I feel a lump in my left breast. Nah... I'm sure it's nothing. I drink too much coffee and eat too much chocolate; I'm sure it's that. I mean, my goodness, I'm 39 years old, I eat organically, I practice and teach yoga regularly, I have a mindfulness practice, and I feel good. I'm the healthiest I've been in my whole life. I'm a little bit tired but what mother of two elementary aged kids isn't tired?
But (...feeling around some more...) that really doesn't feel right. You know what, if I just sit here and be still, and close my eyes, and focus on that space in my chest without even touching it at all... yes... right there... something feels foreign. It feels like a shadow in my breast. It is a very real feeling. Something is there that wasn't before. Something foreign is present with/within me. I know it. But hopefully I'm being ridiculous and a hypochondriac. Yes that's what it is. And, because I know my body regardless of what my mind is telling me, I'm making an appointment with my OBGYN.
These are the thoughts and actions, which precipitated my next three weeks of doctors appointments. First a mammogram and ultrasound, then a stereotactic biopsy (mammogram guided needle biopsy), then the results...
You. Have. Breast. Cancer.
The "results" appointment had been entered on to my Cozi calendar app the previous week layered in between dropping the kids off at school, and a pep rally rehearsal for the new Equinox studio grand opening coming up the following week. How do you schedule an "appointment" like that? How do you wrap your head around the idea that you are seemingly fine right now and you might either be fine at noon on Friday or... your life might just be turned on its head. How do you practice or prepare for this type of potential life inversion?
It has been a spectacular year on so many levels. I mean, it has certainly had its low points (a surgery around my birthday to have cysts removed from my ovaries wasn't exactly the kind of relaxing time in bed that I was hoping for but... no big deal. And, totaling my car wasn't exactly the best moment... but again... what are you going to do? We were all safe.) The last twelve months have brought me so much transformation, connection, and joy. From heading with the family to Florida to see the kids' 89 year old great grandma (and one of my favorite people) who my five-year old daughter had never met, to connecting with many extended members of my birth family (what a blessing.. the biggest really), to finally beginning and completing my yoga teacher training program (which I'd been wanting to do for over ten years... you know how it is... there just wasn't time), to meeting all of the incredible people along that road (love you OMies), to photographing many of my clients' beautiful events and moments, to heading to Chicago with the family to stay at the home of my birthmom and her wonderful husband and meeting my half siblings who are FULLY wonderful, as well, to dancing for a brief glorious moment with Riley on the wooden floors of the spacious old Chicago Stock Exchange as another little girl serendipitously began playing on a grand piano (more on that moment in another post), to having time with my parents who are always there for us, to absolutely loving teaching yoga within great communities, to spending time throughout with my friends and family who I am so supremely thankful for. The point is... it has been a twelve months for the books.
This transformational year has been lifted for me by much reading on spiritual pursuits, poetry, and philosophy (thank you OnBeing podcasts!). I have never in my life felt more centered and present. So... back to the cancer.
Yes, I have breast cancer. It is not a rare form and should respond well to treatment and then surgery. I will begin preoperative chemo in the next week. I will lose my hair a few weeks after that (my high forehead is going to be expanding and making itself at home). I will be on this part of my treatment journey for around five months. The next leg on the road is surgery (more on that later). And from there... we'll reassess and see what's next. My beautiful babies and my amazing husband will need the support of our family and friends and so will I. I'm not much for accepting help but I imagine this is one of the things that this journey will reveal and transform within me. I will survive and I will be stronger for it. My family, friends, doctors and community will help to lift me up and I will have so much gratitude. I will be vulnerable and authentic. I will be scared. I will be tired. I will be supremely optimistic... until I'm not... and then until I am again. I will write and share my journey. I will hide for a bit. I will laugh big belly laughs and I will cry big elephant sized tears. I will give and get big glorious hugs. I will take pictures. I will teach yoga. I will practice yoga. I will practice being me in many unexpected scenarios. That me will change and I will be transformed... like we are every day when we pay attention.
I hope and expect to share more of my journey here along with poetry, music, and whatever is moving me but I make no promises about the frequency of that sharing. I leave you with this quote which I hope will help set the tone for this leg of my trip here on earth.
"When people would talk to me about, "You're gonna beat this," or "You're gonna slay cancer," or "You're gonna"--- I would say what I'm gonna do, hopefully, is become more of who I was meant to be. And cancer has given me this huge, dramatic, turbulent opportunity to do that."
-- Eve Ensler from her On Being interview with Krista Tippett. (http://www.onbeing.org/program/eve-ensler-the-body-after-cancer/6050)
(Photo credit to the lovely Leigh Miller)