The Divine Space Within

“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


Managing the Negative /Critical Voices Inside Your Head

Reiki Hello to everyone.  It has been a while since I posted in my blog.  In January I started a face book page “Coping With the Trauma of Breast Cancer.”  I wanted to extend my reach to as many women as possible, and face book seems to have the amazing power to “travel” the world.  My blog is connected to my face book page to enable all blog postings to post to face book.  But, to see the face book page you need to be on face book and type in “Coping With Breast Cancer Trauma.”  The page provides inspiration and information on a daily basis and stresses Positivity, Gratitude, Meditation and/or quiet time to be able to relieve stress, worry, and negativity in all forms.  It is a wonderful format for “women in connection.”

Today’s blog post focuses on the NEGATIVE/critical voices inside our heads.  To some degree everyone has them.  As cancer survivors we tend to have these negative thoughts whirling around in our heads.  The slightest ailment, and our minds take us  back to the cancer diagnosis and our thoughts start to tell us that the cancer has recurred.  Worry begins to consume our day and then the angry and depressing feelings and thoughts begin to dominate.  We need to remain vigilant in overcoming these thoughts through gratitude for all we have been given, daily affirmations and inspirations, journaling, connection with other survivors, meditation, time alone in nature that allows us to absorb the wonderful healing energy that Mother Nature provides, and prayer and faith that constantly renews the hope in our hearts.

I recently read an interesting article regarding critical/negative voices in our heads.  I wanted to share it with you because it offers interesting insight and advice in how to think more positively (even regarding the negative voices themselves.)  SO, it is possible, that on rare occasions even negative thoughts can have positive outcomes. Following the article, I will apply what Mr. Bregman has explained to our situation.

Managing the Critical Voices Inside Your Head

By Peter Bregman

At 8:20 am, my twelve-year-old daughter, Isabelle, was rushing to meet her ski group. She was 20 minutes late and stressed – she takes her skiing very seriously and was training for a race in a couple of days.

Near the competition center, she ran into one of her coaches, Joey. He looked at her, then his watch. “If this were a race day,” he told her, with a disapproving scowl, “I would tell you to turn around and go home.”

His words stung and she burst into tears. A few moments later, she was greeted by another one of her coaches, Vicky, who saw how stressed she was.

“Honey, don’t worry,” she said. “This isn’t a race. It’s okay that you’re running a little late. You’ll just catch up with your group on top of the mountain.”

Two vastly different coaches, two vastly different responses. Who’s right? I bet you have an opinion.

But that’s not the point.

My advice to Isabelle? You will have Joeys in your life and you will have Vickys. They will show up as teachers, bosses, colleagues, and friends.

So, I said to her, it’s a good idea to get used to the different responses without getting thrown off balance. You can’t control how people respond to you, but you can control how you take them in and how you respond to them.

But let’s go one step deeper. The truth is, we all have a Joey and a Vicky inside, and they can both be useful. Joey might seem unkind, but his high expectations and low tolerance for failure can be helpful in driving us to be our best. On the other hand, sometimes we need empathetic support. To some, Vicky may appear soft. But her comfort and reassurance can be useful, especially during times of stress.

Here’s the key: Be strategic and intentional about who you listen to – and when – even if the voices are inside your head. In fact, especially if the voices are inside your head. Those can be the sneakiest. It’s pretty easy to call Joey a jerk and ignore him; it’s much harder to dismiss the voice in your head because, well, it’s you.

Try this tactic: when you hear the voices, give them names and personalities. Imagine a Joey on one side, a Vicky on the other.

1. Notice the voices in your head as voices. A lot of the time, most of us simply believe what we hear – either from other people or from ourselves. If your inner voice calls you lazy, it’s hard not to think you’re lazy. It helps if you imagine it’s Joey calling you lazy instead.

2. Resist the urge to judge whether the voices in your head are right. It’s impossible to know and it doesn’t matter anyway. Are you lazy? The truth is that you probably are, in some ways. And, in other ways, you’re not. But that’s not the right question.

3. Instead, think about the outcome you want and ask this question: Is what this voice is saying — and how it’s saying it — useful right now? This is the same question you should be asking if you’re confronted by an actual Joey or Vicky. Is this voice helpful to me in this particular moment? If you think it’ll motivate you, listen to it. If it will demoralize you, don’t.

This is an important skill: the ability to ignore critical voices when they’re destructive, without discounting them entirely. They might be useful another time.

The goal is flexibility. Cultivate a varied group of critics and coaches, both internal and external. Be aware of who is speaking and when you should listen.

Comfort with multiple voices is particularly important if you are a manager. You need to be able to be Joey or Vicky, depending on the situation. Sometimes, people need to feel your high expectations and disapproval. Other times, they need your gentleness and empathy. Don’t default to one or the other. Pause to assess what’s needed and then make a choice.

“It’s hard,” Isabelle told me after we spoke about the different voices and messages they brought with them, “How do I stop from thinking Joey is just a jerk? Or that I’m lame for being late?”

“He might be a jerk and you may be lame,” I said, “but not because he said so. Here’s the question: Will you be more likely to be on time tomorrow because of what he said?”

“Yes,” she conceded. “But it felt terrible.”

“And, when you feel terrible, can you hear Vicky’s voice too?”

“Yes,” she said, beginning to smile.

“Then it’s a good thing you have two coaches,” I told her.

Because sometimes, both voices are the perfect combination.

Originally posted at Harvard Business Review.

Okay, so lets imagine that Joey (or any other name, if you wish to name the negative thoughts) is the negative voice/thought “telling” you that you can’t make it through this surgery or this treatment, that the pain in your back is the cancer recurring, you can’t make long term plans for the future, etc.  You get the point.  Now let’s imagine that Vicki (or whomever) is “telling you all is well, that you’ll “sail” through the surgery or surgeries with absolutely no problems, treatment will be a piece of cake, you never need to worry again, there is no possibility that you’ll ever have cancer again.  One set of thoughts, all negative, the other, all positive.  Just as in the article, we  have both voices inside. “The key is to be strategic and intentional about who you listen to.”  The negative thoughts might be useful at times.  Maybe because of the negative thought we will do more self-examinations, make sure our testing is scheduled on time, or just take better care of ourselves in general.  But we also need the empathetic and hopeful support of the positive voices/thoughts.

So, try this tactic: When you hear the voices, pay attention to both, but only for any benefit that you might recognize.  Notice the voice in your head, acknowledge it, don’t judge it right away, “is it useful right now?  If it is negative, but there is a way that it can help to motivate you, i.e. get on the phone and schedule your next follow-up appointment, listen to it, act on it, breathe, and let it go.  If it is positive, but your gut tells you that you are in denial regarding some symptom, listen carefully and act in whatever way is necessary.  If it is positive and comforting, give thanks and move on with your day.  Try not to get stuck in the negative if it serves no useful purpose.  It will only drag you down and drain you of your much needed life-giving positive energy.  Blessings and Namaste<3

Going Within

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe blog post from Breast Cancer Authority by Jean DiCarlo-Wagner, The Ultimate Journey In Life is Going Within, provided options on journeying within to find your truth (reblogged in my previous blog post).  But it also reminded me of an article I read from the Chopra Center by Bhava Ram. The article is called 8 Steps Into Health, Healing, and Higher Consciousness.  As in the Breast Cancer Authority<em blog it reminds us that “healing” does not always mean physical healing. Spiritual healing is  important in finding inner peace, especially when difficult life-changing decisions need to be made.  Going within can be a formal practice or it can be communing with Mother Nature, it can be prayer, or a combination of all of the above.  It is a very personal decision how one journeys inside to find their  truth.
Bhava Ram explains the 8 Steps to Higher Consciousness

1. Close your Eyes: This simple act is a transition from externalized to internal awareness. Notice what it feels like inside of you.

2. Connect With Your Breath: Breathe more deeply and fully as you cultivate a sense of awe at the miracle of your breath. See every in-breath as an empowerment and affirmation, every out-breath as a healing release.

3. Feel Your Body: Experience your body as the temple of your spirit, a sacred vessel always seeking to support you. Send your breath to all the outer edges, and flood all the inner space of you.

4. Notice Mother Earth: Notice how Mother Earth fully supports you as you sit in this meditation. Feel her in every cell of your body. Have profound gratitude for all the abundance she brings into your life.

5. Still Your Mind: Begin to silently chant the mantra I Am. This is like a yoga pose for the busy mind.  Allow it to still the turbid waters of your thoughts.  I Am.

6. Enter Your Heart: Visualize your awareness flowing down from the mind to your heart center, as if there is a golden flame there that illuminates you. Breath into that light, feeling more radiant in every breath.

7. Be Fully Present: Slip fully into the present moment: In your body, in your breath, in the palms of Mother Earth, in the light of your heart. I Am.

8. Remember Who You Are: Remember that you are fully connected, indigenous wherever you go, and that you always have been…and always will be…one with all that is. I Am.

Go to this place of inner awareness whenever you feel the need. Ask your deeper self for guidance in facing challenges and making decision. Listen to your inner “guru” as you own your power and live your truth. I Am.

Thank you Bhava Ram and the Chopra Center for this wisdom.

Ms. DiCarlo-Wagner’s mother had an innate sense of what she needed to “go within” and find her truth. She was happy to sit in her easy chair focusing on her flowers and the hummingbirds. In this way, she was able to journey within. Meditating does not always have to be a formal process. As Ms. DiCarlo-Wagner’s blog entry tells us, sitting in front of a beloved part of Mother Nature, focusing on the beautiful abundance provided by Mother Earth, helps to bring a peace that enables many to “go inside” and become aware of what living one’s truth means to them. When I was faced with my second breast surgery in the same month I went outside and sat looking out at a tributary of water that ran along my backyard. It was teeming with life in all forms, both in the water and in the reeds, even in the muddy banks that lined the shore. I breathed deeply and “went inside” to find my inner peace. I meditated with Mother Nature and I prayed, and although I was still afraid, I was less anxious and more at peace with what the future would bring. I Am now and always will be “one with all that is.” Blessings


Blessings for the New Year to you all. The holidays can be a wonderful time, but also a stressful time of the year. Dealing with cancer and the holidays is doubly stressful. Energy levels may not be normal, finances may be an issue, family emotions all over the place. You might feel even more drained than usual. It is 2015 and the time to practice de-stressing is now. It is a New Year’s resolution crucial to our physical and emotional well-being.

The following are ten de-stressing suggestions based on work by Melissa Eisler. Melissa is the Senior Content Strategist and Lead Editor at the Chopra Center. She is passionate about her work and, among other interests, she teaches meditation and yoga to kids and families in the oncology ward at Rady’s Children’s Hospital. As a survivor, I have added my experiences to each suggestion.
10 Ways to De-stress Your Mind and Body

There’s good stress … and then there’s bad stress. Do you know the difference? And how are you dealing with yours? It’s important to be aware of what stresses you out, so you can build a relationship with your biggest stressors and manage the way you react to them.

Some stress is healthy … it kicks in to protect you in times of need and gives you a sense of focus when you’re about to take a test or give a presentation. It motivates you to rise to the occasion. And in times of emergency, stress can actually save your life.

Then there is the type of stress that is harmful. It can cause physical, mental, and emotional aches and pains. It can cause your body and mind to overreact to situations, resulting in digestive problems, weight fluctuation, heart disease, depression, and a host of other issues that no one desires or deserves.

It’s time to manage the good, the bad, and the ugly faces of stress in your life. Here are 10 tried-and-true ways to manage your stress.

Number 1: Identify Your Stress Triggers

Recognizing the triggers to your stressful reactions is an important first step in managing your stress. True, it might be impossible to remove life’s stresses, but understanding the things that stress you out—and in what ways—is particularly helpful in solving the underlying problems.

What stresses you out? And how do you react to it? There are a host of physical and mental reactions to stress, and everyone reacts differently. Understanding how it manifests in your life is the first step to finding balance.

Life’s normal stresses don’t stop because we get cancer. We have to deal with all of life’s normal stressors plus the additional stressors that come with cancer. The particular cancer-related stressors and triggers that you are dealing with right now depend on where you are in the cancer journey. Each phase has its own stressors, but some stressors common to all phases are generally fear or a “free-floating” sense of anxiety, sleep disturbances, and hypervigilance. I’ve found that I need to own what I’m feeling, know that it is a normal reaction to the stress of cancer and then work to find my balance. Over time I have been attempting to make peace with my fear of recurrence. When fear rears its ugly head, I try to acknowledge it and be compassionate toward it. Evidently it is a part of me, so I might as well accept it. In this way, I can “breathe into it” and acknowledge that it is there, then attempt to focus on positive thoughts. Many times the fear is caused, not by something substantial, but by something I’ve read or seen on TV; some type of trigger for my memory starts my mind focusing on the negatives, or what ifs. By “breathing into” the fear, acknowledging that for that moment in time I am feeling fearful because of something in the past or something that might be in the future, I can bring myself back to the present and focus on gratitude.

Number 2: Get Some Exercise

Moving your body is important to combat stressful reactions, and prevent them from arising in the future. No matter what your fitness level may be, the central key is simply to move your body every day. Identifying the type or types of exercise that will be possible within your treatment regimen is key to developing a regular exercise routine. Make sure that you check with your doctor before beginning any type of exercise. I found that gentle seated yoga was helpful. BreastCancerAuthority/BreastCancerYoga provides wonderful gentle yoga to assist with the healing process of body and mind.

Number 3: Find Stillness Every Day

Meditation is one of the best tools you have to counteract stress, and your brain’s bias to hold onto negativity. Cancer survivors often have a “loop” of negative thoughts to combat on a daily basis.

In meditation, your body actually releases stress and reverses the effects of the flight-or-fight response. This response was really intended to be a short-term mechanism to protect you from perceived danger, which rarely comes in handy nowadays. And the stress generated within you from the response can be harmful to your health.

A few additional benefits of meditation are: decreased blood pressure and hypertension, decreased cholesterol levels, more efficient oxygen use by the body, increased production of the anti-aging hormone DHEA, and restful sleep.

Number 4: Eat Well

Nourishing your body with the right food will give you the energy you need to tackle what life brings you, including stress.

Every body has different nutritional requirement. If you’re stressed out, what you’re eating is a great thing to look at as stress can be triggered by different foods. It’s important to make conscious eating choices. Many of the Breast Cancer sites provide nutritional information that is recommended during treatment and ever after.

Number 5: Sleep to Combat Stress

Are you getting enough Zzzz’s? Restful sleep is an essential key to staying healthy and strong. When you’re well-rested, you can approach stressful situations more calmly, yet sleep is so often neglected or underemphasized. Sleep disturbances can be a normal reaction to the trauma of a breast cancer diagnosis and all that follows. It is important to make sure that you’re not only getting enough sleep, but that the quality of sleep you’re getting is restful and restorative. If this is an on-going problem, speak with your oncologist. Light exercise and meditation assist with obtaining quality sleep, but if you just can’t seem to handle it on your own, there are medications available to assist with sleep/anxiety problems, at least on a temporary basis.

Number 6: Hit the Road

Taking annual vacations is really good for you. Check with your doctor,a vacation may actually be necessary for good health.

But multi-week, exotic getaways aren’t always an option with the many responsibilities that come with life (or within the cancer experience). Whether we have the time and money to head out on a European tour, or can simply afford a long weekend that’s close to home, planning a break is a great tool for reducing stress. Plus, it gives you something to look forward to.  On a personal note, my husband and I went to a Broadway show and spent the night in Manhattan a couple weeks after my first chemo treatment.  I remember seeing the show Mama Mia and I had moments of pure happiness where I forgot that I was losing my hair and going through chemo treatments.

Number 7: Create a Gratitude Practice

Gratitude is a powerful force that you can use to expand your happiness, improve your health, and—you guessed it—helps you cope with stress.

Many scientific studies, including research by renowned psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, have found that people who consciously focus on gratitude, experience greater emotional wellbeing and physical health than those who don’t.
I start every day with a prayer of gratitude and it can be helpful to keep a gratitude journal. Many recommend writing five things that you are thankful for each day. It took me a while to learn that the things you write in your gratitude journal don’t have to be momentous. Challenge yourself to be thankful for all the little things that enhance your life: a warn cozy bed, that first morning cup of coffee or tea, the smile of your child, that phone call from a friend just when you needed it. These are all things for which to give thanks. I also read in Real Simple magazine that keeping a Success Journal can be beneficial. I hadn’t thought of that before, but I liked the idea. Every night before going to bed, write down four triumphs from your day. Again, doesn’t have to be something momentous: perhaps you were able to turn a negative thought into a positive thought with gratitude, or perhaps you were able to take a short walk and enjoy the air, or maybe you were able to leave the breakfast dishes in the sink and take a much needed nap. You get the picture. The important component of a Gratitude journal and a Success Journal is self-acknowledgement of the many good things in your life and your many successes.

Number 8: Create Cushions in Your Calendar. You probably have a busy schedule, which is one contributor to stress. When you have a lot on your plate, you end up hurrying through the day and multitasking, which will only exacerbate stress levels.

Creating cushions in your schedule is a good tactic to reduce your risk for stress. Leave yourself enough time between getting from point A to point B—whether getting to and from meetings, or getting from home to work to dinner plans, or from doctor appointments…to help diffuse potential stressors that may arise that are out of your control. For example, if you know that you have to be on time to your 9 a.m. meeting and it takes you 20 minutes to get to work, leave yourself 30 minutes so you don’t have to rush or get stressed out if you hit traffic.  Be honest with your boss regarding treatment schedules.  My radiation schedule was 8:00 a. m. which was the time I was to begin work.  I was able to schedule my radiation geographically close to work and was only 1/2 hour late for my normal work time, which I was able to make up at the end of the day.

Number 9: Say Cheese

No one can deny the mind-body connection. But how much power does the body have over the mind?

Research has found that even a phony smile can help you handle stress. So if you’re looking for a way out of stress, you’ll need to smile more. I love to laugh and have always used humor to get through tough situations. My husband is somewhat of a comedienne and he accompanied me to all my chemo treatments. He had me and surrounding chemo patients laughing through each treatment. Laughter truly is great medicine.

Number 10: Stop Should-ing Yourself

Do you do things in your life because you want to … or because you should? Are you paying attention to the signs the universe is sending you and the guidance you feel deep in your soul? Because we’re so full of ideas and judgments about what we should and shouldn’t do, we tend to ignore the best advice we get—the guidance from our soul. Quiet that negative “heckler” inside your head; be kind to yourself, nurture yourself as you would your best friend. Give yourself a nurturing gift: a massage (if permitted by your doctor), a facial, quiet time just for you with nature, or whatever nurtures peace within you.

Blessings. I enjoy your e-mails, so please feel free to e-mail me with any thoughts or questions at Please be sure to write Breast Cancer Coping in your subject line. Sometimes the e-mails are sent to my spam, but I check the subject lines before I delete.

– See more at:


I want to share a wonderful presentation by Dr. Jennifer D. Irwin, Associate Professor in the School of Health Sciences at Western University. It is entitled Survivorship: How do you want it to be? Dr. Irwin is a survivor as well as a Health Behaviorist (one who does research on health-related behaviors) and brings a dual perspective to the cancer experience. She discusses the physical and emotional impact of cancer from the moment of diagnosis: the sudden lack of control of one’s own life, the feelings of isolation and loneliness, the feeling of “horrific betrayal of one’s own body,” the sense of estrangement from all the normal daily life experiences, and how Dr. Irwin learned to regain a sense of control in her life.

Thank you to for e-mailing me this presentation. Breast Cancer Authority is a also an extensive source of information for survivors.


“Peace is an action, requiring little action. Peace is a feeling, requiring little emotion. But you cannot have Peace, the feeling, without Peace the action. Although little energy is required to achieve either, It seems the hardest thing for Man to DO.” Circle of Inspiration By Anna Pereira

This quotation can be taken in the collective worldwide sense, but it can also be taken in the personal sense. One of the hardest things for me in “life beyond breast cancer” was finding an inner peace, that place inside where I could rest and find comfort from fear and anxiety. It can be as difficult to achieve personally, as it is for the world to achieve. I keep reading the quote over and over and trying to break it down into understandable terms that speak to me personally. Action is defined as “the doing of something,” or “a thing done.” So Peace is the doing of something, but it does not require a lot of doing. Peace is a feeling, but requires little emotion. The definition of emotion being “any specific feeling such as love, hate, anger, fear, etc.” But all those feelings require energy. Peace within is almost the absence of feeling, a state of being where feelings that require energy don’t compete (at that moment). A Blessed sense of calmness and serenity. What Peace does require is “just being.” And “just being” requires living in the moment. So, what one must do is take the action to consciously live in the moment. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow will come soon enough. What you have is today, this moment, to rest inside yourself, find your inner Peace. How do you do that? How do you rest from hypervigilance, anger, fear for the future, among all the other symptoms of trauma and anxiety? For me, it is prayer, conscious breathing and meditation, and often it is hard to decipher the difference between the two. Isn’t prayer a form of meditation as you attempt to connect with God and isn’t meditation a form of prayer as you attempt to connect with the Divine within you. The more moments of inner Peace, the more Peace you actually begin to live with day by day. This sense of Peace can also help you through some of the more anxiety provoking days where perhaps you have a mammogram or a scan. I’m not saying that you will blissfully “walk” into that day full of serenity, but you can make the days leading up to the testing calmer. You can improve the quality of your sleep, help with your grief, reduce your anger…all improving your health by reducing stress that wreaks havoc on the body and the mind. How to begin: find a quiet time and a quiet space. It doesn’t need to be any longer than ten to twenty minutes a day. Aromatherapy and soothing music are a nice addition, but not necessary. Conscious breathing just requires slow and deep inhalations and exhalations until you feel yourself “slowing down” inside. Then you can begin your meditation with normal breaths, but perhaps a bit slower and more conscious than normal if you tend to find yourself “holding” your breath or breathing fast as a reaction to your anxiety. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to just “breathe.” A response to chronic anxiety is often fast, short, shallow breathing or realizing that you are actually holding your breath many times during the day. Conscious slow breathing also helps you to be in a “space” where you can review your body for holding stress. Often you’ll find your jaw clenched, your shoulders and neck tight, and your hands clenched. As you breathe, consciously relax any area of your body where you are holding onto your stress. You can begin with a short Metta meditation (I’ve posted this meditation before because I’ve found it so helpful). It is short, easy to remember after a few days of practice, and “says” it all: “May I be safe from inner and outer harm, May I be healthy and strong, May I be happy and peaceful of heart, May I be filled with a sense of ease and well-being.” Repeating these words silently to yourself while breathing slowly for ten minutes a day can be successful in helping you to find Peace.

I will leave you with a quote by Deepak Chopra: “We must find the place within where nothing is impossible”

Coping with Ambiguous Test Results

I went for my yearly mammography and sonogram, waited five days for results and then heard that I need to return for a follow-up mammogram. I previously lived on Long Island, New York and went to a Breast Cancer Center for my testing and was always informed of the results on the same day. For five years I continued to travel three hours for my yearly test, but this year decided to pick up my records and schedule my testing for a local radiology center. I had a choice of a regular radiology center or a breast care center, but when informed that they both used the same radiologist, decided to go to the regular radiology center. Maybe this was my way of finally deciding to let go of the past. Yesterday, I was informed that the radiologist wants a follow-up mammography regarding calcifications in my left breast (I had breast cancer in my right breast). My next appointment is in two days. The first thing I needed to do for myself was gain some knowledge regarding calcifications. I went to for this information. “Calcifications are tiny flecks of calcium…like grains of salt…in the soft tissue of the breast that can sometimes indicate the presence of an early breast cancer. Calcifications usually can’t be felt, but they appear on a mammogram. Depending on how they’re clustered and their shape, size, and number, your doctor may want to do further tests. Calcifications can be macrocalcifications or microcalcifications. Macrocalcifications usually do not require any follow-up as they are usually not associated with cancer. Groups of small calcifications huddled together, called “clusters of microcalcifications,” are associated with extra breast cell activity. Most of the time this is non-cancerous extra cell growth, but sometimes clusters of microcalcifications can occur in areas of early cancer.” On-line I also read at least half of all women over 50 have some form of calcification and they can also be caused by trauma. I keep trying to remind myself of all this information and the statistic. I have had to have a “discussion” with myself regarding all the emotions coming up. I know that a lot of the fear, sadness, anger are triggered by the original diagnosis/testing ten years ago. The body and mind remembers and will “clobber” us, if we allow it. I attempt to keep my mind in the present moment and the present circumstances. It is not a mass this time; if it is cancerous, it is probably very early. I try to keep my mind positive, utilizing meditation and prayer. I keep repeating the centering thoughts: “my security and peace are within,” my strength and power are within.” Part of one of my favorite prayers: “Gracious God you tell us you do not give us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind.” When we can truly believe this, we can face what the future brings, not necessarily fearlessly, but knowing we embody the strength needed to move forward. If my mammography shows pre-cancerous or cancerous calcifications, I will have decisions to make. Until then, I will attempt to live in the moment, repeat my centering thoughts and prayers often, and acknowledge my emotions (reducing their power) and accepting them as a normal reaction to ambiguious test results. Blessings.