When you come to a point in your life where the mere sight of a blade of grass, poking through the last remains of winter’s snow, fills you with awe and gratitude you know you have arrived. You come to realize that life, despite its adversities, is always moving you towards a higher purpose.
This was a hard lesson for Christina Doyle to learn. After all, few survive bone cancer and live to grow from it.
It was 15 years ago that Doyle, a Richmond Hill mother of two children, ages five and nine at the time, underwent major surgery to remove the rare form of bone cancer that had localized inside her femur. Surgeons replaced three quarters of the bone from just above the ankle to her upper thigh and re- placed it with a titanium prosthesis – a surgical procedure that only two years prior to her diagnosis was non-existent.
“I had strived for the best, was always very healthy and physically fit, and I got one of the worst, scariest and most devastating forms of cancer,” Doyle says.
“I thought, you know what, there’s something lacking in one’s life when you come to that point.”
Though content with her career as an elementary school teacher, she knew there was something more that she was intended to do; a gift that she had to offer.
After a four and a half month recovery in hospital she began to see the world through a different lens – one that magnified life’s beauty. Everything seemed exciting to her.
Yet there was a nagging sense of worry within her – a fear that she would in fact die. Without realizing, she began to seek comfort in filling her space with stuff; shopping and just buying things for the sake of having things.
“Money went through my hand like water,” Doyle remembers. “I just kept thinking well, I may not be here tomorrow so I’ll just buy this and that. The fear of dying was still in me.”
It took a year of therapy to relearn how to walk again, and endless days of writing in her gratitude journal, visualization, prayer and meditation to release the fear that lived inside of her.
And from that she has learned to let go, and let God, and to realize that this illness was simply the universe urging her to live a life fulfilled through purpose.
“The robins come every year and they find food,” Doyle says.
“Why is it that we worry we cannot? Or we worry about all kinds of other things in our life.”
It is human nature to want to control the outcome of our life, she says, but there are some things that are out of our control. If one surrenders, one finds peace.
“Whether we lose a job, a relationship or a child, nothing is accidental. Whether we have abundance or not, there’s some- thing that is driving us, pushing us towards our purpose. What stirs your soul?”
For Doyle, it was song. It had always been song; it just simply took a life-shaking event to realize it.
“Every one of us will find (what stirs our soul) if we are willing to open our eyes and our hearts and listen to stillness.”
But stillness is hard to come by. The busyness of life urges us to stay away from the quiet.
“We have to hear about the news, the weather, the traffic report, always surrounding ourselves with these matters, and the moment you turn that off you can find silence.
“I stand back and look at people and see what they are wrapped up in. In the past I too was wrapped up in my own world, so much so that I couldn’t see past my nose.
“Some people are afraid to be in the quietness. They feel that they should be doing something always. When there isn’t quietness, there is confusion and you miss so many things that come your way.”
Today, Doyle still teaches part-time, but her days are filled with song. She was asked to sing and speak to the 2,000 participants in Canada’s first Relay for Life event in Ottawa in 2000. In 1999 she recorded her first CD, Whenever Angels Sing. Wanting to give back to the medical community, she donated all proceeds to a fund that would allow surgeons in Canada to travel to Europe and learn how to perform the surgery she had undergone. She went on to record her second CD – I Wouldn’t Change a Single Day, and has just released an audio book – Angels Don’t Wear Pyjamas, an inspirational journey of hope and healing, with partial proceeds donated to the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation. During her music career she has shared the stage with Tom Cochrane, Natalie McMaster and Blue Rodeo. But perhaps her most poignant moments in music come from sharing her love of song in places like seniors’ centres where she can see the joy in the faces of the elderly.
By Sari Huhtala, Publisher, Alive+Fit Magazine