Really? Blessings of cancer? Isn’t cancer a horrific disease that kills people after months or years of pain and suffering? In some cases, yes, cancer is a killer disease with treatments that are sometimes far worse than the disease itself. However, I’ve had a very different experience of cancer. Breast cancer, to be specific. And just four short months after my diagnosis, I am cancer free, in excellent health and fitness, and have never been happier in my life.
This wasn’t one of those miracle healings where the cancer just evaporated. From the first diagnosis, I employed a stellar combination of alternative therapies and Western medicine. I chose an excellent facility for surgery (4,000 miles from my Maui home) and had the tremendous loving support and prayers of my husband, my family, my friends, and people who follow my work around the world. My positive attitude and outlook never faltered.
One of the biggest blessings I received from cancer is that it forced me to shift a lifelong pattern that I had tried very consciously to shift over the course of several years. I’ve written about this in previous blogs… if you’ve been following, you may remember my introduction of an aspect of myself called GSD Girl (Get Sh*t Done Girl). Control freak, perfectionist, and workaholic, she’s been a whip master that just won’t quit. I was well aware that this kind of work ethic was unsustainable and not at all fun or joyful, even when I was doing what I loved. But I just could not budge it far enough, fast enough. Enter the breast cancer diagnosis.
I was actually relieved, because I knew that this diagnosis meant that I must bring it all to a grinding halt. I decided to go ahead with one last Reclaiming Aphrodite weekend workshop rather than cancel it, and to bring my diagnosis into the container of the weekend. I’m so glad I did, it was a fantastic workshop for all of us… plus, I have no idea if I’ll be teaching workshops in the future. Right now, the thought of putting in all the work and effort it takes to fill a workshop makes me cringe. I think that’s a good sign!
When I announced my diagnosis, every conceivable cancer “cure” was sent to me. I looked at all of them. I researched and assessed and talked to women who had been through it as well as medical professionals. Within a few weeks, I had decided on my course of treatment and taken the steps to put it all into motion. This is where GSD Girl helped out. I made arrangements to travel to the mainland with my husband, stay with my in-laws, and to receive the finest of care at the Piper Breast Center in Minneapolis. I arranged the surgery date before I left, scheduling both the surgeon to do a double mastectomy and the plastic surgeon to do immediate reconstruction with tissue transplants from my belly fat. (DIEP Flap Reconstruction).
I went into surgery early on the morning of May 29th. After the successful fourteen hour surgery, I was left with a 20″ hip to hip incision, a relocated belly button, a flat tummy (first time in my life) and of course, a brand new pair of “girls.” The plastic surgeon did a beautiful job and I’ve been assured that the scars will flatten and lighten up over the course of the next year. Because I do not have implants, my new breasts are good for life. All the risk of transplant failure took place in the first 48 hours, during which they monitored my newly connected blood vessels hourly. My new girls are a little smaller and higher, which is fine with me, and they have the shape and feel of normal breast tissue. There are still some tender areas on my body, and places that are numb, and large ridges of scar tissue, but every day they feel better and better.
I was told going in that if they found cancer in my lymph nodes, they would not do the reconstruction so that I could have radiation and it would not be on newly transplanted tissue. I went in fingers crossed and woke up ecstatic that they did the whole deal. In subsequent dissections of the three removed sentinel lymph nodes, they found a micro-metastasis, a very tiny piece of cancer in one node. I was told that I had only a 9% chance of having cancer in my other nodes. After following up with an oncologist before leaving Minneapolis, I learned that my oncotype score came back at 14 out of 100… a low risk of recurrence. By taking a hormone blocker called Tamoxifen over the next few years, I reduce that risk to 9%, and that is with NO CHEMO or radiation. I can live with that! It was interesting to note that when I got back home and consulted with my Maui oncologist, he recommended chemo. It was very empowering to say, “no thank you” and reinforced the strength of my decision to leave the island for treatment.
Two weeks after surgery, I started walking. First, around the block, and then a mile, then four, and six, and one day over eight miles. I returned home with my husband four weeks after surgery. I’m at two months post surgery now, and I can hardly tell I’ve even had surgery! I’m back to 95% of my pre-surgery fitness routine, and back to all my normal activities. Except for one: my old work habits.
So what’s next, you ask? My current intention is this: I am immersing deeply into radical self-care, creating and integrating a healthy new model for my life, health, and work. Key word here is “integrating.” This is where the real tests begin, as I feel fully functional and healthy and ready to place myself again in service to the planet. I’m looking deeply within now for inspiration, rather than pushing myself from a place of motivation. I am opening myself to receiving, rather than seeking and going after what I “think” I “should” be doing. I am entertaining invitations and inner guidance. And I am sharing my story. I started The Breast Cancer Mystery School Facebook page, and will continue to update the Reclaiming Aphrodite Facebook page and website. And I’ll keep on writing.
Please visit the Facebook pages and like them to build the communities. I also welcome your comments below. Thank you for your prayers, your love, your support, and positive energy. It truly made a difference!
Love & blessings, Amrita