As I approach my last chemo on Thursday, I’m looking back on this breast cancer path as it has been thus far. Last summer, my intuition told me I was dealing with something more than a typical cyst in my breast. But my rational mind convinced me otherwise. I had a feeling in June that the burning sensation in my left breast was something out of the ordinary, and I had a dream then that told me to pay attention. My rational mind supported my need for this to be “ordinary,” though. The pain wasn’t constant, and it followed the pattern from when I had regular periods. My breasts would hurt for about a week and then the pain would go away. And I would have pain in both breasts, sometimes even a burning sensation in both. Surely I didn’t have cancer in both breasts, right? I was used to painful breasts because I’ve had cysts for years. I’d had a cyst aspirated about four years ago, and my rational mind said this was just another one of those. I’d had regular mammograms, the most recent in November, and it had come back showing no problems. Nothing logical indicated breast cancer.
Deep down inside, though, in the place where my intuition is strong, I knew this was cancer. And I had a dream about being in a crowd of people with a young doctor in a white coat (actually, much like my radiation oncologist) standing in front of me. I was wearing a hospital gown that opened in the front, and he said he needed to see my nodes. So I opened my gown in front of all of these people and showed him my breasts. I wasn’t uncomfortable or embarrassed. It seemed to be something I needed to do in front of everyone. When I woke up and remembered this dream, I felt at first it was telling me about this burning pain in my breast. That scared me, but then I realized that I wasn’t scared in the dream. If it was a warning about cancer, wouldn’t I be scared? I wrote the dream in my journal, and it stayed in the back of my mind, nagging me now and then. But I went about my life, telling myself that I’d have a bad feeling if this were cancer.
On that same deep level, I’ve known for a long time that I’d have breast cancer. I remember reading an article years and years ago about women who have scoliosis and who had lots of X-rays – and their higher incidence of breast cancer. I have scoliosis and had the X-rays. That scared me. I have also always had an inclination to look away when I saw anything about breast cancer, even if it were billboards by the highway. When I saw The Doctor, a 1991 William Hurt movie about a doctor who goes through cancer, I left the theater feeling more afraid than if I’d seen a horror movie. Somehow, I knew that my life’s path was going to take me through cancer and its treatments. And here I am, just about to have the last chemo treatment for breast cancer and looking at six and a half weeks of daily radiation to complete my treatment path.
And you know what? As bad as it’s been, the path isn’t as scary as I imagined. I’m learning to take life one day at a time. I’m learning to ask for help. I’m learning that I can tolerate pain much more than I realized. I’m learning to share more of myself with others. I’m learning that I can be stuck with needles – often – and survive. I’m learning that I’m more patient and more comfortable with uncertainty than I ever thought I could be. I’m learning what a real blessing kind and compassionate people are. Well, I’ve always known that last one, but I appreciate them more now.
You know what I’m afraid of now? I’m afraid that I’ll forget all that I’ve learned and am learning from this path. That I’ll go back to living a “normal” life where pain and suffering seem far away. That I’ll forget that all of us have pain and suffering in this life and that all of us need – really need – each others’ kindness and compassion. I don’t want to forget that. I want to be healed, to feel healthy and strong again, but still to remember what’s it’s like to be broken, to be tired and in pain, to need others’ help, to look for and appreciate kindnesses, to depend on something larger than me, that something some of us call God and others call the Universe, and to know I am not alone. Not now. Not ever. I don’t want to forget that.
4 thoughts on “My intuition told me it was cancer”
You will not forget! I can testify to that. You will know that life is UNCERTAIN . And from that compassion toward every thing. Uncertain is my Mantra and what I have been taught. Strange that it is now a comfort because it is reality.
It has always been reality, but “normal” lured us into forgetting that. The blessings of illness and grief.
I think you will become one of the givers, seeking ways to repay the kindnesses shown. I know I have that spirit but at first it was limited. It takes awhile to get the body to “normal” if there is such a thing. I also learned to do whatever I am able and learned a written note on a bad day can boost someone else just as well as a physical visit that I cannot manage. As we have been served we want to do so for others in return…like the movie “Pay it Forward”. Be kind to yourself. Please consider making the blog more public, like a book perhaps because it will be a comfort to so many! The Salzburger blood made us strong and we became more adaptable as the situations changed. I am proud of you and so are those watching over you! Thank you for sharing so much of this journey, baring your soul so to speak. In reflection I learned a lot more than I ever realized on my journey 3 1/2 years ago, but never really thought much about it until you penned your thoughts. God Bless You as you tackle the last leg of the battle.
Thank you, Susan. I do want to be a giver. I’m interested to see where this cancer journey leads me. And you’re right, we need to listen to our bodies and do what they allow us to do. Notes instead of visits when the time is right for that.