How would you respond if you were told you had cancer? I saw "breast cancer" on my medical record folder as I leaned over the registration desk at the breast clinic. My knees started to shake, and this hot spiky heat went up my spine and down my legs. The thing is, I knew the lump would be diagnosed "cancer." At 19, I had two benign fibroids removed via surgery from my left breast. When they came back in the same place in my late twenties, I noticed them and asked them to go away. They did.
So when this lump appeared in my right breast in the fall of 2010, I didn't panic. "Just another benign fibroid," I thought to myself. In early 2011, I had a mammogram and was told it was likely another cyst. So I forgot about it — sort of. At that time, I felt that my body was asking me to learn how to love myself fully and to receive help more freely. My ability to receive the "milk" of life was expressing itself through an overgrowth of milk duct cells. I was giving more milk than I was getting. I thought, "This is because of the stress of my marriage and subsequent divorce. This is because of my chronic over-giving. This is because of my desire to be liked — often at the expense of my own well-being." Noted.
In the meantime, the lump continued to grow. In the fall of 2011, I noticed it attaching to my skin. I thought, "Hmmm, I've read this is a sign of cancer," but I didn't panic. I noticed. I ignored. I noticed. I ignored. Ignored my body trying to talk to me, to get my attention. The lump continued to expand, slowly.
Right before Valentine's Day this year, something in me shifted. I looked in the mirror at the tumor pressing up through my skin. I put my hand on my breast and felt the heat of the tumor under the red, irritated skin and thought, "If I’m going to call in another love partner to share my life with, I've got to get my life in order, starting with my health. This lump needs to be addressed and healed." It was time to focus on healing my life at a level of commitment I didn't know was in me.
I tracked down a breast clinic in Beverly Hills that came highly recommended. On February 11th, they gave me an ultrasound, followed by an uncomfortable biopsy of my right breast and right lymph nodes. Unbeknownst to me, they put a titanium chip in my breast to mark the tumor. (They did not tell me they were going to do this. If they had, I would have refused.) They also took blood to test me for the "breast cancer gene." The doctor told me to "stay off the internet." Yeah, right.
The next day, the results were in. "Cancer." For grins, they gave me another mammogram. Ouch. Needless to say, my breast tissue is very dense and mammograms are pretty much worthless for me. I will also never have another one. Mammograms, if done yearly, increase your chance of breast cancer by 20% — because radiation is carcinogenic. However, ultrasounds and thermography are painless and non-toxic. They are also more accurate.
On Wednesday, February 13th, I had an MRI. The MRI revealed that this couch potato tumor was contained and my lymph nodes and left breast are all clear. The surgeon then suggested radical surgery followed by chemo and radiation to "cleanse" the area. I wanted more information. Over those three days, I looked death in the eye. I felt my intense fear of the unknown, my feelings of helplessness and a bit victimized. Why this? Why now? Everything was feeling on the upswing after years of change and loss and tumult.
And I realized, I'm not afraid of death. My only regret would be dying before I could complete the vision my purpose has inspired within me. And then I thought, fear is the worst thing a person could possibly pour into their immune system. I made a choice in that moment, for fear was not an option. "Baeth, everything is on the upswing. This is the best thing that's ever happened to you. You are so headstrong — what else other than hearing the dread word "cancer" would get you to slow down and treat your life with the kind of care a bonsai tree requires?" I laughed at the recognition of my own driving relentless ambition and stubbornness. Telling people you have cancer makes them return your phone calls quickly. I was immediately aware of the leverage a life-altering condition can create and committed to not using it for special favors, attention or to excuse poor behavior. I am not a victim. I am a victor.
In next week's installment, I'll share the beginnings of my emotional and physical healing journey. Oh, what a journey it is. I am awed. I am committed to radical self-love.
May you listen to your body and know that you are your best healer.
To your purpose!
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