Thursday, 30 May 2019

Living Life with Courage and Conviction

Post 1 of 4 Part Series

By Karen Alexander

I would like to share with you the winning achievements and my definition of Living Life with Courage & Conviction, and what it entails in my life. I hope to saturate you with inspiration and provide thought-provoking ideas for living mindfully. While not wasting a precious moment of your splendid life, and most important to appreciate self-worth.

I experienced a diverse upbringing, when living in Papua New Guinea for eight years during my childhood. After being exposed to many cultural backgrounds and beliefs, I accepted all without question and only thought ill of someone if they hurt me. These instances were few, and no other major events happened for me to question how I lived my life.

As a young adult I learnt about discrimination in the workplace, especially a workplace that was predominately male.

To become a better person and establish myself, a self-improvement desire began. A Masters Degree in Business (MBA) - Specialising in Project Management was achieved, and I then started my own consulting business, again becoming a winner. I had everything in the way of a career, happily married and a son. At the top of my game, and you know what that means... only one way to go: down.....

2006 was the year I was diagnosed with advanced incurable cancer. I thought cancer was all I was to fight. Reflecting on events during the past thirteen years, has shown my fight proved to be not just on a medical level of restricted beliefs, but the incurable diagnosis impacts on the belief framework we have in our society. I became exposed to people and their limited belief systems which didn’t harbour the possibility of surviving a medical incurable diagnosis. They did not spare a conscious thought to any other conceivable options.

To survive cancer is hard enough, but the no hope situation, from the medical experts when repeatedly told I would die, proved mentally crippling. 

Now I challenge people’s preconceived ideas about an incurable disease. Giving a voice to what it is like to survive an ‘unsurvivable’ diagnosis.

My life changed dramatically once the diagnosis became known in my social and work circles. My world crumbled and changed, never to be the same.

The impact and repercussions since the diagnosis took away my hope, trust and challenged every established belief, which underpinned my perceptions and outlook on life. As a result, I became a recluse for about nine years.

Being raised to respect doctors and to believe they were here to help if you were ill, I had offered my blind trust to the doctors caring for me. My belief structure became severely threatened when I found a drug prescribed for me called Tamoxifen[1] known since the year 2000 to be a human carcinogen and known to cause liver and uterine cancer. I felt betrayed on an immense scale.

When the PET scan showed the cancer had metastasized into the bones and my vertebrae, broke in two places due to the swelling from the tumours. The pain experienced when combined with no hope prognosis, catapulted into fear and terror. Fear of the unknown in my life, which until then was filled with checklists and goals to accomplish. All the successful people did these things, and I proved to be no different. The experience of terror came from not wanting to sleep at night. I didn't want to die; I felt I was a person with so much more to accomplish in life.

While doing more research into the drugs prescribed. I found one thing in common: they all had the potential of doing more harm than good.

With my trust in medical people and the system already shattered.  I rebelled and not in a pretty pink, girly kinda way. I changed from a victim to a warrior persona such as Xena or Wonder Woman, minus the snazzy costumes and leather. Not a pretty sight!

To provide an understanding of the situations I faced when first released from hospital, I had quite a few visitors, but I didn’t realize initially that they came to say their goodbyes. I stopped going out after feeling hurt and on finding people were avoiding me when I went uptown or into the shopping centres. Eventually my world became quiet. There is no blame here; this is not the intention of this story.

I lived in limbo for years and during this period, the process of learning taught me how much I had valued my worth and my life was based entirely on external factors and people in my life. I thought my value as a person depended on how hard I worked. How my academic achievements, and a folder full of certificates gave me worth as a person and from abiding by all the man-made rules which make up our society.

Over time, I faced being challenged on a spiritual level. Who was I? How did my perceptions and values in life become so distorted? The inner awakening had begun.

It was in this darkest depths of despair I learnt how to fight. I learnt about willpower and about not caring what other people thought of me, or of their negative vibes on surviving long term. This was a gut-wrenching realization and was what is often described in many philosophy books as the dark night of the soul.

I learnt about resilience. I learnt about endurance and, importantly, came to the realization it was the medical system and people in that industry who didn’t have the answers for cancer. It didn’t mean the answer couldn’t be found elsewhere.