Freeing Myself from Fear

by Linda Rocke

Living Well Magazine Autumn 2015

I can remember as a young woman in my twenties travelling into the city each day for work and reading “You Can Conquer Cancer.” Not long after that I also discovered “Peace of Mind”- Ian Gawler’s second book.

I found the whole subject of self-healing fascinating and incredibly empowering. At that time in my life I was in serious need of healing, so quite possibly Ian’s books were giving me the answers I was looking for. I’d also like to think some higher source guided me to them.

As far back as I can remember life was a struggle. I was raised in a home with a highly controlling and angry father (worthy of a book in itself), throwing myself into life head on and always carrying the issues of home heavily on my shoulders. As a result I was incredibly insecure and strove to be a perfectionist. Looking back I pushed myself to the limit in all areas of my life, without any consideration for my mind or body. So much for reading “Peace of Mind!” My husband Graeme clearly remembers me commenting on a number of occasions as I approached 50, “I know my health won’t hold out much longer”.

A couple of months before my 50th birthday Graeme and I decided to get away for a weekend B&B stay in the Otway Ranges. I hadn’t been feeling very well. I had been having unsettling dizzy spells for some time and odd feelings around my heart.

The doctor diagnosed the dizziness as an inner ear problem and prescribed cortisone tablets – they didn’t work. The heart I kept to myself. By the time we arrived at the B&B my heart was feeling quite uncomfortable and I was experiencing severe palpitations.

Thinking maybe I was just over-tired we went to bed early. I lay in bed feeling my heart getting worse and worse and then I experienced one of the most frightening things you can live through – a severe panic attack. I could feel blood being forced from my heart through the main artery in my neck and into my brain. My hands had turned blue and the pain in my chest and down my left arm was so severe I thought I was dying. So did Graeme, so we called an ambulance.

I returned home a different woman; life was sheer misery.  The panic attacks came daily and I thought I was going insane. Only a fellow sufferer could understand how this condition feels. Within a very short time I could no longer leave the house. I had to walk away from my job and driving was impossible. Every normal task had become monumental. Initially I was medicated very heavily: an antidepressant, two muscle relaxants and a sleeping tablet, with devastating effects.

I had a change in doctor and a change in meds, this time to an antidepressant that took over 12 months to wean myself off.

In the meantime I read Pauline Mc Kinnan’s book “In Stillness Conquer Fear” over and over again, along with whatever else I could find. I also challenged myself whenever possible to break free of this ‘thing’ I was living with. I sat in my car everyday for as  long as I could, then eventually I would drive it down the driveway and finally down the road. With persistence and an overwhelming desire to have my life back, I made it into town ten minutes from home. Then I took on the supermarket without Graeme beside me. Through all this, fear was my constant companion.

All day, every day, my heart beat  in my chest, always reminding me to be frightened. “Don’t relax” it was saying.

Some months after the initial attack I read an article on Panic Disorder. It discussed whether to “Meditate or Medicate” in the long-term management of this condition. So I started meditation daily, never knowing in the early stages whether it was helping or not, but never being one to give up, I persisted.

Twelve months on I made enquiries at The Gawler Cancer Foundation and booked into a Weekend Meditation Retreat. In the middle of all this illness we had moved to Tasmania with my husband’s job. Yes, somehow I had sold a house and moved to another state. You can do anything you want to if you put your mind to it, and I believed leaving Victoria would shield me from a lot of the issues I was still living with. Getting back on the Spirit of Tasmania ship on my own was huge and terrifying. But I did it, and that was just the first of many Gawler Cancer Foundation retreats that I have since attended, each one helping to deepen my meditation practice and to heal.

In 2012, two years after moving to Tassie, I could finally say that through daily meditation and a strong desire to live again, I was able to overcome and manage a lot of my fears. So the diagnosis of stage 3 breast cancer in the May of that year seemed the cruellest blow life could have thrown at me.

I fell into deep shock after the surgery and I did lose the will to live, particularly when the pain in my arm was so severe. But somehow once again my will returned and the desire to experience all that life has to offer kept me going. Like so many women before me it is a terrifying prospect facing chemotherapy, radiotherapy and drug therapy.

In my case I had to choose what I believed would not only keep my mental health intact, but also give my immune system a fighting chance. It was the toughest decision I have ever made and one that drew enormous opposition from all my medical team. But I did what I believed in and made the treatment I chose a healing experience; walking 5km every day up the steepest hills I could find, while staying in Launceston

for the 7-week treatment. As I already meditated for two hours each day, I increased it to three. Shortly after that I again turned to The Gawler Cancer Foundation for help. This time I attended the 10-day Life and Living Cancer Retreat and to say it changed my life is an understatement. I will never forget the wonderful people I met.

In May this year I will have been cancer-free for three years. I live and breathe everything I was taught in those ten days. Eating only an organic vegan diet, exercising, meditating, using imagery and just recently I started yoga classes. Overcoming my fear of dying has certainly been one of my greatest challenges, but that changed after I picked up a book from The Gawler Cancer Foundation’s resource centre called “Proof of Heaven.” I have since read many books on the same subject and all the fear has left me and I am free to live!

I have attended ten retreats at the Yarra Valley Living Centre and each time I come away calmer, wiser, and soul-enriched to face life’s daily challenges. And a break from cooking is always a treat! At each program I meet amazing people who all have their own stories to tell. On many occasions, it’s hard to say goodbye.

My chosen path of treatment is not for everybody. There are many things in daily life that others would take for granted, that I no longer enjoy. I refuse to settle for second best when it comes to my health so therefore I follow a strict regime daily. The bar is set very high. But I love my life and I wake up every day with a smile. Without this story I wouldn’t be who I am five years on, and I am so grateful for that.

I am also grateful to my wonderful husband Graeme. Through some very tough times he was always by my side; he suffered when I was suffering. He has supported me all the way and has given me the freedom I needed to heal, and that has ultimately given me life.

Please note: The Gawler Cancer Foundation does not provide medical treatment advice or deter people from taking up medical treatment options prescribed to them. We respect the treatment choices of all individuals, whether a lifestyle approach is the foundation of their treatment plan or complementary to their medical options.