A Sacred Revealing
The gift of Lockdown was something very different to what I had imagined or hoped for. My fantasy was lots of time to do things that keep me connected to myself and to God, such as meditation, prayers, being with nature and learning how to truly be with myself in every moment. Perhaps taking up the keyboard again (I played the piano for a few years when I was younger) or learning to cook some delicious plant-based recipes to brighten up my boring, same-old diet.
But, life had other plans for me when in early May I noticed a little dent, the tiniest of puckers in the skin, of my right breast. ‘Just natural signs of old age’, I said to myself ‘Nothing to worry about’. A week went by when I saw that my right nipple did not quite protrude as much as my left. ‘Nothing to worry about’, I said to myself. And in the background my mind was running a scenario around Covid and how could I possibly go into hospital at this time? What was worse Covid or Cancer?
Another week, and my heart kept leading me back to the possibility of Cancer. I remembered my Mum in her early 80s, already with the signs of Dementia, having the same symptoms (although it was her left breast, not the right one). My Dad ringing my sister and I to come over and take a look. ‘Straight to the doctor’, I said, knowing this was the right thing to do. ‘Nothing to worry about’ said my mind as I looked down at my right breast. ‘There’s something wrong’ said my heart ‘Covid or not, you must do something and find out’.
That 3rd week, I picked up the phone and called my GP. The result of my symptoms and my maternal history led me to the Breast Clinic at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge barely 2 weeks later. I had to use the side entrance or tradesmen’s entrance as most of the hospital was a little like the Marie Celeste – staff were around but patients were less in evidence. I was all alone because no one could come in with me but there was a comradery with the other 3 women who sat in the waiting room with me, all waiting for the sword of Damocles to fall and cut off our breasts.
Scans, mammograms and biopsy later, I found myself in front of a young Radiographer shifting around uncomfortably in her seat and telling me that they had found something ‘sinister’. When I pressed her, she wouldn’t or couldn’t say that it was Cancer and changed her mind to call it ‘suspicious’. I had to come back in another week for my results. As I left the Clinic, my head said ‘Don’t worry, it’s nothing’ but my Heart knew that it was something. The question hanging in the air was exactly what was this something and how would it change my life?
A week later I was back in front of a Consultant being examined again. We were all masked up because of Covid so it was really hard to see or feel what was happening. He sat me down and delivered the news. He looked uncomfortable despite the multitude of times he must have said these words. He was very careful and respectful how he told me. Yes, it was cancer, two lumps: one grade 1 and the other grade 2. After talking to me about treatment, he sat down in front of me and took off his mask. He looked at me and said ‘I’ve examined you and talked to you and now I would really love to see your face’. I removed my mask and we just looked at each other and smiled. I saw humanity in this man’s face. It was like a Sacred Revealing of our Souls. Up to this point I had felt quite okay and together but as I gazed into his eyes, I could feel myself unravelling. The fear, the questions, everything came tumbling in as I simply said ‘Thank you so much for being human’. I’m a person who rails against traditional medicine and in this moment, I knew that God had sent me this beautiful man to help and support me in my Cancer journey. I felt held, I felt safe. I breathed in relief and breathed out hope.
And, so began my journey of decisions . . . of weighing up traditional treatments alongside more alternative ‘out there’ kind of treatments. I am always banging on about following my heart but when these decisions may literally mean life and death, it’s not so simple as my head keeps on butting in and saying ‘yes, but what if . . . . .?’ As I become overwhelmed with facts and figures, there comes a point when I must step aside and allow my connection to my Heart (which is my relationship with God) to take over. I don’t know how it happens but if I wait in that uncomfortable place of ‘not knowing’ for a while, my way forward suddenly becomes clear to me. The overwhelm of information disappears and clarity emerges. I may not be able to justify my decision with my intellect to a breast surgeon or oncologist but my heart has faith and I am beginning to know that Faith is what is required of me not just in this Cancer journey but in my life.
This is the beginning . . . the opening chapter of my story . . . I am already a little way down the line as it has taken me some time to assimilate what is happening to me, how it effects my family and friendships, the isolation of lockdown and shielding, my physical and mental health and what I am being called to do.
I am being asked to tell my story, warts and all, of a 66 year old woman who discovers she has breast cancer during Lockdown and is called to put into practice all that she has been preaching over the past few years. To follow my heart and not my head and to be awake in every moment. To take my power into my own hands and make decisions about my body, my health and my treatment. I hope that it may inspire other women and support them to see a diagnosis not as a death sentence but as an opportunity to become the woman they were always meant to be . . . . anything from an Amazonian Warrior Woman or a peacemaker such as Mother Theresa or the 100’s of possibilities in between. What matters as we grow older and cope with life’s difficulties is that we learn and grow and come back into connection with our Souls and who we have always been.
Love and blessings