“It is in moments of illness that we are compelled to recognize that we live not alone but chained to a creature of a different kingdom, whole worlds apart, who has no knowledge of us and by whom it is impossible to make ourselves understood: our body.” Marcel Proust
“An illness is like a journey into a far country; it sifts all one’s experience and removes it to a point so remote that it appears like a vision.” Sholem Asch
When I came across these two quotes, I was struck with the truth in both. After my partial mastectomy (which left me with some skin, nipple, and upper tissue…for which I am thankful), I looked in the mirror and saw not only a mutilated breast, but drains snaking down to my waist filled with bloody fluid. I saw an alien creature with whom I had difficulty identifying. And little did I know that this was only the beginning. By the time chemo had taken over my body with fatigue that I didn’t know existed, and hair that came out in clumps in my hand, I had the first revelation that I truly was not my body. I was not the same person physically inside or outside, but I was the same inner self. The “me” that is “me,” was “chained to a creature of a different kingdom.” It seemed surreal: my body was “on a journey into a far country.” To quote a blogger colleague of mine, I was definitely in Cancerland.
The inner “me” began to have compassion for the Cancerland me. I gave my hair “permission” to fall out and told it I would be okay. I turned inward as much as possible in prayer, guided imagery, and meditation. I used my healing bowl on my chest so that I could feel the vibrations of the beautiful tones ringing throughout my body. I had monthly massages to keep blood circulating in my extremities (with the permission of my doctor) to attempt to mitigate the side effect of neuropathy, particularly from the Taxol. I had acupuncture after each chemo treatment and a Reiki treatment three or four times during the course of treatment. The important thing to me was to stay in touch with the “inner me” so I wasn’t “lost” when it was time to return from this “distant kingdom,” this “journey to a far country.”
It has been eleven years since my diagnosis on October 26th, 2004. I have some mild side effects, both mentally and physically. Through much research and in connection with many survivors, I understand that once you visit Cancerland, you never totally return; that would not be possible. The physical and mental trauma is too great. Good self-care is an absolute necessity for the journey and ever-after. Be an active participant with your treatment team for your physical and emotional well-being, and be an active participant with the “inner you” to protect and respect that Divine space. Amen and Namaste