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In her quest for life, Petrea has come through cancer to really find herself again.  She has discovered a unique approach to find peace of mind during the craziness and the certainty that comes with cancer. Here are some things we cover today:

  • Finding peace of mind during cancer
  • Responding rather than reacting to crisis situation
  • How commitment to living makes you more resilient
  • The best definition of forgiveness you are likely to come across
  • 4 key characteristics that help you get through cancer
  • The path to forgiveness and freeing yourself
  • and much, much more!

Links

Quest for Life and Petrea King Programs and Workshops

Petrea King Books

Petrea King and Quest for Life Foundation

Episode 036: How To Be More Resilient During Cancer with Michael Carr-Gregg

Full Transcript

Joe:                Petrea, the first thing I really wanted to ask you is, when did you first come across cancer?

Petrea:             When I was nursing.  When I was 17, I went into nursing and so I nursed a lot of people with cancer at that time.  Also, before I went into nursing, it’s a much longer story, but I’d grown very quickly 23cm in one year and my knees had started dislocating when I was 13.  I spent three years in hospital having my femurs cut and my lower legs turned out and my tibias cut, and my lower legs turned in.  In those days, they’d just invented portable x-ray machines, and because my bones wouldn’t unite, they sometimes x-rayed me two or three times per week.  I think in hindsight, that might have been the reason why I developed cancer then in my 30s.

Joe:                 Wow, what was that like?

Petrea:             Which bit, being in hospital for three years?

Joe:                 Well, being in hospital for three years and then getting cancer in your 30s?

Petrea:             Well, when I was diagnosed, I knew something was wrong because I was covered in bruises.  I would bruise very easily.  I went to my doctor who referred me to another one.  When I had all of the blood tests, I was actually living in California at the time.  When I had all the blood tests, it came back as my white blood cell counts were completely skewed.  Then I had bone marrow biopsies and finally, I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in September of 1983.  I was told that I wouldn’t see Christmas of that year.  My brother had just taken his life, as well, so it was a very painful time for our family.  I have to say, I didn’t feel like I fought for my life.  I’m a little bit against this idea of battles and fighting the disease and people lose their battle with cancer.  I just don’t think that’s helpful.  We use such a warm mentality and yet, this is something within our own body.  Being at war with a part of your body doesn’t sit well with me.

Joe:                 That’s such a great perspective, Petrea.  How did you see it?  How did you react when you found out and how did you deal with it?  That it wasn’t that and it was a part of you?  How did you approach it all?

Petrea:             Well, those three years in hospital as a teenager had given me a lot of time to focus on the deeper questions about existence that I was already preoccupied with.  Why are we here?  What’s the purpose of human life?  How do you know you’ve lived a good life?  Like a lot of people, I had a split façade where I had a highly polished one for everybody outside but had a very private inner life.  I’d also grown up with my mad, chaotic brother who was the one who did finally take his life.  He told me before he was ten that he knew that he had to take his own life by the time he was 30.

That’s when I remember thinking, “I have to grow up really quickly, so I can look after Brendan.” That finally gave me a sense of why I was alive.  I was here to keep him safe.  Then I grew 23cm in a year.  That’s what caused the derangement in my bones in my legs.  Those three years in hospital were fantastic because I got out of school.  I never went back to school.  I got away from my gorgeous brother whom I adored but found very scary.  It got me out of having to be a teenager and grow up, because I just didn’t feel like I was ready to grow up at all.

I lived with this very split reality of being someone intensely private and yet, keeping this highly polished façade for everybody else that I was okay.  After that, I was raped.  I got into drugs.  My brother attempted suicide several times before he succeeded.  I was crippled with arthritis, I used to walk with walking sticks or crutches in my 20s.  Then Brendan did take his life, that was a huge shock for all of us because in the last two years of his life, he was actually really happy.  We all went into being relieved that he was okay.

I became a vegetarian when I was about 17.  I started meditating when I was 17 to deal with chronic pain.  By the time I was diagnosed at 33, I’d been a very strict vegetarian for 15 years.  I’d been meditating for 15 years.  I was already qualified as a naturopath, a herbalist, a homeopath, a yoga and meditation teacher.  It was downright embarrassing to have cancer when I was meant to know about health.  I did still have this very rigid divide between me as a private person and the façade I kept highly polished for everyone else.  I ended up, my mother flew to America, she brought me back to Australia.  I was pretty much bed-ridden straight away.  My daughter came and sat on my bed one day, she was seven.  She said, “Mum, you’re sick.”

I hadn’t told them I had leukemia because I didn’t want people looking at me with coffin-eyes.  As if I was already dead.  My daughter said, “If you need to mediate to get well, I think you should go back to America”, where I was living in a community in California.  I ended up doing that.  From there, I went to Italy because the Swami that I was housekeeper and secretary to there was lecturing in Italy.  It’s a long story, it’s in my memoir now.  I ended up in this little cave outside of Assisi in Italy and that’s where my whole life ground to a halt.  It was a combination of being very sick of grief, of despair.

Up until then, I had never cried.  I kept everything inside.  In the cave, I could no longer keep the tears at bay.  I wept buckets and buckets and buckets.  My first book was called: Quest for Life, but it really should have been called: Sob Your Way to Health.  I think that was probably a better description.  This old priest looked after me.  He didn’t speak any English and I didn’t speak any Italian.  For instance, the first night, he came down into the cave where I was, and he dragged me up the stairs and he sat me at a table.  On the table, there was a meal that he’d prepared for me that had meat in it.

I hadn’t eaten meat for 15 years.  There was a big chunk of white bread.  I had been telling everyone, the whiter the bread, the sooner you’re dead.  There was a goblet of wine.  I hadn’t drunk alcohol or tea or coffee, nothing for 15 years.  I felt that it was more healing for me to be grateful for what had been lovingly prepared for me by a stranger, than for me to say, “I can’t have what you’ve lovingly prepared because of my belief system.” I realised I had constructed all of these beliefs to survive in my life.

It was like leukemia and facing my mortality caused me to let go the structure of all the beliefs that I had accumulated and learned to trust life, which I’d never done.  I do it myself.  I had to learn to trust life.  It was very humbling.  It brought me to a very raw emotional state.  Where I just started becoming grateful for every breath and for sunshine, for butterflies, for leaves, for all the beauty that was actually around me outside in this monastery where I was living in, in Assisi.

Joe:                 Yes, wow, that’s an incredibly story.  Really, having that shock of diagnosis come in, that kind of bridged the gap between the two parts of yourself, in a way, right?

Petrea:             Yes, it did.  It shattered that façade and it allowed me to live a much more authentic life.  When I came back to Australia, I had all the blood tests done again.  This time, they showed that I had zillions of little baby red blood cells.  The doctors said, “Look, you weren’t meant to have a remission, so this one won’t last.” I said, “Well, how long might it last?” They said, “Well, maybe only a few days, maybe a few weeks.” I actually found that more challenging because by then, I had reconciled myself to death.  I had packed up my whole life in this little suitcase, all ready for the big trip.

I had given my children away, all of my possessions.  I’d signed over all my assets to my husband.  I was all ready to go, but then the plane got cancelled.  I was faced with how much do you unpack the suitcase?  How much do you live with any kind of sense of certainty about life?  I rang a friend who owns a very large vitamin company here in Australia.  I had met him during my naturopathic days, when I was studying.  I said to Marcus, “Look, I’m meant to be dead, but I’m not.  I’m in a remission but they say it won’t last.  I’m a naturopath, a herbalist, a homeopath, a yoga, mediation… I don’t know what to do.” He said, “Forget what the doctors said and just go into practice as a naturopath.”

Frankly, I didn’t really want to be a naturopath because I found the whole experience of nearly dying and dealing with grief and loss and a lifetime of trauma and chronic pain, I’d found that a very intense experience.  I did as Marcus said, within the first two weeks, the first woman with breast cancer came in.  The day after, the first person with AIDS came in.  They had both been told they wouldn’t see Christmas, which is what I’d been told 15 months before.  I felt like I’d met my people.  My tribe.

My question to people has always been, what is it that stands in the way of you being at peace?  Now, sometimes it was pain.  Okay, let’s see what we can do with breathing, yoga.  I’m not against medicine.  I’m all for orthodox medicine, but there’s an awful lot we can do to help ourselves in addition to whatever we’re doing medically.  It might have been diarrhea.  I would educate them.  Okay, let’s leave out oranges, orange juice, fried fatty foods, fats, oils, alcohol, fried eggs, cheese, dairy products.  Those are the foots that will increase nausea and diarrhea.  Maybe use some slippery elm and some homeopathic.

We’d get rid of the diarrhea.  Now, what is it that stands in the way of you being at peace?  Those conversations got ever deeper into those fundamental questions of: Who am I?  What am I doing on the planet?  A I living the life I came here to live?  If not, why not?  What am I going to do about that?  Those were the questions that I’d been facing ever since I was a little child.  I found those conversations to be very enriching.  What I began to see, in time, a lot of the people, I’ve worked with over 120,000 people now, through our retreats and one-on-one, which I don’t do now, but we have a very big retreat centre here.  In fact, just behind me, through the wall, there’s 22 people with cancer in a program this week with us.

When I began working with people and they were beginning to find really this deep sense of peace within themselves, they just didn’t die on time.  If they were given a time frame, it’s always three to six, six to nine, nine to twelve.  Doesn’t only work in quarterly installments because they’re talking about a statistical group of people.  They’re never talking about you as an individual.  The people I was working with, some of them are still alive now, when they were given three months to live 30 years ago.

I began to see that they had some characteristics in common.  That’s what all of our programs now are based on, are these characteristics that people have who are the ones that don’t die on time.  What I found, frankly, were that these characteristics were useful whether you were grieving, whether you were dealing with depression, trauma, loss, grief, anything, because they’re about peace of mind.

Joe:                 What are those characteristics?

Petrea:             Well, there are four of them.  They’re called the: Four Cs because each one begins with the letter C.  The first one is that these are people who regain control over their response to life.  This first C recognises when perfectly appalling, terrible, horrible things happy to lovely, gorgeous, fabulous people.  It’s fine to weep about it, rail about it, scream about it, write about it, talk about it.  Until you come to a place where this did happen, and it happened to me.  Given I’m in this situation, what’s an appropriate response, not a reaction?

A reaction is always in the body.  If you think about a time when you were really reacting to something, people say, it’s in my gut or my heart rate increases or my breathing changes or my jaw tenses up, or my shoulders and neck get tight.  A reaction is a reactivation of a physiology we’ve experienced previously that we live again in the present moment.  If you to think about it, when you’re really reacting to something, if you were to ask yourself, how old do I feel right now?  We always feel like a little kid.  We’re literally reactivating the physiology of the four/five/six/seven-year-old and living it again as an adult.  Now, if we keep reactivating the same physiology in which your disease developed, why would it go?  A response takes you into new territory.

We don’t say to people: Take receivability for your life.  We say: Take responsibility.  Your ability to responds to the things that are happening in your life.  That’s the first C, is recognising, where am I reacting?  As soon as you notice a reaction, find ways of settling that down.  You either need to excuse yourself from the situation, you need to take some deep breathing, you need to settle down that reactivation in your body, so that you can more appropriately respond, not react.  Otherwise, we keep doing what we’re always done.  Then we always get what we’ve always done.

The second C is a commitment to living.  This is a little bit more complex.  A commitment to living is to have a deep reverence for your life.  To revere the life that you have.  Frankly, it’s amazing that any of us are alive.  We know that only ten percent of all of the cells in our bodies are even human cells.  The other 90 percent are bacteria and other kinds of little creatures that live in and on us.  This is a whole ecosystem that we’re in.  We can create a toxic ecosystem or a healthy ecosystem.  A commitment to living recognises that the opposite of death is birth, not life.  Life is indestructible, I’ve been with many people who’ve died and it’s obvious that someone leaves.

For me, life is indestructible, love never dies.  That’s who we are in our essence.  This second C shows up in three areas.  It shows up in our priorities.  You’re not your body, but you have a body and you need to nourish it appropriately.  That means to put into and onto your body only the things that belong there.  Now, human beings have bene eating slow food, seasonal, local, organic, whole food for millennia.  We’ve only recently started interfering with our food supply and adding oodles of chemicals into our environment.

The average baby born in the U.S.  today can have up to 200 chemicals in its cord blood when it arrives here, which are these persistent chemicals, which are now in the environment.  We need to get the chemicals out of our food, out of our cleaning products, out of our personal care products.  They do not belong in our body.  Given that the microbiome, you know there’s a kilo and a half of bacteria in our gut, they are super sensitive to these chemicals.  We need to get all of those chemicals out of our environment 100 percent.

You’re not your body, but you do need to nourish it appropriately.  You need to rest it because we’re so into soldiering on.  Your body needs deep profound rest every night, but probably sometimes during the day, as well, if you’re unwell.  You need to exercise your body because it’s a whole system of pumps.  If we’re too sedentary, I’m at a standing desk, I like being at a standing desk, but if we’re too sedentary, then all of those pumps slow right down.  We need to exercise in a way that’s appropriate for us.

We know now, there are lots of research to show that exercise on the day you’re having chemotherapy, radiotherapy is really important.  If you’re oncologist isn’t talking to you about exercise and diet, if you can, find another oncologist because they’re very important aspects.  You’re not your body, but you do have one.  You need to nourish it, rest it, and exercise it.  You’re not your brain, you have one.  The brain is designed to be in service to us.  We need to keep the brain focused in the present moment.

When the brain is focused.  When it’s entrained in the present moment, we have access to insight, intuition, wisdom, humor, spontaneity, creativity, and compassion.  There are all present time qualities.  The moment the brain starts telling us stories about the future, where we fret, worry, anxious, or we regret blame, shame about the past, we create a physiology in accordance with whatever the brain is chattering at us.  We need to stop all of that chatter.  We need to keep ourselves in good company.  Don’t hang out with turkeys.  Not even the organic ones.

Be with people who uplift you, inspire you, encourage you to move in the direction that you want to move in your life.  You’re not your feelings.  You have feelings and there’s a very big difference between I am angry, and I feel angry.  On a scale to zero to ten, I might feel like I’m an eight, but I might not want to speak from it, or act from it.  We need to have the capacity to witness ourselves having the feeling rather than just reacting from the feeling.  You’re not your body, you have one, you’re not your brain, you have one, you’re not your feelings, you have them.

Of course, it begs the question, well, who are we?  For me, we’re consciousness.  For someone, that might be soul, spirit, life, being, energy.  If we want to find the peace that passes all understanding, we need to anchor our sense of self in that which is beyond change.  Your body will always change, even if you make it to 110, it will get saggy and baggy and wrinkly and grey.  Bits will fall off and not work.  You don’t want to anchor your sense of sense if your physical body.  The brain is so active all the time, you don’t want to anchor your sense of self in the fluctuating thoughts and feelings that you have.  To anchor your sense of self in that which is beyond change, is to anchor your sense of self in the energy, frankly, that surrounds us.  We know that the magnetosphere is around our body.  We know through magneto encephalographs, that thought actually starts out here before it even starts up in the brain.

Who are we?  We think we’re our brain, although, when we point to ourselves, we point to our heart.  Actually, we’re in the field, we can live in the field where we can pick up all kinds of information and take good care of our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.  I’m sorry, this is a little bit long-winded, but…

Joe:                 Fantastic.  Please, go on.

Petrea:             The second aspect of the second C, are issues around communication.  A lot of us are not in communion with ourselves.  We don’t even know what we’re feeling.  Nor do we have the capacity to communicate that skilfully to others.  I know when I was sick, I would walk down the hallway and slam the door behind me and think, “Surely, they know they’re meant to come in and find out what’s wrong.” Of course, I had to recognise that this is not really a very skilful communication, because, for me, to say I need, was a foreign language.  I don’t know how to ask for anything because that’s second nature to me, to do it myself.

To go inside, not to ask for help.  It’s interesting to know that we call this second nature, we say, it’s second nature for me to think like this, feel like this, react like this.  No one ever questions, well, what’s your first nature?  What was there before you took on the beliefs, the anxieties, the limitations, the fears?  For me, cancer or any suffering gives us the opportunity of making the return journey back home to our first nature, our essential nature, and that’s where we have access to insight, intuition, wisdom, humour, spontaneity, creativity, and compassion.  They’re all present time qualities.

We need to improve our communication with others because a lot of us don’t know how to have difficult conversations.  We need to improve our communication within ourselves.  The third aspect of the second C are issues of forgiveness.  That’s usually a five-day workshop, you know?  A lot of people use what happened in the past as an excuse for their behavior in the present.  We have to find a way of putting our wounds into our story.  It’s good to have a story but we don’t want to live out of the story all the time.

I wouldn’t change anything in my story now, but it involved rape and drugs and my brothers’ attempts as suicide.  Finally, his suicide.  I married some very odd people.  I had two beautiful children.  I was in a domestic violence situation.  I had all that time in hospital, chronic pain, I still live with chronic pain since I had knee replacements a few years ago because they shattered all the ligaments in my hips.  We can have a story, but we don’t have to live out of that story all the time.

Forgiveness it not about: I forgive you.  Forgiveness is actually an inner process, whereby, we liberate ourselves from the consequences of having felt wounded in the past.  We no longer reactivate in the present as if we’re still carrying any wound from our past.  That’s what forgiveness is.  I know that’s a nutshell version.  The best description I ever heard was actually at a conference in San Francisco, when a six-foot-five transsexual in a frock just a few seats along from me stood up and said, “I’ve just realised that forgiveness is giving up all hopes for a better past.”

Joe:                 Wow.

Petrea:             Yes, I thought that was fantastic.  It just is.  I could still be sitting in that little cave saying, “It’s not fair that I had a mad chaotic brother, it’s not fair – years in hospital, it’s not fair – rape.  Chronic pain, all of that stuff.” The day came when I realised, there’s no one to blame, there’s nothing to blame, which is incredibly disappointing, I know.  There’s no one to blame, there’s nothing to blame.  It just is the way it is.  Weep about it, write about it, scream about it, write about it, talk about it until you can have a story that you don’t live out of that story.  The third C is the sense of challenge.

We have to make meaning out of the challenges that we’re having.  Illness, accidents, traumas, disasters, they don’t have intrinsic meaning.  It doesn’t mean something when these things happen.  If we define peace, we’re going to have to find a way of making meaning and some people make meaning out of their suffering because they become more compassionate.  Some people volunteer.  Some people go and help somebody else.  Some people change a law.  Some people do all manner of things which helps to make meaning out of their suffering.

I ended up making meaning out of it by creating a safe place where other people could come and have their anguish and their distress received and heard and acknowledged.  Then we educate them about neuroplasticity and epigenetics and all of these amazing things, that show that we’re creative beings and that we don’t have to stay stuck in our story.  The third C is where we make meaning.  The pearl comes about in the oyster because something irritated the heck out of the oyster.  We mostly learn about who we are, what’s of value to us through our suffering.  Not when things are going wonderfully.  Then we need to find a way of making meaning out of it.  Rather than just rushing back to life and not learn anything from the experience.  The fourth C is our sense of connectedness.

That’s connection to our own innate self.  It’s having friends, mates, people that we can be real with.  For some, it’s having connection to land, to country, to the seasons, to the cycles of nature, to the cosmos.  It’s having our sense of place and belonging in the world, so that we are not disconnected from ourselves or from other people, or from nature.  If you look at the opposite of those four qualities.  If you can imagine a person with cancer who feels completely out of control with their life and they can only helplessly react to everything that happens to them, as if they’re a helpless victim of their circumstance.

That their commitment of living is all around, “I’ll be happy at another time when things are different from how they are in this moment.” That they’re not taking good care of their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.  They are not in clear communication with themselves, not have the capacity to talk to anybody else in a meaningful way.  That they have no capacity to forgive and they keep festering on what happened in the past and letting that gnaw away at their sense of peace in the present.

That all their challenges are overwhelming, and nothing has any meaning for them.  They don’t have any sense of connection to themselves or to anyone else.  I think it’s a good way of looking at the opposite of peace of mind.  That peace of mind is the presence of those four qualities.  It’s as much a physiology in our body as anything else.  Regardless of how challenging, how chaotic, how critical, how difficult a circumstance is, we know moment by moment, we can respond appropriately.

We can do that because we’ve already taken good care of our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well being.  We filled up our own inner bucket and we’re giving from the overflow of that.  We’re in clear communication with ourselves, with others, had the capacity to forgive and let go what happened.  That every moment becomes a sacred moment.  Every moment becomes a moment of gratitude.  That we feel the powerful sense of connection to our own innate spirit, to the spirit that enlivens all of creation.  For me, that’s the definition of peace of mind.

Joe:                 Wow.  That is incredibly profound.  I want to ask you, I know this is a big topic, but I want to ask you about forgiveness and what are some of the practical steps to forgive someone?

Petrea:             Well, the first one, really, is wanting to because we get an awful lot of distorted pleasure out of forsaking through our wounds and hanging onto the wounds of the past.  We often think, if only the person could see my perspective, they would be so sorry.  They probably don’t even know they’ve wounded you, or if they’ve done it, they may not even care that you’re feeling wounded.  We don’t want forgiveness to be dependent on the other person understanding our perspective, or even hearing us, because it’s not about them.  It’s a wound that we’re carrying ourselves.

Forgiveness is really a selfish thing that we do to release ourselves from the suffering of carrying this wound within us, where we lie awake, where we fester in it, where we forsake through it, where we try and add fuel to it.  Forgiveness often requires time and certainly, first, the willingness, maybe even to have to have someone there as witness to our story, so that they get us.  We all need someone who really gets us, who gets why we’re behaving, feeling the way that we are.  You may need to find that person who can hear the suffering that you experience.

We may need to weep about it, talk about it, talk about it, rail at it, dance it, sing it, whatever, to get the energy of that moving, so that we release it ourselves.  Then it’s our story but we don’t have to be the story.  It’s good to have a story.  It’s our story that breaks us open to greater compassion, greater understanding and meaning.  Forgiveness is never ever, ever, ever about condoning.  It’s not about saying what happened was okay, it was not okay, but it did happen.

Given the fact that it happened, do you want to stay trapped and give that person or that situation the power to destroy your peace for the rest of time.  Most of us want to be free of it.  Being free of it doesn’t mean that the other person needs to understand anything about your suffering.

Joe:                 Also, what you’re saying is, there’s no simple recipe, it’s really a process that you have to go through to really get to where you want to be.  Another thing I wanted to really ask you was, one of the most difficult things about cancer is this constant waiting.  You’re constantly waiting for the next appointment, for the next test results.  How do you deal with that?

Petrea:             I know.  When I went into remission, unexpectedly, every time a gland would come up in my neck, you know?  It’s back, it’s back.  Or, you know that you’ve got a blood test coming up, or you’ve got a biopsy coming up.  That’s why I think that learning to live in the present moment is really helpful.  That we can talk.  Maybe a support group is really useful.  I’m sure your podcasts, Joe, are really helpful to people, so that they feel like, “Ah, somebody else understands what it’s like to live in this space.” Often times, family don’t.  They don’t always understand what you’re going through.

Hanging out with other people, your tribe, people now travel from all over Australia to come here to quest to – it always touches me so deeply that they travel from all over the country to find a safe place.  Sometimes from outside the country, as well, to find a safe place in which to utter their anguish, their story, to have it witnessed and heard and acknowledged.  Then they’re so open to being educated about all of things that they can do to regain control over their response to the situation that they’re in.  That waiting is part of – sometimes it’s appropriate to say to everyone, I’m having a cancer-free day.  I don’t want to talk about cancer today.

I just want to hang out with family, friends, whatever it is, and be my usual self.  Having cancer is only part of your story.  You may also be a father, a brother, a son, an uncle, you have all of these other roles.  We don’t want to be the cancer patient all the time.  I’m just going to get a little picture off my wall here.  This little girl, Kate, drew me this picture of Garfield many years ago, she said, “I actually drew you two pictures.” She had cancer of the heart muscle, which I’d never come across before.

She said, “I actually drew you two pictures, but I put them on my windowsill and the wind blew the other one away.” I said, “Well, what was in the other picture?” Well, she said, “It was exactly the same as this one, but the hearts were all shattered down the middle.” I said to her, “Well, maybe the wind was telling you, you don’t need to have broken hearts.” She said, “No, Petrea, you don’t understand.  Sometimes hearts have to break before they heal.” She said, “I’ll draw you another picture.” Which she did.

Joe:                 That’s beautiful.

Petrea:             Yes.  Often, we don’t want our hearts to break.  Just before she died, she reached out to the hands of her parents and squeezed them and said, “I want you to love each other the way you’ve loved me.” Such profound words.  I know they always bring tears to my eyes and to other people, too, because it’s a fundamental truth that we all know that what really matters is love.  We need to bring that love sometimes to ourselves because I hated myself.  In fact, I’m not sure where that picture is, but I have another little picture of friends who came to visit me in the cave.

I couldn’t even look people in the eye.  I just felt so awful about myself that I couldn’t stand seeing anyone.  They left this little pile of worm food outside the cave with this little picture, which is the holy worm with a little angel on its side.  People loved me when I didn’t have any love for me at all.  Now, for me, to be able to create a beautiful space for other people, not just people with cancer, we work with many post-traumatic stress and depression and anxiety, loss, grief, all sorts of different forms of suffering because at first, my work was mostly with people with cancer because I’d just been through that experience.

As people started telling me their stories, of course, I had stories about domestic violence and rape.  It’s not that you ever know what the other person is experiencing, but I know what that place of despair, that place of anguish, that place of fear and abandonment is like for me.  I’m not scared to have a conversation now about those things.  That’s very profoundly healing for people to know that.  The moment we can speak it, we’re already more than it.

Joe:                 Absolutely.  How does Quest work and how can somebody find you?

Petrea:             Well, they can always go to our website.  Which is: Questforlife.com.au.  I do a live mediation on Monday evenings and people tune in from all over the world through our Facebook page, so they can access the Facebook page through the website.  We also have once a month, one of our facilitators will touch on one aspect of the program and just unpack it a little bit more.  It might be forgiveness.  It might be dealing with difficult emotions.  It might be having difficult conversations.  All sorts of things.  People can tune into that live.  In fact, they’re all on our Facebook page, where people can go and connect with those at any time.  They stay there.

People can revisit those.  I do regular radio interviews.  Hopefully, all of your people are asleep by then.  There are sometimes podcasts, as well, that’s through the ABC, which is a national broadcaster here in Australia.  I’ve been doing that for 18 years about having difficult conversations and dealing with emotions, all sorts of different things.  My books, of course.  We send my books all around the world.  I think Quest for Life, which is the handbook for people with cancer.  I know there are still second-hand copies available through Amazon in America, but we can always send copies from here.  I’ve written nine books, a couple for children, a cook book, my memoir.

One for women with breast cancer.  One for people dealing with cancer or other serious illnesses.  One about where Kate’s story is.  It tells a story of 25 people, what we learnt out of the experience of facing mortality together.

Joe:                 Well, thank you so much for the time for your insights.  Thanks so much for doing what you do in the world.

Petrea:             Thank you, Joe.  Well, thank you, too, for what you do because I know that will make a big difference to a lot of people.  These podcasts are incredibly valuable for people.  Thank you.

Joe:                 Thanks so much.