Week One at the 3E centre. The first week is an assessment week. We all get to settle into our new life, our new surroundings that are to be "home" for the next month. We also get assessed by the centre's medical staff, to ensure we are all fit enough for the programme.
Last month, the centre was filled to full capacity with 17 patients including partners (you have the option of bringing your partner). In June 2017, there is only six of us and we have all come alone. This will turn out to be a real treat. Being such a small group will mean we really bond and get to know each other in a way that just would not have happened, had there been 17 of us.
We are going to spend four life changing weeks together. Each one of us is on their own journey. Each one is desperately trying to stay here on Earth a bit longer, beat whatever illness we have in order to live life. Most likely, we will all live with a little more awareness and gratitude than we did before we became ill. When we took health for granted.
None of us knows what the others have or why they are here. The 3E centre does not allow us to talk about our illnesses. We are to meet each other as humans, not as illnesses or labels. Despite this, I find myself guessing. What is it about being human that makes us want to categorise and label?
There is Anita, the owner of a health food shop, business woman, incredibly capable, strong and self-confident. She brought up her son as a single mum. She is tough and a fighter. Anita has just retired, in part due to her cancer, but she is of retirement age or close. She wears a wig and had chemotherapy after her operation. By being here, she is hoping to get her immune system strengthened so her body can recover from the conventional cancer treatments.
Beate is in a wheelchair most of the time. She is in victim mode and feels sorry for herself. "Look at poor me" is oozing out of her. It is quite sad, the way she has given up on herself. Married to a successful businessman, she was the devoted wife and mother. She moved around the world, following her husband and totally sacrificed her own needs for those of her family. Only to be swapped for a younger model the minute the kids left home. The divorce and family break up left her totally lost, not knowing who she was anymore. Cancer gave her a new role to play. And she gives an Oscar winning performance as the victim every day. I feel for her. She is such a strong, intelligent, loving, kind and caring person, who would have so much to give to the world, if only she allowed her own strength to shine through. She is incredibly well educated and in the weeks to come we find out there is hardly a course she hasn't done. With time and money on her hands, she spent her life learning all sorts of things. I really like her. Amongst hundreds of unused qualifications she has, she is a also a sound healer and has brought her singing bowls.
Erika is a kinesiologist. She will become my closest friend here. We are definitely on the same wavelength, even though I like all of my fellow inmates. Erika had her cancer removed surgically, but opted not to have chemotherapy. She is hoping that the 3E centre will help her strengthen her immune system enough for her body to heal whatever nasty cells the surgery may not have eliminated. Again, an incredibly strong woman. But like so many of us, Erika too is lacking self-confidence. She has grown up children, an incredibly supportive, loving husband and she runs her own kinesiology practice. She is wise and gentle. What is it with most women (myself included), that we don't seem to be able to see how amazing we actually are? Is it modesty? Is it a men's world telling us constantly we are less capable?
Andy is the only man. He is our baby. At 32, he is the youngest among us. He is also the only one who cannot hide his cancer: a blue purple growth the size of a large walnut grows out of his neck. The first day he covers it with a scarf, but it's June in Germany and it's hot. So we tell him to take it off. To just own it. To not feel ashamed. We all have our defects here. Some are more visible than others. Some are easier to hide. Andy is a builder and does not want to have the growth removed, as it's in a delicate position close to his artery. He wanted to try the Budwig approach, but didn't have the money. So all his friends turned up at his flat one day: they had all put the money together that he needed to come. And that is exactly the kind of guy he is, the kind of guy you would rally round and help. He is lovely. Funny, a little shy and self-conscious, but incredibly warm and good-hearted.
Rita is the oldest among us and she is the most fragile by far. Her body has been reduced to skin and bones by her cancer, her skin looks grey and she looks like she could just collapse and disintegrate any second. There is hardly any life force left in her. She is quiet and already seems to have retreated within herself, retreated from life. It is almost as if she knows that she will not be here for much longer. The 3E centre is her very last hope, but she knows it's a small straw she is clinging on to.
Six people, six stories, six journeys thrown together for four weeks. Four weeks that will change our lives forever. Four weeks of burning our old selves, so our true selves can rise like a phoenix from the ashes.