In 1992 my life took a devastating turn. I was diagnosed with breast cancer with a very poor prognosis. I underwent a radical mastectomy followed by six months of chemotherapy. This poisoned me and took a toll on my health for many years to come. I feared for my life, not from the cancer but from the toxic chemicals.
As a medical transcriptionist, I frequently transcribed reports of patients undergoing treatment for cancer and I swore I would never submit my body to that. However, when the doctor told me that without chemotherapy I probably wouldn’t survive more than a year, and with the treatment my chances could be five years, I agreed to it for the sake of my two young children.
It was a six-month protocol with infusions every two weeks of drugs that were supposedly killing cancer cells, but all my other healthy cells were also being destroyed. The side effects were devastating.
I suffered severe nausea and vomiting, hair loss, and hearing loss. My ovaries were destroyed so I was thrown into sudden menopause with all its miseries of mood swings and hot flashes so extreme I wanted to jump into the nearby river to cool down. My memory and thinking were impaired, known as chemo-brain, and my muscles and bones hurt.
I’d had enough. I quit the chemo with two treatments still to go but that wasn’t the end of my problems.
Within a year I regained my strength and my hair grew back, but my once-acute hearing and sharp memory never returned, however. I accepted myself as a one-breast woman, but because of the long-term side effects of the treatment, as I grew older I developed early osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, a prolapsed uterus and bladder, and an immunodeficiency to pneumonia.
It Never Rains but it Pours
Worst of all, Alan, my then 12-year-old son, was diagnosed with a severe mental illness within just days of my cancer diagnosis. The fear of losing his mom exacerbated his condition. So from this time forward the focus and concern was on him. He had a schizoaffective disorder consisting of paranoia, hearing voices, and depression with bipolar component.
The medications he was prescribed were not always effective. He would become psychotic, and so several psychiatric hospital stays were needed over the years. He was able to get his high school diploma and was functional but couldn’t work, being intolerant to pressure and to all sorts of stimuli from the environment.
He tried a couple of times to live in an apartment of his own but couldn’t manage it, so he lived at home with his dad, Alfred, and me. There were brief periods of stability, but mostly it was like a roller coaster with his emotional ups and downs, followed by the inevitable crisis.
Although otherwise very supportive, Alfred would lose patience and argue with Alan, and a fight would break out, sometimes resulting in a broken window or a damaged wall. Then, with the air cleared, they would calm down and everything would be fine between them again. They actually had a close bond.
In early 2016 there was more bad news. My husband was diagnosed with lung cancer and underwent radiation treatment. Alan’s fear of losing his dad resulted in more frequent stays at the mental hospital. This always broke my heart.
Alfred’s cancer treatments made him very weak and he could no longer do all the household chores and handyman jobs that he used to do, so I began taking over these and other responsibilities. How was I able to do that? I had grown older and also lost my physical strength and stamina and struggled a lot. How long would I be able to continue this way?
A Magical Encounter Changes My Life
All my life I yearned for something that I felt was missing or had lost; I was seeking some sort of ultimate spiritual connection. I often wondered about human existence and wanted to know the meaning of life. I was raised Catholic and later joined the Lutheran church, but still felt empty. I studied Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism as well as philosophy and psychology and all the great classics of Western literature. Despite all these explorations, I remained ignorant to the meaning of life and its purpose.
It wasn’t until early January 2015 when I found Falun Dafa, or more accurately, Falun Dafa found me. This seemingly chance encounter took my life in a new and amazing direction.
I was perusing the program catalog at my local recreation center in Dublin, Ohio, when this caught my eye: “Falun Dafa is an ancient high-level cultivation practice guided by the characteristics of the universe–Truthfulness, Benevolence, and Forbearance.”
I attended my first class and, at the age of 66, began practicing this powerful Chinese meditation system handed down over the ages from ancient times.
Somehow, deep in my heart, I knew this ancient self-cultivation practice was precious beyond measure. Therefore, I began to do the gentle exercises daily and diligently follow the teachings laid out in the book Zhuan Falun. All my life-long questions began to be answered as I studied these profound teachings.
I soon began to experience many positive changes in mind and body. My decade-long myofascial neck pain resulting from a cervical vertebrae disc fusion surgery just disappeared. My high risk of recurring pneumonia was gone. I was no longer intolerant of wheat, peanuts, and dairy products. Long-standing depression and anxiety dissolved. I grew stronger.
Tranquility in the home also came about. My husband and Alan stopped fighting with each other and their arguments were now few and far between. My daughter and grandchildren seemed to change as well. As Alan grew more aware of his behavior, he was better able to control himself and interact well with his sister and her children when they would come over on special occasions. Therefore, their relationship improved.
My relationship with my husband, Alfred, improved as well. Though a kind person, my husband is opinionated and can be overbearing. He doesn’t seem to be able to truly listen to me. This would frustrate me and we would argue, and he would always win. So I would bury my anger and resentment, making me even more depressed. But when I no longer argued and just listened to him, not wanting to make my point and be in control, we began to actually have proper conversations. As our relationship improved, we grew closer.
A Stronger, More Enduring Heart
In 2016, at 37 years old, my son Alan unexpectedly committed suicide. This was the most tremendous tribulation in my life and the agony seemed unbearable.
It is said that to lose a child is the most painful thing of all. I experienced a blow so shocking, and grief so intense that I would have probably been totally incapacitated or even died if I hadn’t been practicing Falun Dafa. Therefore, I was able to accept his death and let him go and soon began to recover. In the process, I understood and felt deep compassion not only for my own mother who had lost her first- and last-born children, but for all grieving parents.
From the beginning of my cultivation to this day, I’ve been continually transforming. I’ve been able to forgive others for wrongs done to me and admitted and regretted wrongs I had done to others. I became aware of many things about myself that were keeping me from being a good person and living a good life.
I seem to have grown less selfish and now try to make it a priority to be considerate of everyone in anything I do or say. I still make mistakes but I learn from them and try to do better with the next situation that comes up.
Life can be fraught with troubles. Recent diagnostics and CT scans showed that my husband’s lung cancer had spread; the radiation didn’t work. So there have since been many trips back and forth to the hospital for fluid drainage of the lung, more imaging, chemotherapy, and follow-ups with several specialists. It remains to be seen if the treatments will be effective.
None of this is in my control. Through all these ordeals and the pain of seeing him suffer, I just take care of him as best as I can and try to remain hopeful. Eventually I will be alone. There will be more trials, tribulations, and challenges from which to grow and improve, always considering others first.
Sometimes I now find myself whistling, humming or singing, and feeling happy. I’m so very grateful to be a Falun Dafa practitioner and for the benefits it has brought to my life. Every day I live by the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance. Despite all the suffering I’ve had in my life, I have found inner peace, strength, and happiness—something I could only have dreamed of before.
Falun Dafa is a cultivation practice of mind and body that teaches truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance as a way to improve health and moral character and attain spiritual wisdom.
For more information about the practice or to download “Zhuan Falun,” visit: www.falundafa.org. All books, exercise music, resources, and instructions are available completely free of charge.