On Valentines Day exactly one year ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Not exactly what ANYONE wants for a Valentines gift, but as it turns out, it was a gift after all. One year later, I am beyond grateful to share that I am cancer free. But that was not the gift that came from my journey.

The gift I received was love.

I had a formidable tribe that surrounded me with unconditional sacrificial love that came in the form of cards, texts, calls, emails, gifts, meals, visits, outstanding medical care, and more. To me, it was God’s love in tangible form. It gave me hope. It helped me heal. It is with me always.

Love also showed up in some of the most unlikely of places. I remember teaching a class one day after I was diagnosed, at a time I was feeling at war with my cancer and my body. A dear friend (who I hadn’t shared this with) got a vision and told me to “love my cancer”. What the WHAT?! Love the CANCER?! In that moment I knew I must do the thing that was hardest. Love my cancer. Because my body couldn’t heal in a war zone, or in the struggle. It needed love. And, because love heals.

Then came the day when another friend reminded me to look up the “energetics” of breast cancer. You see, in some schools of thought within yoga and the areas of energetic healing, it is believed that breast cancer is connected to imbalances in the heart Chakra, and also to over-nurturing without adequate self care. I didn’t want to see the connection. I wasn’t ready. Both of my grandmas had had breast cancer as well as several second cousins, so I attributed it to a genetic link. Only to find out later that I tested negative for the gene!!

This required me to look closer at something I didn’t want to face. I looked harshly, and critically. Did I cause this? Did I provide fertile soil for this disease to manifest? I was angry. And, in that moment, I was back to being at war with myself.

I processed this with another trusted friend and mentor who reminded me that IF this were true (and we will never know for sure) that my love of others and putting others before myself isn’t a bad thing. It’s beautiful and only shows that I am a compassionate and loving person who cares deeply for others. I just needed to find more balance and do a better job of loving MYSELF.

In that moment, it was as if my inner self said to me, “Can you love me exactly as I am? Can you love me as much and as well as you love others? I’ve been trying to tell you for some time, but you haven’t heard me. So, I got louder. I don’t want to lose you. I just want you to love me. Can you at least try, because I think I’m worth it.”

So THAT my friends has been my journey. A journey of learning how to love myself more, and better. And if I’m honest, this has been a life-long lesson for me, and one that I clearly still have more to learn. But, I’ve realized that it’s a lesson worth learning.

Self-love doesn’t have to involve huge, monumental decisions. It can be as simple as getting a cup of tea on your way home from the office, or asking for help from family or friends during a hectic or difficult time. Taking a hot shower or a soak (with Epsom salt and lavender, please!) in a tub after a busy day. Sitting on a secluded beach, all by yourself and pondering the wonders of creation. Or, taking the time to get your toes done and realizing that you are taking care of yourself in the process, which is what I’m doing right now…

Self-love is recognizing that we matter and that we deserve love and affection. It is a beautiful paradox because in receiving it, we are better able to give it. And, it’s good for our health and well-being! I believe that is why the “Golden Role” and the Greatest Commandment of all time says, “Love your neighbor AS yourself.”

Mani-pedi, anyone?!