Guest Posts, healing

What You Do When The Sh*t Hits The Fan (or When Cancer Comes Back.)

April 28, 2013

One of my tribe members, Kathleen Emmets, from my Kriplalu retreat sent me this beautiful piece show wrote and I just had to share. Please send love and dance parties.

What You Do When The Sh*t Hits The Fan (or When Cancer Comes Back.) by Kathleen Emetts.

I am the queen of the mixtape.

Boyfriend broke up with you? I’ve got a playlist for you. Need an intense workout mix? I will have you running at top speed, no problem. Diagnosed with cancer at 35? Hmmm…it just so happens I have a great mix for that, too.

When I was diagnosed with colon cancer on July 19th, 2011, I felt lost, scared and pissed…really pissed. This isn’t supposed to happen to someone my age. What kind of fuckery is this? It didn’t make sense. So on July 20th, I did what I always do when I feel untethered; I made a playlist.

I labeled this one ‘Survivor’. It started with Melissa Etheridge’s, ‘I Run For Life’ and ended with The Beatles ‘Let It Be’. Some songs in between were motivational, some just allowed me to cry. They quickly became the soundtrack for healing both my body and my spirit. And God knows I needed both.

During 18 months of grueling chemotherapy, I lost my hair and often my ability to walk. The drugs I was on limited my mobility, causing my hands and feet to lock up. My once trademark strut turned into a sad, slow shuffle.

This lasted for about 4 days after treatment; which I received every 2 weeks. But, as soon as I was able to move again, that playlist was on and I was dancing!

I will fully admit to not being the best dancer in the world. The only thing worse than my dancing is my singing, which I do at full volume…neighbors be damned. To be able to move my body again, to allow the power of music to recharge my soul made me feel alive. It was my companion during the darkest hours of my life. It also helped me to celebrate the amazing moment when I was told treatment was over…cancer free! So many long walks by the beach; listening to Louis Armstrong’s, ‘What A Wonderful World’ and smiling as I watched the sunset.

I made meditation playlists to calm me when I went for scans, which always brought anxiety and fear. But no amount of Snatam Kaur could alleviate the stress from this latest one. The cancer was back and it was spreading. Damn it. Body shaking sobs erupted; my hands balling into angry fists that punched my thighs. During the ride home from the hospital, I didn’t play my music, I didn’t do anything except stare out the window and allow my tears to fall.

Phone calls were placed, visitors arrived, life stood still once more. But it never stands still, does it? It keeps going along whether you want it to or not.

So many times I want to hit pause. Like when my son hugs me. Pause. Let me breathe you in. Hold on to me forever. Don’t let go. When my family is all around me. Pause. Look at me while I’m healthy. Remember me this way. When I’m dancing. Stop…hammer time! Or collaborate and listen…or stop in the name of love. Whatever the reason, just stop and dance. We take it all too seriously.

If I could do it all again, I would trust more. Trust that life works out the way it is supposed to. Trust that we don’t always see the larger picture until years later and maybe, even then, it won’t totally make sense. But it does eventually. Trust in that.

Dance more, sing more…sing badly. Who cares?? Anyone listening will envy your free spirit. And if they don’t, screw ’em. Like I said, who cares?? I dance everywhere now; in my car, in my kitchen, at Starbucks…if you’re ever behind me, join in and we can start a conga line.

Yesterday I began my new chemo pill regime. It’s a pretty intense dosage and I’m praying it does its job.

This morning in the shower I was blasting Katrina and the Waves’, ‘Walking On Sunshine’ and dancing around while I scrubbed my hair with shampoo. As I pulled my hands away I noticed far too many strands had fallen out. Pause. I sunk to the shower floor as the music faded away. I began to cry for all that I had been through and all I was, again, about to face.

I allowed this moment and then I got up, hit play again and kept on dancing because, sometimes, that’s all we can do.

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Kathleen Emmets is an avid music lover and yoga enthusiast. She believes in seeking out the good in all things and being her most authentic self. Her articles have appeared in MindBodyGreen and Do You Yoga. She writes about her experience with cancer in her blog, cancerismyguru.blogspot.com. Kathleen lives in East Norwich, NY with her husband, son, 2 cats and dog. She does not necessarily love them in that particular order. You can find her on Facebook here.

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  • Reply happilyyes April 28, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    Keep on dancing, beautiful lady! I will include you in my healing prayers.

  • Reply barbarapotter April 28, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Keep on dancing , living and smiling. Takes photos of yourself smiling and look at them.. I am saying prayers for you that I hope can lift you up when you fall down in the shower. May you be healed.

  • Reply Diane Clement April 28, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    Anthony Robbins suggests that suffering occurs when life doesn’t turn out the way we thought it would. It’s a massive concept, but you seem to be transforming suffering into something many people miss along the way. Living, my Dear. Really living. Keep doing it. xo

  • Reply Kathleen Emmets April 28, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    Thank you all for your words of encouragement. What a beautiful, healing community! I’m honored to be a part of it.

  • Reply Hope Novello April 28, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    And so the struggle begins again for you. And while I am sad that you have to muster up the courage to fight again I know that you can and will fight this fight. And most importantly that you have already WON this battle. You win because you have learned to appreciate the magic. The magic is the moments both large and small that touch your day. The people, places and things that you enjoy. The music, dancing, laughter, and love of those you share your days and life with…… love ya

  • Reply Sinai April 28, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    “You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
    Love like you’ll never be hurt,
    Sing like there’s nobody listening,
    And live like it’s heaven on earth.”

  • Reply Michelle Read April 28, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    dance like no one is watching. Our joys and happiness are what we make them. Prayers for strength and healing to you as well as many more days of being able to dance.

  • Reply Jennifer April 30, 2013 at 8:46 am

    Hey beautiful dancing queen…keep dancing, singing, meditating, writing and most importantly loving!!!! You are in my prayers!!! Love ya Kat!!!!

    • Reply Kathleen Emmets April 30, 2013 at 9:40 am

      Hahaha…the dancing queen! I love it and I love you!!

  • Reply Rose April 30, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    Keep the faith and shine your beautiful light, it will come back to you X 10. Loving and healing thoughts and prayers. Dance dance dance! xoxox

  • Reply Lorrie Rumpf October 29, 2013 at 6:57 am

    What an inspiration to this breast cancer survivor. Thanks for the dance lesson.

  • Reply Cancerpurse October 29, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    I have a playlist for everything too. I feel like sometimes you just have to dance it out, whether you are happy or mad or sad and on the floor. Cancer is stupid and I wish it would just stay away. Best wishes to you.

    • Reply Kathleen Emmets November 3, 2013 at 12:52 pm

      Yep, cancer is a real asshole. I’d like to punch it right in the mouth. But, since I can’t, I will get my groove on and show it that it won’t slow me down. Dance it out, friend.

  • Reply AmberLace October 29, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    I am going on 9 months of being cancer free from Colon cancer and I just turned 23. I felt the exact same way and had the most positive attitude even though I had to leave college my last semester. Dancing has always been my outlet and I made a “survivors list.” I had my whole colon removed because they caught it right before it was about to break through the cell wall, but it was everywhere in my colon so there was no saving it. Low and behold I beat it, still graduated in May like i planned and moved to NY for a job not even 5 months later. Still a new survivor, I fear it coming back someday and that if it does I will not be able to be so positive. But you’re blog is amazing and gives me faith. All you can do is be positive and dance…please don’t stop. You did it once, you can kick it’s ass again! You got this <3

    • Reply Kathleen Emmets November 3, 2013 at 12:46 pm

      I am so fucking proud of you and the bravery you are exhibiting. Keep living your life, keep fighting the fear and always, always keep dancing. Xo Kathleen

  • Reply SallyAnn October 30, 2013 at 5:55 am

    I couldn’t help but to laugh when I read this. Why? Well, I too had been diagnosed with cancer (non hodgkins lymphoma) in 2011, at the age of 35. But what made me laugh was your playlists. Because I too made a play list for treatment days, depressed days, feel good days….etc I am told that my cancer will return in a couple years, as there is no cure. (treatment is just to settle down the symptoms). Ya, it’s a piss off. But when that time comes i bet I’ll have another great playlist too!
    Many prayers and good thoughts your way, I’ll be following your blog
    take care

    • Reply Kathleen Emmets November 3, 2013 at 12:49 pm

      New songs, new playlists…life continues to roll on. Post your songs!! I’d love to see them!!

  • Reply Alie January 24, 2014 at 6:16 am

    Kathleen, I just read this amazing piece that as Jen P reposted on FB. I am moved and inspired once again as I read your words. Feeling even more blessed that I now call you my kick ass, courageous and fun as all heck friend. So much love and admiration! Thank you for always reminding me to take life by the horns and yes, to dance! xoxo Alie

  • Reply c January 24, 2014 at 7:18 am

    Keep on dancing, you’ll be in my prayers and thoughts. xo

  • Reply Hope Novello January 24, 2014 at 7:40 am

    Just read your piece again. And while I’m all chocked up and am holding back my tears. I also know that you are winning this battle with Cancer. With every new twenty-four hours of laughing, dancing, and loving. You win. And I once again say, “FUCK CANCER” You are always in my prayers. xo. Hope

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