The months leading up to my breast ultrasound were awful. I could not sleep. I was anxious, worried, afraid and cried a lot. I was paralyzed by my fear. Then to top it off, being in my mid-40’s, my body is changing and my breasts are so sore all of the time. My emotions are a mess and then I had a rash under my left (lymph side) armpit and at the airport the TSA agent “saw something” under that left armpit that she had to check again with her hand-held scanner. Also, since I was young I have always had a HUMUNGOUS (is this how you spell it) fear of hospitals, down to the lights, smells and color of paint on the walls. I am afraid of doctors and illness and so the past few months I have been swimming in “facts” and my own terrifying story.
I felt alone in my fear. I have had cystic breasts since I was a teenager and it was when I was 17 that my OB-GYN recommended that I always have ultrasounds instead of mammograms as a precaution.
I haven’t had one in a few years and so the past few months my worry consumed me. It seems everywhere I turn someone has cancer and I’ve read that breast cancer has little to do anymore with one’s family history. Now there are so many other factors that play a role that even people with no family history of breast cancer are getting it.
And then this past summer/fall a beautiful young woman I knew died of breast cancer. Back in my Venice Beach days, Stephanie was a friend of my employee and she baked cupcakes for the events I would host at my salon. She was vibrant and beautiful and so talented I mean her cupcakes were stunning. Years later I learned that she was battling breast cancer. She had already gone through a double mastectomy and endless rounds of chemo. Then she was in remission. What beautiful news to hear and then I ran into her during her remission at a local health food store and she was telling me how she wanted to start a non-profit to help women in their healing process who were living with cancer. It was so great to see her. We hugged and when she walked away she was filled with spirit and purpose. Months later the cancer came back. I went to see her. She was in and out of consciousness but we were able to communicate somewhat. I brought her soup and teas and creams of course, which made her so happy. In all her sickness though she glowed like an angel. When I hugged her and held her hand, her body was warm and full of fire and energy and her skin was just gorgeous and healthy. Months later she passed, leaving behind two beautiful young girls. She was in her 30’s.
I have always been a worrier when it comes to health/doctors/disease… It has plagued me my entire life and this past experience I found myself terrified. I was praying for cancer-free results but then I would think “How can I ask to be cancer free when children die and Stephanie had to die and she was a mom. People get cancer. People get sick. What makes me so special? Why should I be spared?”
I remember once hearing someone respond in an interview– I forgot who it was, this was years ago – after being asked if they ever wondered “why me?” and the person responded “why not me?”
A profound answer and one I have always remembered. I never take my healthy body for granted. Life happens and it happens to the best of us, the “healthiest” of us, no matter how many greens we eat or yoga classes we go to… I mean Wayne Dyer died of cancer. Wayne Dyer for goodness sake, one of the most beautiful, honest and spiritual people to walk this earth. So why not me?
My appointment at St. John’s was fast approaching and with my anxiety taking over, I felt so alone and wondered if other women worry like this? Am I nuts? I felt like I was.
I tapped into some Eckhart Tolle and then contacted a spiritual friend of mine in New York. We talked and I was able to express my fears and cry while he listened and offered me some coping methods and talking to him helped me to accept whatever the outcome would be. Up until that point I couldn’t even look at myself with cancer in the eye. But I had to now. I had to 1) be present because in the moments leading up to my test, I had no answers. I had no cancer. All I had was that moment and 2) be strong and ready to face whatever the outcome would be and to know that I was not alone.
The one great thing about having an ultrasound at St. John’s is that there is an M.D. to review your imagery right then so you get the results immediately. Mine were negative for cancer or any need for further testing. My technician told me that I must not worry so much. That my worrying will affect my immunity. She is right. All those months of self-inflicted worry for what?
After my test I met a friend for drinks and I told her everything. She had no idea and so I laid it out – my fears, etc… and she told me that she too is terrified to go have her breast examined and the worry also plagues her and takes over her thoughts.
I couldn’t believe it. During this process I felt I was alone in my neurosis. Yep, true neurosis is how I describe the madness I was encircled in so to hear my friend share her story made me sad because women go through so much and often we feel alone in what we are experiencing. I also felt safe and protected and so loved by Divine and in those hours of sisterhood with my friend, and then the next night too with another dear girlfriend who is also terrified for her exam, I was reminded that even the people closest to us are maybe going through the same thing in some form or another. We need to have more of these conversations with our sisters. We need to realize we are together in our human experience as women.
I am writing this blog because I think there are probably many of you reading this that are afraid to have their breast exam and are going through a lot of anxiety and worry. I am writing this because we need to feel okay talking about things like this. I am writing this because maybe someone reading this is feeling completely paralyzed and is reacting in the moment, which is prohibiting you from being happy. I want you to know you are not alone. You are not crazy. You are not losing it. What you are going through is normal but you have to talk about it with your girlfriends because that conversation will help all of you face that fear and kick it in the ass. Cancer is fucking scary and when people that you love are diagnosed it becomes more real because it’s so close. It is crucial to be self-aware during these times and find calm in the storm.
I learned a lot and the biggest takeaway was that fear will own every morsel of my life and joy if I let it. I learned that I never want to go through that kind of self-torture again! Ever! I experienced first-hand that fear, if not taken down, will destroy everything that is healthy and vibrant in us. It will eat every morsel of joy that we have if we don’t nip it in the bud.
I learned that I am not alone. Not at all. I have the dearest loveliest people in my life, other women that get it! I have people around me that really do care about me and love me and I have Divine conspiring on my behalf.
I learned that I need to relax and breathe and give myself space before reacting. I learned I should probably meditate more (I’m on that).
I’m going to share a secret I have only told one person in my life. I don’t know when this started but I have always been afraid that I would die young. That something would happen to me and I would not get to live a long healthy life. I thought this was my story and though it was not a conscious, every day train of thought, it would definitely come up and of course, during times when I would have to face these medical tests. I would even rationalize my fear to some degree and have conversations with Divine about it because I was conscious enough to know that I did not want to manifest this “truth”. But then at times I would think about Natalie Wood and how she always had a fear of water and she died drowning in the dark.
I tell you this because after this rollercoaster experience I now know that I have a true purpose and It is not to die of a disease in a hospital so, whatever story you are telling yourself, I’m here to tell you in the most loving way to do whatever it takes to snap out of it. Listen to Eckhart Tolle too. He is just such a source of healing and true awakening. He definitely wakes you up and out of the madness. And also, share your fears with someone. Another woman. You are definitely not alone and we as a human race are more alike than different.
Love you and know that you can always talk to me if you want. I’m here for you.