This week it is my greatest honour to introduce you to Sophie Sabbage. You might have recently seen Sophie interviewd in the Guardian and Daily Mail, and now she is here at Tabitha’s Gltuen Free Dishes.
Sophie is a fellow blogger and recent no. 1 international bestseller with her book “The Cancer Whisperer, How To Let Cancer Heal Your Life In this amazing book, Sophie shares her transformational experience of living with stage 4 ‘incurable’ metastatic lung cancer and multiple tumours in her lungs, lymph nodes, bones and brain.
The Cancer Whisper is a beautifully written, profoundly inspiring compassionate guide, part memoir, part self help book that cuts through the taboos associated with a terminal diagnosis with precision, humility, humour and an unshakable hope and light. Sophie does not preach about her experience but is a friendly voice gently holding your hand guiding the reader on a journey transforming the all out fear of a terminal diagnosis into one of hope.
I urge you to read this book If not immediately relevant to your life or a loved ones there will come a day when it will help you in ways you can’t imagine. It’s a remarkable tool that will give you wings in the darkest of times.
“Sometimes being positive is like putting icing on dog shit and calling it a cake” Sophie Sabbage
Sophie has written her as a compass, to steady anyone feeling lost and overwhelmed by the enormity of a diagnosis . It is a beautiful gift of practical advice, tools, research and her own experience. Detailing treatments, lifestyle changes and how shifting how we look at and understand our lives can help us truly live with and make peace with dis-ease.
A transformational process that at its core is the belief that taking control “of your own treatment in its own right – is psychological medicine that for your cellsn may matter as much as the drugs you are taking and the food that you are eating.”
“What if cancer is the body’s last attempt to save its own life? What if its purpose is not to extinguish us but to heal what is not yet whole? What if cancer longs to be loved, like all the cells in our body, it just needs to be cared for? What if we stopped hating and started leaning into what cancer has to teach us about who we are, how we’ve lived and what we might yet become? We can’t heal on a battleground. We need to stop fighting and shake the enemies hand” Sophie Sabbage.
My diagnostician said that to me at the start of this journey. It hit my chest like a fist. I was devastated in that moment and crumbling under the weight of my conviction that my number was up. I was in a fog of fear and resignation. But that advice woke me up in some way that I didn’t really catch up with until later. It was a deeply empowering message to stay myself, whatever happened, and not hand my destiny over to people in white coats.
Q: Why the Cancer Whisperer?
Horse whisperers radically changed the way they relate to horses. They learnt to speak the horse’s language and gain its trust until it ‘joined up’ with them instead of having to be ‘broken’. I think we need to do the same with cancer. We need to listen to its messages, but we are in such an adversarial relationship with it we can’t do this. Our language is about the ‘war with cancer’ not our dialogue with cancer.
How often have you heard about someone dying from this disease with the words, ‘they lost their battle with cancer’? I do get it because I want this disease out of my body, but it is IN my body. So how do I battle it without also battling part of myself? I have been at war with my body since I was ten years old. For me, cancer was my cells begging me to stop the war, to love the skin I live in and honour the body I was born into. That’s how I heard it anyway. And it changed everything.
Wouldn’t it be cool to create a community of cancer whisperers who could listen to their dis-ease instead of drowning out what it has to offer? That’s why the subtitle isn’t ‘how to heal cancer’ (I don’t actually know how to do that yet!) – it’s ‘how to let cancer heal your life’.
Q: How have you changed your diet and what are your top tips in doing so?
Yes, radically, from day one. I am mainly vegan now. Sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, red meat free, caffeine free, alcohol free. I used to add ‘pleasure free’ to that list, but am discovering pleasure is still possible from this kind of diet from people like you.
Q: What is your ideal way to spend a day?
Walking with my husband, doing treatments (I do a lot), writing, hanging out with my daughter and finding ways to be of service to others within the confines of my illness.
Q: Your book is beautifully written. Who and what do you love to read?
I love timeless, exquisite literature that makes you wonder if there is anything left to write – Emily Bronté, Alice Walker, Harper Lee. I read a lot of poetry – Mary Oliver, Rumi, Maya Angelou, Hafiz, David Whyte. And I read great psychological and spiritual teachers – Alan Watts, Viktor Frankl, Eckhart Tolle. I love to read the books that change the paradigm we are living in and awaken us from our slumber.
Q: Although you deal with some of the toughest topics and decisions many of us will ever face your upbeat personality and sense of humour shine through. Who and what makes you laugh?
Haha. Never thought of myself as upbeat until I got cancer! I was a glass-is-half-empty girl before this. I have always had a good sense of humour though, but was serious and engaged with people’s misery and suffering more than beauty and joy. Cancer lightened me up I think. Funny that.
Q: In your book you describe ‘denial as a disempowering force” and ‘if you don’t have your feelings your feelings will have you”. I think these are powerful words and true for many of us at any stage of our life. What is your number 1 tip for not living a life in denial and fear?
Notice what you are telling yourself, then question it, challenge it and find what’s really true. Or as Walt Whitman said, ‘Reexamine everything you have been told…and dismiss what insults your soul.”
Q: One practical piece of advice you share is writing a list for your friends and family that you emailed with a list of helpful and a list of unhelpful things they can do. Such as empathy, fundraising, childcare, telling you about their lives (helpful) and unhelpful: sympathy, giving advice, pretending it isn’t happening.
How important has this list been and what would you say to people who might be unsure of doing this and/or upsetting their friends or families by doing so?
First, my friends and family didn’t know how to help until I told them how. They say I empowered them to empower me. It made a huge difference at an excruciatingly difficult time.
Second, if you are concerned about upsetting friends and family get over it. This is your life and if you don’t get over it now you never well. Cancer awakens us to the behaviours that don’t serve us – including pleasing others at our own expense and putting our own needs second, third and last.
Third, if you want to know who your real friends are, this is how to find out.
Q: You go on to share some excellent practical tips and ideas for fundraising. How important has fundraising been to your treatment?
Vital. I couldn’t have done most of the alternative treatments I am doing without financial help. It’s a shame these things are so expensive, but they are. I had to stop work when I was diagnosed and it put real strain on my family. I had to swallow a lot of pride to ask for this, but I wanted to live so pride was irrelevant. Those who contributed have all had a hand in saving my life.
Q: In your book you describe how identifying our purpose is like finding the rudder to our boat in our journey. Can you tell us a little more about this and how our purpose differs from setting goals?
Goals are WHAT you want to achieve – money, weight loss, having a kid, buying a dream home etc. Purpose is WHY you want to achieve those things. Purpose tells the real story. Do you want to achieve things in order to prove your worth (because you don’t know it already) or in order to express your value (upon which you stand)? Do you want to have children to fill a gap in your life or to raise another human being into their full glory?
People achieve a lot of goals and then wonder why they’re still not satisfied so they just set more goals. And it’s never ever enough. That’s because their deeper purpose is not being noticed, honoured and acted upon. Only when you satisfy your highest and noblest intentions will you actually feel satisfied with your life.
Q: What is your current diagnosis and what are your hopes for the future?
I still have stage four cancer and, according to statistics, I will be dead within five years (and that would be if I’m among the lucky ones). But statistics are not reality. Reality is reality. So I take a day at a time. I am under no illusions. But I am down to one tumour from more than they could count. I hope to live as long as I can. I hope to raise my daughter. I hope to let cancer keep transforming me. I hope to go into remission. I hope to make a difference to a lot of people. I hope to find purpose and meaning in this whole experience. I hope to be gracious and brave if the tide turns. I hope to face death with as much clarity as I embrace life. I hope to live transformed and awake or die transformed and awake. I hope to let cancer heal my life.
“Let this experience awaken my mind, free my spirit and heal my life, whatever the ultimate outcome” Sophie Sabbage