned.  Everything in that room was my new world.

I spent the majority of my time in hospital alone in a private room with CCTV, so I had a lot of space and time on my hands.  I was unable to distract myself with reading or writing as brain surgery recovery was confusing and affected my senses.  But I found that lack of distraction enjoyable. I had never been in a position of just having silence and my own company for weeks on end.  It just felt simple.  I just had to let go and be held by the universe, and trust.

I’ve always had a curious mind and during that time I hospital found I was taking myself on a voyage of discovery.  ‘What does this all mean to me?’ I knew what ‘it’ meant to others but as of yet I didn’t know what it meant to me.

So, I was in the position where I could write my own story.   How was I going to be through Cancer? What intentions did I want to set?  What did I want in my life?  What did I want to start filling my empty bowl with?

I wanted to be happy.  I wanted to be full of love and life.

I wanted 100% belief that I could get through this with ease, grace and joy.

So, I started telling people.  I started saying I wanted to heal my cancer through love.  ‘Life love me, love heals me’ was my new mantra.

That was my choice.  And I only needed believers on my side.  It’s fascinating looking a who are the first people you turn to when you really need support.  I turned to my tantra friends – people I knew had consciousness and emotional intelligence enough to hold me during that time.  People who weren’t’ afraid of vulnerability and who really knew how to be fully present in each moment.  People who knew how to give fully.  People who were going to believe in my healing, not just attempt to support me whilst secretly thinking I was delusional. I started believing.

I made the choice to believe 100% that I would heal from this fully with ease and grace.

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