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I woke up in a dimly lit room.
I was amazed
to be alive!

M was there. He touched my face and kissed me. “She’s awake,” a nurse said, and added, “she’s too cold.” Another nurse placed a pre-heated blanket on my stomach under the quilt. A little later the first nurse took my temperature again. “She is still too cold.” The second nurse replaced the first pre-heated blanket with another. I felt uplifted, blessed and surprised.

I was standing in front of the large mirror in my bedroom in Copenhagen. It was winter outside, and freezing. I made an effort to let what had happened to me during the past three weeks sink in: I was with M in the UK where he worked. It had been this lovely long summer, with mesmerizing light every day. I was occupied with plans and pictures and poems, so entirely happy and inspired. I felt healthy and fit. Maybe a bit tired now and then…but who cares? I had been diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety, and struggled with the condition for the last eight years. That spring this frozen darkness which had taken over my whole existence was melting away. Since I was a child I have suffered from anxiety and depression, but never as massive as in those eight years. In September 2016, I had been well for six months. Then I began to feel sick in a more physical way. It was diffuse, but always in combination with fatigue and stomach pain. I went to the doctors.

Everything happened fast: tests, scans, examinations. For two and a half weeks the diagnosis was uncertain and I was hoping that it might “just” be precursors to cancer, because the doctors couldn’t see any tumor on the scans. But late one afternoon a surgeon called with the final results: “You’ve got cancer, and a rather large tumor.” Silence. Then she added: “I checked the results from your four-year-old tests; they showed precursors to cancer. Something should have been done back then. You should file a complaint when all of this is over.” And then she told me exactly how much she and her colleague had to remove from my body. I was shocked.

One and a half days later: the surgery.

Standing in front of the large mirror: grief, vulnerability and sadness about what had happened were in a chaotic fight with relief, strength and joy to be alive. I have always had problems accepting my own body, and now I really looked worse than ever, way beyond miserable. My abdomen was swollen, my chest flatter than usual, my arms were skinny and my cheeks hollow. I need to see a psychologist, a psychoanalyst, a healer or maybe a priest? I need help!!! I thought. I can’t handle this alone.

Instead of crying, a profound calm and clarity suddenly overwhelmed me.
At that point I made peace with my body.
For the first time in my whole life I didn’t criticize it.

I was grateful. My body was working on my survival, to heal, to get back into balance. I accepted it completely. A totally new and surprising experience. I decided to heal myself without help from any therapist. Mixed feelings would wave over me in the times to come. Sometimes I nearly drowned in helplessness, vulnerability, sadness and confusion, but that would subside, and the mood from when I woke up after surgery took over and saved me from sliding into a long-term depressive state. A sense of being uplifted and miraculously protected carried me through the following months.

During the surgery all lymph nodes in my abdomen were removed, along with the cancer and anything else doctors feared the cancer could have spread to. I was afraid of developing lymphedema. Removed lymph nodes are lost. They don’t come back. But the system can make new vessels for the lymph fluid to circulate in the body. The lymph system is important for keeping the body healthy. Lymph fluid protects against infections, and the lymph nodes cleanse the lymph fluid before it enters the blood vessels. I did research. I consulted websites from experts, medical centers and hospitals all over the English speaking world. I found the right food to eat, and how to perform lymph massage, and when I could touch my stomach again I started to do this massage every day. And I meditated. I also did a mild exercise program until I – slowly, little by little – could do bits and pieces from my Ashtanga yoga routine. Exercise should not be exaggerated in the beginning. It can make the condition worse. The most effective thing was lying on my yoga mat, stretching, moving and trying to tune in to my body’s needs – what kind of movement, what kind of food, how much rest – and follow its signals. As a mild start, I walked. Walking stimulates the lymph system. So the third day after surgery, I went out. It was a Nordic dark-all-day day, and freezing. It was raining a little bit too, and the air was sharp and fresh. I usually hate that kind of weather, but that day:

I was floating.
I hardly felt any pain.
A strange light filled me with joy, energy, gratitude.

A year before I received the cancer diagnosis, I discovered that my hairdresser, D, was a psychic and a healer. Since I was a small child, I have felt a spirit, an angel – or maybe God – was watching over me. In difficult times I would talk and listen to that…energy? Ask it for help or protection, or advice. But during my depression I lost the contact. So when D gave a course in “Connecting with your spirit guide”, I attended the course and re-established my connection to this protective, guiding, healing, knowing-it-all energy. It was incredibly easy! As if it had been waiting for me to make contact again. I call this energy: Divine. I had always kept my religious or spiritual life to myself, but I needed someone to talk to about these matters on my way out of the depression and anxiety, and especially during the three weeks from my first test to the diagnosis. D was my constant support and help.

When I received the cancer diagnosis, I consulted Divine. Divine told me I was about to be transformed. I interpreted the words through my worst perspectives, and thought I was going to die: that something would go terrible wrong during surgery, and that I wouldn’t wake up again. I was scared. I was sad. There was so much I wanted to do in this dimension, and now there was no time. Divine tried to calm me down. One day when I was resting, I suddenly felt I was being healed by some light-spirits. It was wonderful and strange and very real. Like they were making me ready for surgery. Later l told D about it. We were sitting in her salon, talking for ten minutes before the next customer arrived. D smiled. “Yes I know,” she said. “They are still with you. I can see them.” It didn’t convince me, and I prepared for parting with this world. Which is why I felt such surprise and joy when I woke up after the anesthesia. From then on, I listened to Divine with trust and no fear. I can say much about that, but in short:

All areas of my life have been deeply affected
and changed.

As I said earlier, I have experienced recurrent depression and anxiety since childhood. Even on “good days”, I still tend to be a little nervous, often in combination with low self-esteem. I have built up a way of forcing, fighting and pushing myself to do a lot of things, no matter how frightening, exhausting, painful they might be, just to appear normal, or not to disappoint anyone. That underwent a change. A transformation. A greater sense of purpose is permeating my life. And that provides me with the feeling that I – just like anybody else – have my own right to be in this world. I’m still nervous, and tend to sense everything without filter, but at the same time I feel protected and secure.

Every third month I go back to the hospital to be scanned and examined for precursors to cancer. In October 2017, all results had been fine for one year!

To see more pictures by Titika Røtkjær, go to Instagram.