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  • Writer's picturedrdiannedowling

Darkness into light

© Photo: D Dowling

I hear my cancer clients telling their stories and they say that in the beginning it was almost an impossible task to find the sunshine in their lives after the darker moments of their cancer diagnosis. Coupled with the added psychological pressures of Covid lockdown, the burden has become a heavy weight and sadly, in some cases, lives have been lost. Rising out of the darkness at the start of a cancer journey for some, is the most challenging task that they will ever have to face.

I would like to borrow from Audre Lorde, (from 'A Litany for Survival') to remind cancer patients that these fears surface when we face life changing events like CANCER:

"when the sun rises we are

afraid it might not remain

when the sun sets we are

afraid it might not rise in

the morning"

It is not easy to find meaning in our lives when we are in moments of darkness. But gaining strength from others can help us find the sunshine again. I have found several encouraging words that have helped me move out of the darkness during my cancer journey. Audre Lorde and several other writers helped me focus on what is possible to achieve and whilst studying for my cancer counselling diploma I was inspired by Victor Frankl’s story of survival in Auschwitz. Frankl reminds us that it is an individual’s most important need to find meaning in life. This can come about subject to a life changing event which can act as a springboard - a reason to make and find meaning.

In my coaching therapy I use a framework of Individual Meaning Centred Psychotherapy (IMCP) to encourage patients living with cancer to find meaning and create their living legacy of now. IMCP is also effective for patients with advanced cancer or those recently bereaved. Frankl revolutionized psychotherapy inspiring many to determine one’s own spiritual well-being. There is much evidence of this in professional practice and amongst creative contemporary writers and poets. Gemma Troy has written some beautiful short poems to help us focus on finding meaning. I want to share two that captured my attention:

"She liked the way the light touched her

She didn’t need to be the sun

She just needed to know it was there

If she ever got lost in the dark"


"Whatever makes you feel the sun

From the inside out

Chase that"

What are some of your moments when you moved from darkness to light? Think about how they could inspire and help others to make meaning. I would love to hear from you about how you made meaning by moving into the sunshine.


Frankl Victor E. (2008) Man’s Search for Meaning. GB: Rider.

Frankl Dr Victor (2004) The Doctor and the Soul. London: Souvenir Press.


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