Over thirty years ago when my maternal grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer, she talked about it in a whispered code. I remember saying the full word in front of her one day in the kitchen while we were making lunch together. She gently redirecting my speech by simply telling me she did not like the “C” word. I respected that it was difficult for her. She had a strong personality that felt like it steered the direction of our family and to see something knock her off her feet for awhile meant it was a force to be reckoned with. Her breast cancer didn’t keep her down, though, Mamaw outlived it by nearly two decades.
This summer, I found myself called to the bedside of my friend Patrice. Patrice had boldly danced through life with cancer for twenty years. Upon my return from the big road trip I took in April, I went to visit with her. That began a streak of visits in which I did massage and energy work with her. She would ask for me to help her with her legs and I found as much as she wanted me close by, I wished to be part of her last glorious days. Her days were glorious, too. She partied in the end more than any other person I had know who was on their way out of this life. She held life by the tail and made sure it knew it was a tiger!
At the beginning of the summer, my cycle had become rather irregular. I was returning from my trip when my period just lingered on. I was consulting a naturopathic doctor and would see my gynecologist when I could get an appointment. Each week I spent time during my meditation workshop exploring some of the issues that floated around what it meant to me be a woman. I looked at creativity, mothering, body issues, power imbalances, safety and vulnerability, objectification of the body, denial of the voice, freedom of movement, sexuality, abundance…..the whole nine yards! This summer has been packed full of personal growth.
Those few days after Patrice passed were very uncomfortable. I had to stay close to home and became weak with an iron deficiency. Something had turned a flood gate on, and I knew I needed medical help quickly. I spent a month with the doctor doing this test and that, looking into options that might help me fix what was causing the crazy, heavy, unending cycle. Just when we thought we had a plan of action we could all agree on (my gynecologist, naturopath, and me) I got the result back from a test that showed cancerous cells in my uterus. That was about two weeks ago.
The “C” word.
I spent several hours after the doctor’s call alone at home. I was shaken for sure. You hear that word and the mind goes straight to the worst. But on the fringe of fear I heard good news too.
We caught it early…we think it is contained…. you probably won’t need treatment beyond a hysterectomy.
Gratitude! Somehow I couldn’t help but think Patrice made sure I was taken care of.
Lots of things go through your mind when they give you news like that. I thought about all the people I personally knew who had created a life with or after the “C” word. I thought about the strength they had shone, about the way they framed their experience and what they made it mean to them and others in their lives. Then I made a decision that I would be brave in my vulnerability, I would feel my feelings as fully as I could, process any old wounds that needed attention, celebrate the blessings that come with the journey, and when I could, I would share my personal story so others could support me and so I could help other women understand the beauty, strength, and essence of being a woman. What if this could change my life and the lives of others who needed….who needed….I don’t know. I just feel like there is a gift in there somewhere.
That last part means claiming the “C” word to a world wide audience. It is a big decision because in some circles you just don’t talk about your lady parts (yep, there is another “C” word some will never say) but I am bringing that conversation to this circle. I am going to foster an honest, spirited sharing that doesn’t throw a hand up to make sure no one hears.
I HAVE CANCER. Loud and clear.
It won’t define me, but it also isn’t going to be just a blip on the map of my life. I believe that there is Something Greater working here and the same calling that sat me next to Patrice in her last days to share my gifts…the same calling that has had me build a global community for the last three years just wouldn’t want me to keep the gifts of this journey secret. To fully share those gifts, I think I must surely have to share the force that ushered them in.
So around here, I am beefing up the self-care, the self-love, and introspection. I am going to continue to make my way through this life with creativity leading the way (now more than ever actually). I open my arms to your support, encouraging you not to hurt for me but instead to hold a space of exploration and curiosity about what in the world I am going to transform this unexpected experience into. Be grateful with me, keep me in your prayers if you do that, and in your heart if you will. For this journey I am grateful. For this community I am grateful. With gratitude, I am….
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