In January 2001, at the age of sixty-nine, I was diagnosed with a malignant lump in my left breast. I was dumbstruck. How was it possible that I had contracted this frightening and potentially lethal disease? I had always done things right – eaten healthily, meditated, exercised and practiced yoga. I felt I had been kind and gentle to others.
The entry in my journal written on the first of January 2001, just six days prior to my diagnosis reads as follows; ‘This year I have great plans. The first and most important thing for me is to reclaim the wisdom of my body and learn how to trust its messages. To no longer fear germs and cancer. To make my body my friend and my ally.’
This thinking led directly to my choice not to follow the conventional route of a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radium treatment. Radical surgery was not for me. The treatment wasn’t a guarantee anyway. I didn’t want my beautiful body that had served me so well, mutilated, if there was the faintest possibility that it wasn’t really necessary. Nor did I want to destroy my immune system, lose all my hair or become violently ill from chemical drugs I would have to take.
Moreover, I had watched my beloved mother suffer greatly from a mastectomy and removal of her underarm glands, A course of radium had burnt her skin pitch black and she had been extremely weak and ill for many months. I didn’t have the courage to endure that kind of suffering.
After much soul searching and consulting with healers whose opinions I respect, and sensing that my body was not strong enough to dissolve the cancerous growth, I accepted that the lump would have to be surgically removed. I chose to work with an allopathic doctor experienced in the holistic modalities as he understood my perspectives and respected my choices. He recommended a surgeon who agreed to perform minimal surgery.
Although, inevitably, there was mixed reaction about the route I was choosing, I had wonderful support from my family and friends I felt their concern as well as their lack of trust. This was good for me for it made me question all my decisions. I asked those who were sceptical, and did not understand my view, simply to respect my choice of journey.
Pre-hospital time was one of shopping with my beautiful daughter for pretty nighties, fresh bed linen and window drapes to blend in with my newly painted bedroom. My peaceful home was light and sunny and warm. Alive with the sound of birdsong and a view through the trees to distant mountains. The right environment for healing. And if I was going to die, this was where I wanted to be – in my own home, surrounded by familiar things, my family and close friends.
The day of my operation came. Mine was only a one-day procedure yet I felt scared and alone as my brother and I walked into the hospital. Thankfully, the whole process was over soon and, surprisingly, there was no pain after the surgery.
Home again, I was convinced that the appearance of the cancer was not something to fear, but a wake-up call. A great gift. A lesson to be learnt. It was now time for me to take stock of my life and my journey. Perhaps I was going to die. If so, I needed to heal in the deepest sense of the word.
My guide here was Christiane Northrup who, in “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom”, talks of healing being a natural process, within everyone’s power. Dr Northrup points out that ‘curing’ is usually a medical intervention which does not necessarily address the underlying factors that contribute to symptoms.
“Healing goes deeper than curing, though cure and restoration of physical function may accompany healing. One can also be healed completely yet die of one’s illness. True Healing must always come from within,’ she says. “bringing together the often hidden aspects of a person’s life as they relate to their illness.”
Quote with kind permission of Dr Christiane Northrup
My first step was thus to face my immortality and seek understanding of death and dying. My ‘guru’ and wise friend, student of Eastern and Western philosophies and a Minister of New Thought, explained the dying process to me in many shared hours of talking, tears and laughter Together we planned the kind of memorial I wanted as both closure for my life and as celebration for friends and family. This was important to me after the experience of emptiness and incompleteness that the funerals of my parents had given me.
Aware that my wonderful children with their strong personalities might find it difficult to accept my intention of having, for example, the cheapest coffin, I prepared my memorial service in great detail and placed this document with other important personal papers.
I updated my Will and joined the Living Will Society to ensure that I would not be kept alive on life support machines. These were all tangible, practical and basic matters that I felt I needed to formalise.
Diet, together with vitamins, minerals and herbs, was important, particularly in the building up of my immune system. My doctor recommended Iscador®/Mistletoe Therapy injections as an important and valuable cancer therapy. I had to overcome my initial squeamishness until I realized the healing potential of the liquid flowing through my body and was then able to inject myself. Following his advice further, I started taking Tamoxifen tablets – a chemical drug and form of hormonal therapy - but these gave me hot flushes and mood swings and were discarded a month later. Sessions with a kinesiologist sorted out which supplements were necessary for my individual requirements.
This process saw me in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens for many, many days, allowing Mother Earth to help me heal. Here I wept for all the nurturing I had not allowed myself; for all the hobbies I had started and not completed; for the possibility of dying and leaving so much uncompleted. But here I also reflected on my achievements and my capacity for doing things for others. It was here also, one of our favourite places, that I invited my eleven-year old grandson, with the promise of a milkshake. He had been avoiding me since my operation and so I told him exactly what was happening to me, even that I might die. We spoke openly about dying and that if that happened, I would be leaving my body but would always be there with him. How wonderful it was that he understood and accepted that I would some day become his own special angel.
I KNOW that angels are there to help and guide me. My angels do more for me than merely find me parking - they do that very well too.
The practice of prayer, visualisation, meditation and affirmations have been powerful in my ongoing healing process. Following, every afternoon for a period of three months, a visualisation audiotape , ‘Take Charge of Your Life’ by Patricia Diane Cota-Robles. proved a very effective healing tool - healing that brought light into the cells of my body and awakened them to their ability to heal.
Step by step, I added wonderfully healing activities to my days. Remembering my love of dancing during my married years, I joined a Pinelands High School ballroom dancing class. My partner for the term was a gorgeous 19-year old teacher who danced like a dream. Despite the dressing on my wound, we sailed past couples struggling to learn the steps as we danced the foxtrot, cha cha, tango, quickstep, waltz and jive. At last, I was nurturing myself and feeling in heaven to the bargain!
Fortuitously, Dakini Centre for Women opened its doors during this time. Here was an extraordinary opportunity for women to enjoy and cherish themselves.. There I could dance, learn to play the jembe drum, stretch my body doing yoga and T‘ai Chi, and paint. Dakini gave me many hours and days of fun with a wonderful group of women. Added to that, a fun-loving, nurturing artist –friend offered me a space in her class exploring art and colour – more good fortune and another synchronicity!
“I am healed! I am healed!”
Three months after my operation I was told that there was no sign of the cancer. By this time I was certainly feeling well and strong but couldn't quite believe this news. However, a week later, in the middle of a treatment with another healer, I was told : “Marion, you are healed you know”. Then I knew it was true. Elated, ecstatic, thrilled, feeling as light as air, I hugged her and headed down to the sea. Like a child again, I skipped along the beach singing, “I am healed! I am healed!” An inner knowing, this, and wise to keep silent in front of the skeptics.
Three and a half years later I plucked up the courage to have another mammogram. The x-rays showed no sign of cancer: I was clear! A bewildered nurse received a heartfelt hug as I left the room! Five years have passed and I am still healthy, happy and whole.
It has been a rewarding, challenging story in a life of many different experiences, ups and downs...I humbly salute the healers I was miraculously led to who used their wisdom, caring and channeling gifts to facilitate my healing process. They have been intimate participants in my journey. Some have become very special friends.
I honour the Universe’s wonderful way of supporting us when we are open to this. When we can take one small step toward God, He/She takes more steps towards us than are grains of sand on our Earth.
I don’t know how long I’ll still be around on our planet. In the meantime I seize each day. I live my life creatively, with a good balance of work and play. Above all, I feel gratitude and appreciation for the great and rich abundance I experience, and have experienced, in my life.
And here am I in my elder years – living a full and meaningful life, finding delight in the simple things, every day. What moves me? Cooking and baking – which I do also for income. Circle Dancing every week, to the dances and music of many traditions old and new. Sculpture – the wonder at that my hands mould. Walking daily in communion and connection with Nature’s world. Networking. Facilitating ongoing courses based on Julia Cameron’s ‘The Artist’s Way’. Participating in upliftment activities at Chris Hani Independent School in the Jo Slovo camp. Above all, ensuring that I spend quality time with family and friends who are important to me.
This is it! The alternating experiences of joy, delight and pain – all on the menu of our ‘one and precious life’.
POEM BELOW WAS WRITTEN DURING THE HEALING PROCESS!
WAKE UP CALL (February 2001)
I wanted to start the New Year right
So went to my healer to get a new diet.
While I was there I mentioned I had
A lump in my breast, but didn’t think it was bad.
Go have it examined now, right away.
How long have you had it? Why did you delay?
Cancer said the eventual report.
I was dumbfounded at such a thought.
How me, when I’ve always lived right,
Been kind and gentle, hated a fight,
Watched my diet, meditated and did
All the right things that would help me keep fit.
Suddenly I was faced with major decisions,
No time to think about what were the reasons,
What shall I do? To whom shall I go?
Who’s the best person to help, that I know?
For me it was not just to ‘cut and to fry’,
Get rid of my breast and still possibly die.
This lump in my breast was a great big gift,
It came to teach me that I needed to shift.
A new way of being and connecting with soul;
Of changing perceptions for making me whole.
Once I’d acknowledged what life is about,
The lump had served me, and it could come out.
It was my gift and a wake up call,
Not a big monster to fear at all.
Now it’s time to be true to me
And do the things that make me feel free.
No longer be sweet and kind and be there
For everyone else who has a care.
That too ha it’s place, but the needs of my soul
Speaks through my body; listening to them helps make me whole!