At this moment, I have dinner in the oven, I have laundry in the dryer and I have breast cancer. I will quote myself and say again that “we go through the most profound moments of our lives, and then we go make sandwiches.” This time I made stuffed peppers if you must know. And it was emergency puke-duty laundry because as moms we never get a moment off. My friends texted me sweet messages like “make sure to do some self-care today” and “take time for yourself” but all the moms know that that’s just not a thing that you can do until all the babies are taken care of for now. But that’s exactly how we get into this mess, by giving and giving like milk from the breast until we have nothing more to give. (See Energy Anatomy by Caroline Myss for more)
I just found out for sure last night. I planned a night out for myself because I knew the results were coming. I knew the truth anyway because as an abuse and trauma survivor I need to always be hyper-vigilant and smart and on my game. I knew a year ago, but I was a in a relationship that made no sense which made me feel paranoid and anxious, and after having my world pulled from under my feet on a cold day a few years back, I really lost all sense of what was real. So, when the doctor told me I was worried about nothing, I believed that I was just losing my mind. And I waited. I waited while I sat with my friend and watched cancer demolish her body and release her soul. I waited while an abusive bully tore apart an organization that I have devoted my life to serving. I waited while my heart was broken a few more times.
The good news is that while I was waiting to be ready for this moment, I was gathering my strength and assembling my team. For the last few years, since that night when my world was shattered, I have been asking what to do and receiving the same message time and again to rest and to trust and to “be still and know.” Know that He is God and I am not. Know that whatever the plan is for me, it is better than anything that I can plan or prepare or even imagine myself. As a hard-worker, perfectionist, go-getter and innovator, this phase of waiting was the hardest.
Then just a few months ago at the Fall Equinox, I finally was told that this is enough. It was time to stand up and say “No More.” It was time to be done. It was time to take the leap of faith, to trust and to surrender. In those years I also did the really important work of learning to ask for help. I learned to be unashamed of my vulnerability. To not only be strong enough, but to be soft enough. I learned to find the helpers and let them help. I assembled a network of support. I did this slowly and deliberately. I took notes to remind myself on the hardest days. I made imprints of memory on my logical mind to hold on to as evidence when the times got tough. When I was told that I had no friends, and I started to spiral downwards into that pit of darkness where you start to believe that it is true, I would pull out my notebook where I had written down the evidence of people that love me and are here for me. When I was told that nobody would care if I died, the phone rang and it was a friend that just called out of the blue because of divine intervention. In this moment of surrender, I just want to be sure to note all of the miraculous moments that got me here today.
Today I have breast cancer. Today I have joined the club. I have said the words. In fact, the cancer has been there growing for some time. I have had it with me on this journey. It is not new. Today is in fact the day that I stand up and say “No more.” It is time to cut out all the things that are holding me back from being fully alive. Being afraid to see it was the dangerous part. This week I saw the scary growth on the mammogram, I watched them measure the nodule on the ultrasound and I listened to “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” while they performed the biopsy. As I waited for the results and my friends prayed for a negative result, I kept hearing God say that he would not make it be negative, it was already a part of my story, and it was exactly what I needed for this part of my journey.
What I really want to share with you is that in this moment of facing one of my biggest fears, I had this grace and peace come over me in those days in between the biopsy and the phone call where the doctor said “you have cancer.” It is truly a peace that surpasses all understanding. At my meditation circle earlier this week I shared that I had found joy despite my circumstances. The last months even before the diagnosis were the hardest that I’ve gone through in a long time. I felt like I’d been on autopilot for so long, pretending to be fine when underneath I was a mess. I was tired of living this one fake perfect life and another secret life. I wanted just one real, boring life. To do that meant that I had to wake up from the spell and dismantle the fairy tale and untangle all the attachments but without hurting my kids. I still don’t know how that is supposed to work! The sheer act of choosing to say “yes” to my true self and “no” to the illusion of happily ever after (which is my favorite and strongest addiction), was profound and irreversible.
Taking that leap, jumping into the unknown took me so long that I had plenty of time to assemble this huge team of support so that when I let go, I found that I had this beautiful safety net to catch me. I have circles and circles of support. When I was sore from my procedure, I felt like I wanted reiki so I asked and I let myself receive. This morning after the diagnosis, I had an image of a circle of friends surrounding me and sending me beautiful, healing energy. When I got to my Kalabash class this morning I spoke my truth without shame and I asked for what I wanted clearly and unapologetically. I was encircled by a ring of dancing beings sending me magic and miracles. When I thanked the teacher, she said “thanks for pulling the best out of us.” It reminded me of the work that I do to build community and to create ceremony for all of our rites of passage. I have offered this to so many others, and now I am allowing myself to receive.
On even the darkest days in these past months, I have found moments to laugh and to sing. I no longer live in absolutes where I have a “bad day” or a “body that hates me.” I now live in a world where “Nothing can take away my Hallelujah” and it is a beautiful place to be. I feel like I can now see in color and taste all the good things. Not even scary words can shake my new foundation.
If you are still feeling stuck, please allow yourself the time that it takes to be still and rest and gather your energy. When it is time, your team will show up and your safety net will appear. You might have to jump before you can see it though. If you are like me and have good reason to doubt, it can take a long time to arrive at this moment of trust. You might lose friends along the way because it is hard for them to watch you backtrack and backslide and beat your head against the same wall. It can be frustrating for them to watch you try to squeeze water from a stone when the springs of living waters are freely given. When the time is right you will find that you were never alone, and you have had everything that you needed all along.
What support do you need on your healing journey?
Have you read Magdalena Moments for some inspiration and Things to Try?