“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” ~Ambrose Redmoon
Four weeks ago today I sat in a surgeon’s office in Attleboro and received a diagnosis of breast cancer. Tomorrow I start chemotherapy at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. The space between June 13 and July 12 has felt like the longest month of my life. I made it through with the support of my husband Jerry (bulldog with a pink folder!), loving family members and many dear friends. As I prepare for the next stage of this healing journey, I wanted to share with you all where I am today.
Hearing that someone we know has cancer (especially someone fairly young and healthy) can be very scary. The odds that I would be facing down breast cancer at age 40 is 1% (or less, considering the lifestyle I lead). I can feel people’s fear for me. I can hear it in their voices on the phone, see it in their faces when we speak in person, and read it in their text messages. I too started this journey filled with fear. I felt blindsided a bit by the Universe. I’ve spent most of my adult life engaging in healthy practices that are supposed to prevent cancer. How can I be standing here with breast cancer? How did my body not fight this successfully? As I’ve moved through the last few weeks of my life, I’ve found my footing again. I’ve found my deep trust for the wisdom of my body again. I’ve rediscovered my connection with the Universe. The body will do whatever it needs to keep us safe and to protect us. That must mean that my body needed to create this tumor to protect me from something I wasn’t able to see.
I’ve had cancer described to me a few different ways by a few different people. (Beware all you scientist types…this is how I perceived what I was told by some of these folks, and I may be getting it all wrong). Jerry, lover of Nova and Through the Wormhole, told me “it’s a byproduct of evolution. Genes have mutations that have many causes, but most are random. The mutations that aid in your survival live on in your offspring and those that hinder your survival tend not to.” An oncologist friend of a friend told me it’s just cells doing something they’re not supposed to do. My lovely lady scientist friend says that cancer grows due to an error in the immune system–for some reason it doesn’t take care of the rogue cells when it sees them (her company is working on a vaccine for cancer). An acupuncturist told me it’s a healing mechanism of the body. The body takes things that aren’t working for us, whether it’s a behavior pattern, a thought pattern, or something else, and puts it into a form (like a tumor) that can be treated and removed. A master herbalist and detoxification specialist told me it’s what the body does to protect itself. If there’s too much acid in your body it will create a cancerous tumor to encapsulate that acid.
We live in a culture of fear around cancer. We live in a culture where we don’t trust our bodies to heal themselves. I’ve spent years cultivating that trust in my body. I’ve spent years giving my body what I thought it needed to be healthy and to heal. If my body allowed a cancerous tumor to grow, then I trust that it knew exactly what it was doing, and that tumor is the access to a higher version of health for myself moving forward.
In the past few weeks I have spent time experiencing depths of fear like I’ve never felt before. Some steps on this path to healing will bring me to dark places. My job will be to release whatever negative emotions may hang out there so I can move back into the light again. It’s tempting to create from the dark spaces. That’s where all the “what if’s?” live. I’ve dabbled a bit in the “what if’s”–it led me nowhere good. With Jerry’s help (your head is a bad neighborhood, don’t go there alone!) I recognized that the place to create is not from the dark, it’s from the light. Go to the dark, release, but come back to the light before you get those creative juices flowing. That’s the plan.
Although my Dana Farber treatments don’t start until tomorrow, the healing process has already begun. Acupuncture, reiki (energy healing), food, supplements, medical cannabis, massage, talk therapy, yoga, journaling, laughter, ocean water, sunlight…it’s all part of this journey for me. I said to a friend last week, this feels like my own personal Olympics. I’ve been training for years for this, not just with food and what I put in my mouth, but also with the products I use in my home, the chemicals I don’t put on my skin, the monthly massages I receive, the yoga I always return to, the small daily actions I take to choose a healthier and less toxic path, the lenses I view life through. In the quiet moments, I keep hearing the message that this is a story of healing. That is what I’m choosing for myself. That’s where I stand, on the eve of chemotherapy. If you feel fear in your heart for me, I ask you to release it. Send me love, light, healing vibes, bad jokes, positive energy, good juju, prayers to God, Jesus, Allah, the Buddha…but trust that you don’t need to fear for me.
I haven’t written much here in the last year, but the funny thing about a cancer diagnosis…it got me writing again, and it will be part of my healing journey. I’ve been writing a lot and will be posting more. Some of what I post may be from the early days of my diagnosis, when the fear was overwhelming. That’s part of my journey too. Don’t be alarmed, trust that today I am okay.