Living A Meaningful Life Beyond Cancer

Posted by Meditation USA on July 1, 2020

Young-ae Kim / School nurse

“I wish I had an eraser to erase my memories. I want to erase everyone who knows me now and in the past. Why is this happening to me? Is it because I am so arrogant? It’s okay, things will get better… I tried praying more than an hour today. It didn’t help. The sadness and anger that I had been holding inside suddenly popped up and made me feel the pain all over again. Why can’t I control my mind? It belongs to me, right? I don’t think a person should have to live a life like this, but there seems to be no way for me to escape this trap…”

Life in hell, pretending to be happy

The previous paragraph is something I wrote in my diary in early 2005. At the time, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and had a major surgery on my neck and vocal cords. I felt depressed every day and wanted to just die and be buried in the ground. When others tried to care for me or worried about me, it all felt so fake. I was so proud; I didn’t want them to see me as weak. So, I deliberately tried to pretend that I was positive around them. I would say that I had bigger health problems to take care of. I would say that it’s nothing and that I’d be fine. I tried to act so brave and fool myself but my mind gradually became dark.

After the surgery, I went back to school – even though I was receiving chemotherapy. I ended up leaving school soon after that. I was never comfortable. I was in pain and my mind was a living hell. I really wanted to break the chains in my mind. Then one day, my sister said, “I’ve heard that we can empty our mind.” Is it really possible to empty one’s mind? I thought, “maybe this meditation can help me solve all of my problems. I immediately started the meditation program.

Pretending to be alright to hide my inferiority

I lived a very ordinary life on my family’s farm along with my older sister, younger brother and parents. Back in 1998, South Korea was hit by an economic crisis that left our family no option but to seek official assistance from the IMF. Many people were unemployed and it was difficult to get a job as a result. Somehow, I was able to get a job as a health teacher as soon as I graduated from college. I was very lucky. Everything seemed to be as perfect as I wanted it to be. And everything was as I had planned.

When I turned thirty, however, my body became increasingly tired and my throat started to become swollen. I went to the doctor and I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I had to have surgery and after that point my doctor said that my voice would gradually return and recover, but there was no sign of my voice at all.

My body was constantly tired and I now had a low, husky voice. Because of hypothyroidism, I’d gained over 100 pounds. I worried about my health. What if my voice wouldn’t return to normal… what if I keep gaining weight like this? I was depressed and angry. At this point in my recovery, everything seemed crazy to me. I felt like my happiness was being stolen with no chance to recover it.

For the first time, during my meditation, I was able to face myself honestly and realized that I had an inferiority complex as big as an iceberg and it was holding me back. I always felt like I had to look happy in order to hide my inferiority I pretended to be good-natured and hoped that others would envy me.

Some of my remembered thoughts, which caused my feelings of inferiority, began to reveal themselves. Through this meditation, I realized that a lot of my inferiority came from me comparing myself to my older sister. In my mind, I thought that she was prettier and smarter and she was loved a lot more because she was the first child. My parents wanted a son as a second child, but they got a daughter instead – me. I heard a story from my grandmother that after my dad found out my mother gave birth to another girl, he immediately went out for a drink. This was all part of my inferiority minds.

When I started to dredge up memories of my early school days as a child, I remembered in first grade I’d made up my mind to study hard and that would be how I would get my parents’ love and recognition. And I definitely achieved that goal. The problem was that now I was more stressed and anxious than anyone else I knew. I had inferiority about everything: myself, my parents and my education level. I lived a fake life pretending to be a very different person.

Discarding my mind stuck in my body

I was always changing who I was, like chameleon, pretending not to hate or to be envious of others. I pretended to be positive… I was hiding my real feelings behind a mask, wanting recognition from everyone and at the same time, hiding all of my feelings of inferiority. I had never been honest with myself and I lived a life only thinking of giving everybody a good impression and never showing the real me. So, it was not that strange that I’d become sick.

During my meditation, I cried a lot. I felt tortured and that I’d done wrong towards my family. I was so ashamed and sorry to everyone around me. Inferiority, pride, fear… I had to abandon all of this kind of thinking. My mind was an invisible prison and as long as I didn’t throw it away, I’d have no choice but to be drawn to these kinds of thinking patterns.

After meditating for a while, I started to feel like something was suddenly coming out of my throat. Something like a lump or a stone that was always stuck in my chest started to wriggle free in a spiritual sense. My body circulation felt like it was resuming its normal flow. Suddenly, my voice started to come back to normal. It was a miracle. I even tried screaming to confirm that this was my voice. It was the voice I never heard before – no matter how hard I tried. I’d finally gotten my voice back.

My weight gradually decreased and my physical body went back to normal. I used to be so obsessed with my body because I felt that my cancer was a part of who I was. With my new meditation perspective, things became more clear to me. If the body breaks down, I can simply heal and fix it instead of just struggling in my mind with the fact that I am ill. My doctor initially told me that I may not be able to sing anymore, but now I’m singing in a choir. My fitness has also improved noticeably. Before I could hardly stay up until 10pm, but now I am able to get up in the morning with no problems even after going to bed around 1 or 2am.

The only way to free myself from cancer was to free my mind

In 2006, I went back to work teaching. There are many people with thyroid disease around me. Thyroid disease is mainly caused by stress. Even after the cancer is physically removed through surgery, if you are holding onto the idea that ‘it is still there,’ you will be stuck and dragged down by this disease. You can be free from the disease when you can let go of that mind, which many doctors now agree.

Through this meditation method I got my health back. One of the things that I sincerely appreciate is that I have found my true self. Before, when my life was too hard, I was resentful of why human beings had to be born and live with such pain and burden. Now I realize that all the pain and burden in my mind was created by me. If one can simply let these negative thoughts go, you will discover your true self and finally be able to live happily in that state.

From the time I was a kid people asked me what my dream was. I always told them that I just want to live well. How? Just be happy! I remember I would always say that. Now, thanks to this meditation method, I have made that dream come true. In a way, the disease called thyroid cancer has guided me into a more satisfying True life.


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