I live on a farm in rural Wisconsin with two Nubian goats and two chickens, who sometimes live in my garage, and I work part-time in the Twin Cities as a marriage and family therapist. My life today sounds ideal but a decade and a half ago, I was wrapping up my busy New York life and scrambling to complete a Masters Degree to establish the practice and the life that I have today.
The philosophy of a work-life balance was the driving force behind my practice and I taught that we are all capable of healing ourselves. I strived to show others that mind, body, and soul are in a self-healing, interconnected loop that constantly help each other grow and improve, whether or not we pay attention.
Most of all and most importantly, I taught my clients to allow themselves to live a heart-centered, joy-filled existence.
Then, two events changed my life: a traumatic brain injury and a diagnosis of malignant melanoma. These two events helped me realize that I hadn’t been living by the standards I’d set for my therapy clients. Rather than practicing my own beliefs and advice, I was falling into the stressed-out trap that I had warned my clients against.
I was trying too hard and living too little. I wanted to believe in a benevolent Universe, but I didn’t.
But that was then. Things are more in balance now.
My Path to Healing
I moved onto a farm, put my therapy practice on hold, and adopted two goats because
Something had to give.
After I was diagnosed with stage II melanoma in 2012, I took a break from my practice to rework my diet and de-stress. Research (and my instincts) told me that neither my former favorite foods nor my continued hyper-focus on clients and their well-being would reawaken my immunity to cancer. I was looking for that “sweet spot” between meaningful work and work that didn’t deteriorate my health. A greater connection with my pastoral roots helped me to see the effortlessness of the natural world — and helped me rediscover my own inner resources.
After the diagnosis, my doctors told me that I needed a second surgery and a lymph node biopsy to make sure that all of the cancerous cells were removed and to assess whether the cancer had spread. Instead of following the recommendations of Western medicine, I listened to my own instincts that were telling me that what I really needed was rest: I needed to get out of my body’s way, and let it do the healing.
So, I skipped the surgery and biopsy and began investigating what changes I needed to make in my life in order to heal – and it was much more than simply resting.
Making a Change
I needed to take care of myself spiritually and emotionally. I learned from my online investigations into alternative cancer studies that most cancer patients failed to share their own feelings, attend to their own needs, and generally had a habit of putting others first.
I felt a sense of connection to the stories that I read of other cancer patients and decided that I needed to develop a strong practice of self-care to promote healing. I started by cleaning up my diet—I was going to give up sugar and processed foods for good.
Some intuitive foresight must have known that I could rest and take care of myself best in a rural environment because just four months earlier it had guided me into purchasing a 1930s farm in Wisconsin.
I traded the work of a private practice for the work of cleaning up this overgrown farm and transforming it into a livable and comfortable home. What I didn’t know at the time was that in this neglected, overgrown farm was the potential to reconnect with nature, meet others who share my holistic way of thinking, and to grow my own food.