Staying in Your Power (Cancer and a Baby: My Healing Story)









Sometimes things happen in our lives – wonderful adventures, everyday occurrences, even tragic events – and we think we will remember every single detail of the experience. We think we will never forget the exact moment: the sights, sounds, and smells surrounding us. Often, though, it takes an extremely emotional event for us to actually recall exactly what happened, how we felt and how we navigated that situation.

Do you have any memories that have stayed with you in completeness? For me, I can say that I have been able to capture many of my memories this way, but some stand out more than others in their complete and vivid clarity. One, in fact, stands out above the others. It started with the delivery of bad news that became life changing for me on many levels.

It was a beautiful, sunny fall day in the Berkshires in 1996. I had married Kevin – the love of my life – in January and we had moved from Connecticut to rural Western Massachusetts. I was a couple of months pregnant with our first child. Life was blissful and everything seemed to glow with hope and promise, including me!

I remember admiring a spectacular tree outside my office window. It was blazing its fall colors, like a peacock strutting its feathers. The phone rang. It was my gynecologist and the first thing he asked was if I was sitting down.

Immediately I thought something was amiss with my pregnancy. 

The doctor proceeded to tell me that my most recent pap smear had come back showing possible precancerous/early cancerous cells and I needed to come in as soon as possible for a biopsy. He gave me a number to call and hung up. I was left sitting there in stunned silence, the wind knocked out of me. I was numb and in disbelief.

How could this be happening in this time of hopeful beginnings?

In a fog, I walked into my manager’s office and shared my news. It all felt like a dream. I would wake up any minute. I was floating above my body, watching myself as I told her why I was crying.

A couple of days later Kevin and I were in the doctor’s office for the biopsy of my cervix (which hurt a hell of a lot more than “a bee sting” Mr. Doctor!). The results came back the same as the pap smear – beginning stages of cervical cancer. 
There was nothing to be done until after I gave birth.

Or so they said.

What they didn’t realize is that I never take anything for face value. I decided I had two paths before me: live in fear and imagine all kinds of scary scenarios that could take place after Matthew was born, or, see about healing myself and creating a different scenario.

I decided to choose the different scenario.

In my estimation I had seven months to create two miracles: a healthy son and a healthy me. So I set to work.

Because of the pregnancy, I had already stopped drinking caffeine and alcohol. At that time, I was already well into my journey of exploring health and wellness. I was beginning to see food as medicine. Naturally, I made every bite count towards supporting the health of my baby and healing my cells.

I really looked at the story I began to create for my life. I asked myself how I wanted to define myself on a daily basis; I was determined that the diagnosis was NOT going to be my “story.” Every moment that I could remember to do so, I used as much feeling and energy I could summon to create images of me in a healthy and happy state. I purposely gave myself permission to see myself as both healthy and happy; not only in the future but also in the present.

I also received Reiki.

Over the years, I had been exposed to Reiki from my friend, Rosemary. She had seen me through some trying times in my life:  sexual abuse in my early twenties that resulted in a shattered life. Her healing talents with energy helped to heal my battered body and my splintered soul. She helped me rebuild my life.

So, it was natural to also use Reiki to heal my body again; this time from rogue cells.

We worked long distance – Rosemary from her home in Nashville and me in Dalton, Massachusetts. She kept me positive and focused on my healing; her support was invaluable and so lovingly given.

I wasn’t brave and confident the entire seven months. I had my share of feeling scared and afraid. But I didn’t stay in that space long. Kevin, Rosemary, and my other close friends helped me return to that space of possibilities and miracles when I felt that I had fallen into an abyss of darkness and despair. I kept going, focused on the vision of what I wanted to create for our new family.

Matthew was born April 26, 1996. A healthy, perfect, amazing, nine pound baby boy. And my first pap smear after his birth was perfectly, amazingly “normal.”


The doctors couldn’t believe it. They were astounded! I had a pap smear every two months for a year with the same results and eventually transitioned to once a year.

I went back to study Reiki formally with Rosemary and became a Reiki master myself under her supervision in the year 2000. Throughout my training, Rosemary reminded me to be very, very careful of what I say to people in my energy work. She would always say,  “Never take their hope away by a careless remark. Help keep them in their power.”

So now after all those years, after that one vivid and clear moment that could have gone in a different direction, I am still dealing in hope and empowerment. It’s what I try to give to myself and to each person with whom I work. It’s my gift – to all of us – to keep us in our power.


Carolyn S. Barnes, CHC, LMT

Carolyn is an integrative health coach, speaker, John Barnes’ Myofascial Release Approach advanced level therapist, Reiki Master and the author of Return to Ease: Gently Reconnect with Your Body’s Natural Mobility and Joy.

Carolyn received her coaching training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where she learned about more than one hundred dietary theories and studied a variety of practical lifestyle coaching methods. Drawing on this knowledge, she will help you create a completely personalized “roadmap to health” that suits your unique body, lifestyle, preferences, and goals.

She writes and speaks from a personal place–her own journey of healing and opening to inner wisdom. Her mission at Return to Ease is to help clients create and experience more health, ease, and joy in their lives. To learn more about Carolyn, order a copy of her book, book a coaching  or Reiki session, please visit her website.



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