It’s been nearly two weeks that I’ve lived with a cancer diagnosis and other than a few procedures involving large needles that I’d rather forget, the time has been quite extraordinary. The outpouring of well wishes and prayers has touched my heart in ways I never imagined. I’ve said, “I love you,” and received the same response hundreds of times in these past weeks. The stories of others‘ experiences with cancer are abundant, and the feeling of being held up by “my people” has helped me remember my place in the world. Many friends have commented on my positive outlook, calm mind, and steady heart in the face of cancer. I’ve thought about this all week and realized that I have spent most of my adult life preparing for something like this through my meditation practice, self-inquiry, and yoga practice. It’s warriorship training for everyday living and I’m gratified that it’s been available and that I’ve had teachers with the wisdom and grace to guide me as they have. Additionally, I have two brave friends who are facing other more severe kinds of cancer, so I count my blessings each day.
As news of my cancer journey has spread out to friends and family, it’s been so interesting to observe how other people respond to the information. A few women told me they immediately called and made mammogram appointments. Both children and adults have written poems and thoughtful email messages. Food and flowers have been delivered and my grandson adjusted his usual “tackle hug” to a firm leg hug. Just a few days after the diagnosis, my second and third granddaughters spent the whole day with me making art. At the end of that day I received an ABC book from the 11-year-old weaving family and cancer facts together with personal words at the back of the book from each family member. The girls showered me with sweet gifts all day long, including a decorated treasure box. On the day I told my oldest granddaughter, now almost 14, she and her sister immediately disappeared into my husband’s office, got on the internet, and put together “The Breast Cancer Presentation.” For most of the morning they looked up facts, made posters and fake microphones, and did a presentation, talk show style, with me as their featured guest. They interviewed me and recorded it on the iPhone. They asked questions and finally presented what they knew. What struck me was how they used play and pretending to make sense of this new information in a way that was childlike but also developmentally appropriate for a young adolescent. The tools were available and they wasted no time in putting them to use.
For myself, I’ve found conversations, in person and electronically, to be immensely helpful in processing my current situatuion. I also started an art journal that documents each step and I sit in my garden for awhile every day. I’ve learned that we each need to make sense of life’s gifts and challenges in our own way, taking it all in and then offering it back to those who share the journey.