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Shine a Light on Life – Breast Cancer and Recovery

From blogger Kate Campbell: About 12.3 percent of women, 1 in 8 will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point during their lifetime, based on 2010-2012 data from the National Cancer Institute. The good news is that today nearly 85 percent of those diagnosed survive at least 5 years. But, common as the condition is, from my experience, the diagnosis can knock you off your wheels. An interesting point the nurses made to me is that many woman get routine mammograms around important dates–birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, which means a lot of women get a cancer diagnosis in the middle of what should be a happy occasion. Mother’s Day might not be a good time to get a regular mammogram

Shine a Light on Life - Breast Cancer and Recovery

This morning I’m fighting off a bit of depression, going over things that aren’t working in my life. If I work on it, the list gets very long and the load of dissatisfaction gets heavy, too heavy to bear. But then I bounce back, well, claw might be a better word. Kinda like crawling hand-over-hand on slender vines while dangling off the side of a cliff. I glance down at the rocks and the sliver of water and keep pulling, think what a mess I’d make if I let go.

But, before my surgery, right after Christmas, I had an amazing experience that helped put the perils of the abyss in perspective. I’d been running around filled with the need to do this and that for the holidays — clean, socialize, plan, wrap, visit, love, catch up, worry, intensely practice yoga, kiss, hug, dance, sing, sometimes brushing my teeth. Sleeping little, accomplishing less.

Two days before I went back to work in January, I went to bed, mind whirling, and found I couldn’t get back up. It was like a lead weight impressed me down on the bed. My mind began whirling. I was hallucinating wide awake, aware that it was happening, but helpless to make it stop. I checked the bedside clock, considered calling 911. I’d never want to disturb the dispatchers at an ungodly hour. Just seems too presumptuous. It felt like I’d lost my grip on sanity. The experience continued with increasing vividness.

I clearly saw my sons, everyone in the family — my grandchildren, my nieces and nephews, my siblings, my friends, co-workers, myself.

I realized everyone was growing and changing as I looked deeply into all our lives. It became joyful and reassuring, kaleidoscopic, voyeuristic, but I also realized there is still much work for all of us to do, that it’s getting done despite my impatience and meddling. I saw that everyone is handling their own life business very well, thank you.

I tried to shut down, go to sleep pinned to the bed as I was, unable to lift arms or legs. So I envisioned a warm and healing white light focused on my body. I often do this visualization during the meditation practice at the end of yoga workouts for relaxation and as a self-healing practice.

Then from the left side of my mind came an intense white light, pure and strong, over-powering in its brightness. I stepped closer to it, to its infinite power, looked for its source, for the energy behind the emanation, but could not penetrate the overpowering light, could not see beyond the engulfing brightness, and was afraid. I stepped back from this pure light and it gradually faded. Alone in the dark of my room I slept deeply, woke up feeling rested.

I don’t understand this experience. I’ve never felt like that before. I’ve tried to explain it to myself — fear and stress from having breast cancer and facing surgery, lack of sleep, too much yoga, over stimulation from the holidays, overwork to make the holidays special, worry, anxiety, anger, disappointment.

What I clearly saw is all everyone growing into better lives, better selves, transforming in beautiful ways — even me. It was reassuring to see and understand. I saw my work as a writer, characters I need to know, stories I need to tell, feelings I need to express.

It’s a lot of work, my work, and I’m growing and changing too. I felt washed with knowledge and amazement, cleansed with a deep understanding that everything is fine, working just as God has planned for me, our family, you, our world.

Say what you will about this experience. I don’t feel fit to judge it. I can only report truthfully what happened and be amazed. When you have a moment to talk, I’m here waiting. Love you.

P.S. Four months have passed since I saw the light. Went to the oncologist last week. She said, “You’re cancer free.” They caught it early through a routine mammogram.




Kate Campbell

In addition to writing fiction and poetry, Kate Campbell is an environmental and political writer. Her work appears regularly in newspapers and magazines throughout the West. She lives in Sacramento and publishes the Word Garden blog.

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Anne Parris

Thursday 7th of May 2015

This really moved me. I'm due for a mammogram, and I'll call to make my appointment today.


Thursday 7th of May 2015

I can perfectly understand what it must have felt to be told you are cancer free... Cheers to that and to this great post of yours.

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