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Healing in My Own Way

Anne, 34, was born in Switzerland but calls many places home. She has lived in Bangkok, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Manila and Barcelona. She is a preschool teacher by day and a concertgoer by night. New to the world of cancer she was diagnosed in January 2018 at age 33 with Grade 3, De Novo Metastatic Breast Cancer and is currently working her way through chemo. Trying to connect with other metavivors her age she decided to start her Instagram: the.single.thriver.

Home has always been a complicated story. I was born in Switzerland to a French mother and a Swiss/American father. When I was 6-years-old my family moved to Thailand. Fast forward many years and some countries later, my parents are retired in Thailand and I am living my best life in Barcelona. Until I’m not. Since December 2017 my dad is battling a rare autoimmune disease and his doctors are not sure how to treat it. Cancer doesn’t ask if it’s a good time to show up. It just does. And so in January 2018 I am diagnosed with breast cancer.

I’m a preschool teacher in Barcelona and love my job. When you live 6,000 miles away from home, the people around you become family. Which means everyone is there to support me.  If you’ve ever lost hope in humanity, don’t. The amount of people who have reached out has been overwhelming. All of them are currently helping me get through chemo. Them, and my daily FaceTime calls home. 

People volunteer to help out in all sorts of ways. Food deliveries, care packages, money, translations (try doing all of this in a language you don’t speak), driving me to appointments and just being there for me.

One of the parents at school wants to pay for a therapist. I accept. As I head to the appointment I don’t really know what to expect. I enter the room and can’t help but notice how zen the whole place is. There is a sitting corner, a day bed, a bamboo wall and a little rock garden. As I assume this is my therapy session I start explaining my situation. Cancer, dad is sick, living away from home – and I just keep going. By the end of my rant I look at the lady and tell her with the biggest smile, “All in all I think I’m handling the whole thing really well and I’m doing okay.”

Without missing a beat she looks at me and says, “We will see how OK you are in just a moment.”

She explains the next steps and asks me to take a nap on the day bed. She wants me to relax for the next hour and when I wake up she will tell me if I’m OK or not. I love my naps but napping on demand is not my thing. For the next hour I hear pages being flipped, loud sighs, yawning and finger snapping. Every once in a while I peak open my eyes like a child cheating at hide and seek. At this point I realize she is talking to the spirit world but I’m not sure about what. The hour is up and she asks me to sit up. She starts flipping through her notes and tells me I am right. I am doing really well. It takes her a whole five minutes to tell me what the spirits have shared with her.  I should be using some oils and eating more of this and that. I have no idea what she is talking about but smile politely and ask if I could write all of this down. She asks me if I feel any different from when we started. I nod and say yes.

What else am I going to say? "No! This all seems crazy to me! What are you? A spiritual nutritionist?"

But no, these things only work if you believe. So I will choose to let her believe that I believe.

As soon as I am alone I tell my mom what just happened and we can’t help but laugh. Who knows if she was the real thing or if the information I gave her at the beginning of my session helped her. All I know is that I like naps. And although it wasn’t the most relaxing hour of my life I did enjoy that day bed. 

I realize then that I need to stop saying yes to everything and allow myself to heal in my own way. People will tell you all sorts of things when they find out you have cancer. But at the end of the day it’s your own journey and you have to choose what makes you happy and healthy.

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