I Will Not Die an Unlived Life Part 2

The word ‘cancer’ encompasses over 200 different diseases, yet when it affects an individual it takes on a greater significance, a different tone, and much more meaning. The day my doctor told me I had breast cancer, she also said it would not kill me, but it would change my life. A diagnosis of cancer is a chance for deep reflection and profound change. It is a balance of hope, optimism, and being realistic. It is about figuring out priorities, understanding relationships, and considering future plans. And she was right. With my cancer, an uninvited teacher had arrived.


I had a lumpectomy in August 1998, after having discovered a lump in my right breast earlier in the Spring. Several weeks later, I underwent removal of lymph nodes to see if the cancer had spread. I was lucky, the lymph glands, bone, and liver scans were clear. Only a course of radiation was in order. During the following six weeks, I had radiation treatments 5 days a week, and coped with the physical and mental side effects of extreme fatigue and skin irritation.


Over the last few years I have been able to look back at my own treatment experience from a different perspective. HERE is my account of how aromatherapy helped me cope. You can click HERE if you are interested in the full-story via audio interview with K. G. Stiles.


Many supported me during this time of my life and one particular gift stands out. Robbi Zeck, ND and aromatherapist from Australia gave me a book called “I Will Not Die an Unlived Life” by Dawna Markova. She who wrote the poem of the same name that mentioned in a previous blog. This became my mantra for the years following my cancer. I knew I still had some living to do.


Interestingly enough, there was no research for me to look at back then. Now we have the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) information, a summary which provides an overview of the use of aromatherapy and essential oils in improving the quality of life of cancer patients. THIS SUMMARY includes a brief history of aromatherapy, a review of laboratory studies and clinical trials, and possible adverse effects associated with aromatherapy use.


Over the last few years I have been able to look back at my own treatment experience from a new perspective. I am grateful for the experience, for the awareness of better health and habits. I don’t call myself a “survivor”, which promotes something awful happened and keeps it alive, but I choose to be a “thriver”. I don’t support the pink ribbons due to understanding the pinkwashing that goes on. Now 15 years later, I have an exit letter from my surgeon. No more yearly visits, no checking, and certainly no worries. In reality, I forgot about it long ago, fired my oncologist for making me wait 45 minutes, and have released my contract with all negative health issues. This body is healthy and this is my greatest gratitude. Cancer was the greatest teacher, uninvited or not!

I will not die an unlived life

Dawna Markova wrote the poem,


I Will Not Die An Unlived Life

I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.


She could have written that for me, and often it seems as if she did.  When I received this gift from Robbi Zeck in 1998, I was going through radiation for breast cancer. I read the poem, put it up on the wall, read it again, and in a few years the poem became my mantra. I learned to say it out loud to the point that it was not only very empowering, but affirming.


As can be understood, I had a fear of falling and I avoided heights. As a child I did not like going over bridges in the car or walking on the pier at the beach high above the ocean deep, with little gaps between the boards.
I had the fear of catching fire since someone bumped into my arm at a college party with a cigarette, causing a bad burn when I was a teen. Ten years later, at another party, I was donning some wild and heavily hair sprayed hair, and sat next to a candle that lit the ends of my do, giving me a layered look. Lucky for me a biker had his jacket handy and covered me before any damage, but it really STUNK up the party. After my older brother lost his home to fire I became obsessed with the element for a long time and still don’t use candles.


Despite my past experience with fire, I am happy to say I no longer have those fears and  can quickly dismiss fearful pop ups when they occasionally happen. In my sabbatical away from AT I was able to release that through some powerful work called Heart Forgiveness, which allows one to release anger and gives tools to continue moving forward with a peaceful heart. This is done in four sessions with a facilitator with follow up home work with a CD.

The Heart Forgiveness sessions allowed to feel that I can look at the past now and deal with anything that resurfaces, putting it to rest and being free.


A result of being free are Confessions of a Vintage Aromatherapist being developed, as well as this blog project where I can recount the history as I have lived it. It will include the viewpoint of guests who can add their knowledge to our histories database. As many myths of aromatherapy are being busted, I hope the insights of my friends and I will  add to the historical data of the field and provide entertainment so that when my time comes, I can screech out, all used up, yelling whoohoo!