Fundraiser Workshop on Cancer 10/11/2022 from 7-9:30pm Eastern
Later this month, we will celebrate 11 years of my brother-in-law, Archie’s “surviving” with brain cancer – Grade III Anaplastic Astrocytoma – as he takes the mic to offer a keynote speech at the New England Brain Tumor Walk.
In early Summer, 2010, his father, Paul, was diagnosed with cancer and given nine months to live. The following spring, after what Archie describes as “one of the most dignified, awe-inspiring, courageous efforts he had yet to witness,” Paul passed away with Archie and his mom, Donna, by his side in his hospice bed.
On reflection Archie wrote, “I had witnessed cancer transform my idol from a strong, funny, passionate person to someone I physically did not recognize, but somehow admired even more at the end of his life on this planet. What I had learned was terrible, enraging, sad, and soul crushing. Little did I know, it was my father’s final gift and offer of wisdom to me. I learned more in those nine months about grace, patience, and love that I can ever show of my appreciation. My dad prepared me for what would be a fight for my own life; with the same enemy inhabiting a different part of my body.”
The following fall on Halloween, 2011, my family and I were at my parents’ house greeting trick-or-treaters and celebrating our nephew’s first Halloween when I answered a call from my sister. “Hi Stink,” I said. She met my greeting with wailing guttural sounds, followed by shrieking screams. She sobbed for what felt like forever, but was barely a minute, before forming the words, “Archie has brain cancer.” With those words, my nervous system seized, my heart pounded, and tears filled my eyes. No words, just breath… others joined around me holding the phone together. No words, more breath, more beating hearts holding space as she wept. Eventually one of us found the words to say, “we are here with you, you are not alone, we will get through this…” And he did, she did, we did, and we still are with the help of his medical team, positive living, and ancestral support.
Paul’s death and Archie’s diagnosis were the beginning of a couple of hellish years. It was as if a black cloud swept overhead and hung above my family continuously raining destructive downpours and hailstorms upon us. While my sister and Archie poured all their lifeforce on their cancer battle, my marriage tanked, resulting in divorce. My elder brother and his wife lost their first son to a stillbirth. My pregnant sister-in-law lost a best friend to cancer. When she and my brother brought their daughter into the world, it seemed like the joy that had been abundant in our lives was erased by the flood of these family’s tragedies and struggles. Dan, with whom I had begun collaborating with professionally, also experienced a run of difficult losses. Both his daughters suffered traumatic events while away from home. His marriage was crumbling. His mother died, as did my maternal grandmother.
Looking back at this period of turbulence, we can recognize that cancer, and most descent journeys, have healing properties for the individual and their family. Even when the final outcome is death, or if old familial wounds surface and split open without a clear resolution, the process of treating the disease and resulting darkness often places demands on the entire system to open pathways for repair, rebalancing, and reconciliation.
In Archie’s Blog, Cancer of the Brain, Not of the Mind, he writes “Having cancer is a definable entity for a person. If one dies from cancer, we hear that he/she battled cancer and eventually the cancer won. If we survive, we are told that we are survivors, warriors, and inspirations for others. I often laughed to myself when I was called an inspiration, knowing that if I died, I would have been called something else.”
To me, Archie has always been a source of inspiration. And yet, how he met the collective language and perspective around the “cancer battle” deepened my respect for him, my sister, and his cancer. Few people in the world are able to greet cancer directly, hold respect for its place in your life, look death in the eye, choose life, and be curious about how to co-exist with cancer as “the unevictable roomate” in your brain. This is something Archie and Sarah have mastered and live everyday of their lives.
A few months after Archie’s Dad had passed, he began planning for an engagement ring and proposal ideas. Two months later, he was diagnosed. He had the ring, but it took time for him to ask Sarah for something that would bring great joy knowing the pain it would inevitably cause. Following surgery, and before starting chemotherapy and radiation, he brought Sarah to the top of his parent’s Bed & Breakfast in Maine and got down on one knee with chocolate truffles in one hand and a ring in the other. Sarah and Archie both said “Yes” to love, to marriage, and to the mystery unfolding. In reflection, Archie wrote, “Sarah’s joy and love coupled with the fact that she was now my fiancée were the best medicine I could have received. The celebration was one of joy for us, but it was also a message of hope. Hope for another day, another month, another year…hope for a life together where cancer was only part of the story.” And this is the life they have lived, always tilting towards the positive and drinking in big gulps of joy, the light always brighter than the shadow.
Some (especially Systemic Constellators) might question whether Archie’s cancer following Paul’s so closely might be an example of the son following the father in unconscious love and loyalty. Or wonder whether there is an inherited, ancestral imprint that pulled multiple generations into cancer the way an ocean undercurrent swiftly carries you offshore and into the wider currents of the vast sea. While certain repetitive patterning in families can be clearly mapped using Constellations, we are very cautious generalizing these principles to cancer.
What is undoubtedly true for Archie is that he is above ground today living life fully because he asked, “What’s next Dad? Show me the way to life.” He wears a charm with his father’s ashes close to his heart and allows himself to be guided by his dad’s whispers from beyond. Archie’s resilience is encoded in his bones, blood, and DNA. The love he gives his wife, son, family, and friends fill him out, like a broad wingspan always extending towards life and protecting the joyous moments of each day. Yes, Paul’s cancer journey ended with his death, but his legacy is not that he died, it is how he lived until he died. Paul’s cancer journey became Archie’s path to life.
Archie has taught me time and time again that “you and your mindset are the best medicine and hope that you can have. What you cannot control is of little consequence.” He said “yes” to every treatment, not only the medical ones – surgery, radiation, and chemo – but also dietary and lifestyle changes, supplements, cannabis, exercise, travel, music, meditation, Constellations, coaching, journaling, and others. Now, 11 years after his diagnosis, he is embracing his “post-treatment” life. Because his type of cancer has never gone into a full remission, he will be in post-treatment indefinitely where he goes two times a year for MRIs to check for any cancer growth.
Archie doesn’t dwell on his cancer or its risks. He understands his task is to embrace this “normal” to not just be a survivor, but a thriver. In his words, “what is the point of treatment just to survive when there is so much to live for?” In his blog, he writes, “Good people in your life are a form of treatment. When you surround yourself with people you love, you feel the love back without the need to see it or hear it. Brain cancer has taught me the value of relationships and the ones worth being a part of at the end of life. One piece of advice if you are reading this, whether you are called, ‘patient’, ‘survivor’, ‘caregiver’, ‘human’, is think of the people you want by your side and just make it happen. It is undoubtedly the best medicine and treatment one can self-prescribe.”
His presence in life is a form of treatment. Archie greets stress with a wink of an eye, a smiling smirk, and a backhand to swoosh it away. He works and volunteers on behalf of the homeless or disadvantaged offering housing advocacy and mediation services to those who can’t afford legal support. He works for children with disabilities, advocating for their rights and supporting schools and families in finding pathways for greater ease and the best education. He is generous and genuinely friendly to whomever is down on their luck and needs extra support. He’s interested beyond the good deed.
Archie is the funny character making my sister laugh so hard she makes loud snorting sounds, and their son falls on the ground in a full-body giggle fest. When people start gossiping around him, he will deftly change the topic and lighten the mood. And when a harsh comment brings someone low, Archie is there with a soft hug. Everyone belongs in Archie’s love and life. That’s who he was before cancer and now even more so.
We encounter cancer frequently within private Constellations sessions and in our classes and programs. Over the past year, two additional family members were diagnosed with cancer and are actively healing. Many of our clients are in their cancer journeys or the post-treatment phase. We miss the presence of dear friends, clients, and colleagues who have succumbed to the disease. Like all of life’s challenges, cancer is both an immediate condition and an expression of the larger system. We can Constellate a person’s cancer the same as we do with any other issue or symptom. These Constellations often generate important insights and open pathways towards healing and recovery. And we are deeply honored to be a part of a greater collective team exploring, understanding, and treating cancer.
Archie, Dr. K and his medical team saved my brother-in-law’s life. If it weren’t for them, my beautiful nephew wouldn’t exist and get to reach his little arms up to his Dad, kiss him on the face, and tell him how much he loves him. There’s nothing I want more in this life than a cure for brain cancer and with magic, positive intention, science and community, we are leaning in for your support.
To manifest a cure, we need optimal imagining, systemic healing, funds for research, and so much more. Please join us on October 11 from 7:00-9:30pm Eastern for a virtual systemic constellation event on cancer. All proceeds of this event will be donated to TEAM Archie and it’s efforts to raise funds and awareness at the New England Brain Tumor Walk.
On October 16, we are going to walk with TEAM Archie at the New England Brain Tumor Walk in Boston. If you are local to the Boston area, we invite you to come out and walk with us and/or support Team Archie by registering for the Fundraiser Workshop on Cancer or directly donating through his team link.
To learn more about his journey, please visit his site: https://cancerofthebrainnotofthemind.com/, or follow him on Instagram.
UPCOMING PROGRAMS & EVENTS
If you are interested in working privately with Dan and/or Emily, we welcome you to CLICK HERE to learn more about our services. Together we will identify the inherited patterns present and the pathways to create space for the possibility of the future calling you forward.