A personal account of my journey in facing my own mortality and healing from Breast Cancer.
January marked the five year anniversary of being diagnosed with breast cancer. I look back on it all as if it were yesterday. At 3:45 in the afternoon I received the call. My doctor spoke the words no one wants to hear. All I could distinguish were the words “cancer cells”. The rest was a blur.
You never know how you will react in a situation until it is staring you in the face. In conversations whenever the topic of cancer had come up, actually the topic of the treatment of cancer came up, I was always pretty clear that I would not choose chemo or radiation. To me the treatment seemed extremely toxic with risks of damage to organs and multiple side effects, some of which were detrimental. So, I verbalized that I would not go with traditional treatment but instead opt for alternative ones that would support the immune system, treatments that would put the body in balance so that it would then be able to heal. Easy to say when the decision is not eminent in your life, but not so much, when it is.
When you enter the dark hole of looking at your mortality all sorts of things go through your mind. Of course I thought about quality of life and if I had a limited amount of time left, how would I want to spend it? I reached out to other cancer survivors, listening to the stories, each one unique in its own way. Many urged me to take the dreaded chemo. I could hear the fear and urgency in their voices as they pleaded with me to go the traditional route. It almost felt as it they were claiming a part of their own recovery through me that in aligning with them our collective conscious would somehow become stronger in beating this ferocious adversary. At times these conversations were helpful at others they were draining and added to my confusion.
Nighttime was the worst. In the silence of the night when I awoke at 2, 3 or 4 in the morning, I would have only my thoughts and fears with me. What should I do? I would go over my options and play out the possible scenarios in my mind. When morning came I would get up exhausted, with my now almost constant companion, fear by my side. No one could make this choice for me. No matter how many people I spoke to, it was mine to make. Where could I go to get away from this? No where.
I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but somehow after all the searching; I arrived at my own truth, the truth that I had known all along, the truth that had waited patiently for me until I was ready to acknowledge it. It was part of what this cancer called me to do: to listen and follow my own inner guidance: to trust in it, to surrender to it and so I did. The tears I cried at this moment were tears of relief at finally reaching this place and tears of gratitude. In my heart I knew that I was going to be all right.
The next few months were busy as I started forming my treatment team. I worked with an acupuncturist, a psychotherapist, and a healer. I read and researched and had a growing stack of books beside my bed on everything from breast health to diet to hormones. At times I felt as if I couldn’t read fast enough. I was studying at The Barbara Brennan School of Healing at the time and so was doing a lot of process work which was cathartic for me. I went on a diet of organic foods particularly those that were anti-carcinogenic. I cried. I did yoga. My focus every day was on healing.
Several months later the “lesion” as they called it had increased slightly in size. I felt like a failure. I had worked so hard to heal holistically. In my work as a psychotherapist, I had helped others to heal. Why couldn’t I do it with my own health challenge?
Dejected, I agreed to have the surgery and met with three different surgeons before selecting one. It is so important to be with the right person and to be clear about what one wants. It was a big step for me. I came to realize that I probably needed to have this cancer physically removed from my body; to have it out of my field. This was the first of many lessons in surrender. I now focused on the surgery.
The atmosphere of the hospital was not exactly the healing environment I was looking for. I was learning about honoring myself during this process and asking for what I needed. So, I called several friends and asked them to be there with me before the surgery to do a healing circle. They all agreed. My nurse also honored my request and allowed the whole group inside, something that was “stretching” the rules a little. I was surrounded by my loved ones and friends who created a circle of loving energy. There was a lot of emotion in that small cubicle. Among those in this circle were several who came from a medical background and perhaps did not believe or fully understand my beliefs, but they honored my wishes and stood by me and that was truly a gift of love. My surgery was delayed by five hours but most of them stayed until I was out of surgery. I am convinced that their love and powerful intention made a huge difference in the whole experience for me. I will always be grateful to my team of angels whose love formed such a safe container. Part of the lesson that came with all this was not only learning to ask for what I needed but more importantly allowing it in. Asking for help is one thing, being able to receive it is another. I also learned
This article was originally published at Distinct Therapeutics, Inc.. Reprinted with permission from the author.