What the Cancer Whisperer taught me about my son's autism

I am privileged to know Cancer Whisperer author, Sophie Sabbage. It's a privilege not just because she is an amazing person, but because if I hadn't known her, I would probably never have read or heard the things she says.

I don't have cancer, you see, so it might have been a book I would thankfully have glossed past on the shelves.

But because I know Sophie, I have read the book a couple of times, as well as her beautiful blog, and I watch any videos she puts up.

This morning, I watched a clip from a talk she had given. In it she touches briefly on how when she was told she was dying from cancer, she started to die.

But then she decided that if she wanted to stick around she would have to change the narrative - and began asking questions. Lots of them.

And the chief questions Sophie asked were: "What if cancer is not a disease? What if cancer is a symptom of other underlying dis-ease - physical, emotional, environmental, mental and spiritual? What if my cancer came to save me rather than kill me?"

Her journey in seeking the answers to these questions has been transformative, personally for her, and for those whose lives she has touched with her writing and talks.

In essence, what Sophie is saying is not new. The idea that life's difficulties and challenges can offer us healing and reveal something about ourselves, if we are open to receive, is as ancient as it gets. This idea crops up again and again in most philosophies and religions - a mindfulness course I was listening to yesterday was talking about how in the Christian tradition, the temptations of Christ in the wilderness are all about this. In Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths offer insights into the truth of suffering.

But these are not easy concepts - and we perennially need new teachers and guides to find new ways of expressing and unfolding them. And sometimes when they do, it hits home.

Today's video clip from Sophie hit the spot for me because last night I was sitting on my son's bed at 1am crying. He has autism and getting him to just get between the sheets is a long process of negotiating demand avoidance and obsessive compulsions. Every night is the same and frequently I find myself out of answers, resources, patience and hope. Last night, that was where I was.

The challenges life with my son present have taught me a lot, when and if I am up for listening. Often I fall into victimhood and non-acceptance; it isn't fair, not on him, me, his siblings or anyone. Intellectually, as someone who reads a lot into Buddhist practice without actually being a Buddhist, I get that acceptance is the key - but it isn't easy in practice.

Sometimes, however, I see a chink of a deeper truth, and what Sophie said in the clip I saw today caused me to ask: "What if my son has been sent to heal my life?"

And that isn't a question I have asked so precisely before.

Of course, it doesn't mean I 'have the answer' and all is now well. Just as I know that for Sophie, cancer doesn't always knock on her door wearing the flowing robes of a healer - sometimes it just fucking well sucks.

But it is an insight that offers another signpost as I look for ways to be during this life - and that is enough. And, if you are wondering what the hell this all has to do with knitting and crochet - well, the answer is nothing.

EXCEPT, that one of the creativity meditations I offer is about acceptance. If you create you also have to accept, much more often than comfortable, that what you are making might not end up quite how you envisaged. (In fact, I have a blog about this here.) There are times I have torn up or thrown out hours upon hours of work. It hurts, for a while. And then in the space of the creation that has gone, is something magical - the opportunity for something different to grow.

So, it is, as usual, all about knitting after all...