Trigger warning: This article contains details about CRR Global co-founder Faith Fuller’s experiences with cancer, which may be upsetting for some readers.
For Faith Fuller, coming to terms with her cancer has been akin to a shaman’s journey.
“Every relationship with a life-threatening illness is profoundly personal and intimate. It affects everything,” she says. “You can either dance with it or fight with it. Usually we do both.”
After her diagnosis with a form of endometrial cancer last year, developing an intentional relationship with the disease became Faith’s top priority. As she entered treatment, she discovered a different identity that came along with the diagnosis, as well as a cohort of travelers who were journeying with her along the same cancer road.
“You're in a new land with a group of people that are in the club with you, and it’s a powerful club,” she says. “When I went into an infusion room for chemo, people would talk about whether or not they wanted to do ‘death with dignity’ - assisted death. You don't usually have these kinds of conversations with a stranger.”
“You can talk about anything with people who are in treatment. They're on the same deepening journey. When you see them thin or bald or struggling with a symptom, it's the ultimate in human frailty. Yet there's a power in it.”
The CRR Global co-founder, who makes her home in the United States, found herself both touched and amused by the reaction to what she calls “the power of the pate.” Her bald head stopped traffic when drivers saw her attempting to cross the street.
“Everybody on my side and the far side of the street going the other way stopped - both lanes. It was like the Red Sea parting,” Faith says. “People's goodness comes out around cancer. Everybody has a story to tell.”
While the cancer experience is unique to each person, she says it is always a hero’s journey.
“I have an image of a big ferocious animal opposite you. Some want to kill it - particularly parents with children. If you are a parent with a child with cancer, that cancer is the enemy to slay and kill. You do whatever you must do to preserve and protect your child,” Faith says.
“For others, the relationship can be different. For me, death is one of my allies. It’s a relationship that wakes me up to being alive. Death will always be a ghost - in a good sense - because it reminds me of what is important right now. To be present, to celebrate and savor each moment.”
Not surprisingly, Relationship Systems Intelligence (RSI™) serves as a tool in Faith’s arsenal.
“It allowed me to frame my illness and my treatment as a relationship. What kind of relationship do you want? Do you want to be fighting with it? To seek out possible wisdom? How can you be in right relationship with something that can kill you?” she says.
Having received word that she is in remission, Faith has now developed six Conversations on Cancer podcasts in collaboration with Relationship Matters host Katie Churchman. In addition to reflecting on the cancer experience with fellow ORSCers, the CRR Global podcast series touches on how RSI tools and skills might ease the journey.
Faith says she leaned into her RSI skillset to coach herself through the disease.
“You can design an alliance with your cancer. Knowing who your internal cast of characters are can help you come into relationship with all of your different selves and how they feel,” Faith says. “You have to design alliances concretely with your treatment team too.”
“Chemo is an ally that is fierce and scary. It takes you down into the depths of who you are physically, mentally and emotionally. You will wander through the realms of rage and despair, but when you come back up, you've been on a hero's journey. You can take that knowledge back to the village to inform others.”
In looking at illness through a systems coaching lens, Faith hopes to help others who are travelling the same road. She envisions a future in which more people use coaching concepts to support themselves through this challenge.
“We don't know how to talk to people who are sick, and nobody talks about death. There are so many taboos tied up in it,” Faith says. “I hope this series gives listeners permission to talk about cancer, so that they can consciously choose their path.”
The Relationship Matters podcast series "Conversations with Cancer" can be found via the following access points.
WRITTEN BY: CRR Global USA staff.