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The Fear

Years ago, I was diagnosed with lymphoma after a lump was discovered in my neck. After a terrifying series of tests, scans and biopsies, I was advised treatment wasn’t necessary at the time, as I was otherwise healthy. I was placed under active surveillance, which meant I had regular blood tests and physical examinations to monitor the condition. Over time, the frequency of the check-ups progressed from three, to six, to twelve months and the lump (which remained in situ) became the only tangible reminder that all was not well.

I continued to live a normal life and didn’t dwell on the diagnosis until the annual check-up approached. The days preceding the appointment were often fraught, but eventually I adjusted to the volatility of my emotions. Each time I was given the all clear, I pushed the diagnosis further out of my mind and got on with my life. This pattern continued until one year, the check up took a different turn. By now, I was so convinced all was well, that I refused to let anyone accompany me to the appointment. I didn’t even bother to take the afternoon off work and let the appointment fit around my schedule, as I made my way to the consultant’s office.

The check-up began in familiar fashion with the consultant greeting me with a polite smile and indicating I take a seat on the examination couch. He silently pulled on his latex gloves and began by examining my neck, pausing almost immediately, to note a lump in my neck. I froze in terror as he pressed against it a number of times before continuing and pointing out smaller lumps as he reminded me they were to be expected, in light of my condition.

Once the examination finished, I returned to my seat full of trepidation, waiting anxiously for him to speak. He silently scribbled notes in a medical folder, before picking up his telephone to make a call. By now, I was terrified he was about to send me for a biopsy, which I knew would herald an escalation of the situation. Mercifully, he was unable to reach who he was calling and replaced the receiver, before turning his attention to me. He asked me when I’d like to return and offered me an interval of six, eight or twelve months. Without hesitation, I leapt at twelve months and hastily left his office, promising to contact him if a significant lump appeared.

As I made my way home, I was troubled by the appearance of new lumps. I suspected my consultant may have made a mistake about the lump in my neck because it was in exactly the same spot as the original lump, which led to the diagnosis. Although it had been biopsied, it was never removed. However, the smaller lumps were more surprising, but I refused to believe they indicated a deterioration of my condition. God had taught me to suspend judgement about events as they were unfolding, but to wait, before their true meaning became clear. So I asked Him to show me the meaning behind this development. When I got home, I updated my horrified family, who couldn’t understand my composure. I explained my conviction that there was no cause for concern and that God would soon unveil a positive meaning, which indeed He did.

Only days before the check up, I’d made a difficult decision after wrestling with it for months. I decided to sacrifice something, which mattered to me, in order to help my family. No one had asked me to do it and I was doing it of my own volition, but even so, it was a sacrifice. As I waited for God to reveal the meaning behind the recent check-up, I heard Him say, “If you want to be healthy, you need to be happy”. At first, I didn’t understand what He meant, but then it became clear. I was offering to do something under a misguided sense of duty, which would eventually lead to resentment. That wasn’t the right motivation to do anything and after talking it over with my family, I withdrew my offer with their full support and felt much happier. I realised God was reminding me that even well intentioned choices can have damaging repercussions and decisions based on guilt or obligations can often lead to ill-health.

Consequently, I moved forward with a new mind-set, but discovered to my dismay that the episode had resurrected fears, I thought I’d relinquished. When I was first diagnosed I was petrified symptoms would suddenly develop, but over time those fears fell away. Now those fears had resurfaced and I didn’t know how to tackle them until a friend suggested reiki. Knowing nothing about reiki, I did some research and discovered it was a form of healing. Fortuitously, I found a practitioner in my neighbourhood and embarked on a six session course. At the first session, I explained my medical history and fears, at which the practitioner advised reiki wasn’t a substitute for medical treatment, but could be used to release negative emotions, including fear. I decided to spread the sessions over a period of three months and completed the course without experiencing any tangible difference.

Shortly afterwards, I secured an exciting new job and enjoyed a period of gardening leave. I relaxed at home, cooked for the family and caught up on my reading. One afternoon, as I was leisurely reading The Times, I came across an article documenting a person’s journey through lymphoma treatment. Since the diagnosis, I’d trained myself to skip such articles because they always fed my fears, but that day I hesitated, and before I knew it, I was engrossed. Once I’d finished reading, my mind began to focus on the terrifying aspects of the treatment and I chided myself for my lack of discipline.

A few days later, I was listening to BBC Radio Four as I prepared dinner for the family, when I caught the beginning of a programme about lymphoma, where sufferers spoke of developing debilitating symptoms whilst under active surveillance. As I listened, I reminded myself of something God had told me – “Other people’s stories are not your story” and managed to maintain a sense of detachment. As the programme finished, I was relieved to discover I wasn’t troubled and realised I was making progress.

The following day we received shocking news that a beloved aunt had been diagnosed with cancer. By now, I knew that the fact I was besieged with stories about cancer was not a coincidence. I instinctively realised God was using other people’s experiences to help me confront my fears. Suddenly I felt anxious and thought of reiki, immediately making an appointment.

As I arrived at the session, I explained the reason behind my turbulence and my determination to live without fear. The practitioner listened intently and as the session began, I fell into what seemed like a deep sleep, even though I was awake. It felt like only minutes later when the practitioner gently shook me awake and I was startled to discover that almost an hour had passed. I rose shakily from the couch and made my way home in a daze, as if enveloped by fog. Although disorientated, I recognised a significant shift had taken place within me, but at that time had no idea what it meant.

That session marked a turning point. From then on, reiki began to have a tangible effect and I experienced physical symptoms such as a heavy head, burning sensations and even hunger, which were followed by days of intense emotion. I would cry easily and unexpectedly (in joy and sorrow) and realised the tears were part of a healing process, washing away pain accumulated over years.

A year later, as I prepared for my annual check-up, I had a very different perspective. Blood tests taken at the GP’s office had already confirmed the results were normal. I’d also conducted a self-examination and found nothing unusual. In fact, whilst examining my neck I had trouble locating the lump my consultant had discovered and only after prolonged searching did I realise it had now diminished to a small bump. Consequently, I was relaxed as we set off for the hospital but was still unable to escape the rush of panic, as we entered the consultant’s office. I needn’t have worried, as the examination was over in five minutes and the consultant dismissed me for another year with a “very good”. This time there was no mention of lumps, large or small.

I returned home emotionally exhausted and collapsed on the sofa. As I lay there, I reflected on why the check-up had been so different this year. I also wondered why the lump in my neck had diminished to a small bump. I realised the only change I’d made was the introduction of reiki, which had clearly facilitated the release of unexpressed emotions I’d carried over the years, including fears about my condition deteriorating. Through reiki, I released those fears, because I felt empowered about my physical and emotional wellbeing and no longer at the mercy of events outside my control.

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