When Fear Raises Its Head – Again
November 1, 2012
Whenever someone has been diagnosed with breast cancer, the specter of fear is always waiting, ready to haunt again. After taking a long hiatus, it raised its ugly head again recently.
There is a beautiful Cherokee elder who lives in Bucks County. I had met her many years ago and recently had the opportunity to reconnect with her because she knows my housemate well. One day a couple months ago, we sat down and had a nice long chat on the back patio. In the course of the conversation, I had casually mentioned I’d had a health scare last year. When she asked for more details, I told her briefly and afterwards I noticed her gazing at my chest a few times, as if trying to discern something.
She showed up again the end of September and knocked on my door. She asked me if I’d be interested in trying some mushroom medicine she had. (Turkey tail mushroom has had remarkable success in altering the course of some people’s cancers.) She also wanted to pray for me.
We were outside at this point and I stood facing her with my hands upturned in a receiving posture. She placed her hands over mine facing downward but not touching, and then she began to sing in a loud and clear voice this beautiful prayer in the Cherokee tongue.
I stood there in humble gratitude with a huge smile on my face, filled with the grace and beauty of this prayer. The prayer came to an end and then she spoke a prayer in English so that I would understand.
Interesting, isn’t it, that such an act of grace and beauty would subsequently begin, once again, the niggling dance of fear?
I found myself thinking, ‘What did she see? What does she know? Do I have cancer again?’
I found myself looking for other clues. I began to notice that once again my breast, after being completely pain-free for many months, would sometimes be a little achy/uncomfortable/sore. (And no, it is not related to my menstrual cycle which has been “on hold” for a few months now. And yes, I’m quite aware that this could be psychosomatic. But that doesn’t mean it’s not uncomfortable and disconcerting.)
I decided to do an inventory of my dreams from the last month, as the elder had indicated I might have a significant one. I noticed the following:
- I was startled to remember I’d had a “cancer dream” just a couple days before the Cherokee prayer. At the end of the dream I said, “Okay, I’ll get myself checked out.”
- In the first dream after her visit, I wrote in my journal: “Waiting for a little message. Instead it’s a big wave – an over-the-heads, can’t-be-ignored, get-everything-clean message.” (That’s all I remember about the dream and it’s all I wrote down.)
- I had two doctor dreams. In one, a doctor was helping me birth a baby. He knew I was stubborn and literally prayed I would come to my senses and do things in a way he felt was safe.
- There is a coffin-sized box downstairs with someone in it. I am freaked out by the thought of that coffin. (Yes, I’m sure this is symbolic of me being afraid of death.)
- In another, I am signing into a cancer center. In this cancer center, the patients are expected to dance every day. I am dancing – kind of cha-cha-cha-ing backwards, and am full of joy. It’s fun!
- Three young women approach a health food store. It’s dark and looks closed. The door appears to be locked. But then I see them inside walking down the aisles.
- I have a few dreams of family members being sick or in dangerous situations or being suicidal.
- I have one dream of an explosion, and one dream of a gun being fired.
- I have two dreams about rats. In one, I am being bitten on the toe by a rat and call out, “Help me help me help me help me help me!”
- I dream also of sharks (they don’t appear ominous), and I have a wonderful dream of a praying mantis on a flying carpet-type leaf which comes to land on me, and also a dream about finding beautiful feathers that look like they belong to a phoenix.
In the face of all this, I have decided to get another mammogram. The last one was in January. My breast doctor wanted me to get another one in July. A November mammogram will be my compromise.
I also started acknowledging my fears to a few friends, which helped emotionally but did not necessarily help the fears to fade. Then I found myself voicing my fears to my therapist, and that helped greatly. (Thank goodness for both good friends and good therapists!)
Meanwhile, I am getting back on track with my supplements. And my diet. My diet is largely “not bad,” but there is certainly room for improvement! I confess I do still veer off-track with my food choices, but I come back on track more quickly and stay on track longer. (I don’t know if I’ll ever be the kind of person who can be totally strict and rigid with anything. But I am the kind of person who can keep fairly balanced.)
This is my update, friends. I share it not so that you’ll worry about me, but so that any women out there in a similar boat will know that this dance with fear is normal.
(And yes, I will keep you updated.)
May you be well.