Waiting for the results of my first mammogram post treatment. Why are the taking so long? The longest 20 minutes of my life. Tears streaming quietly over my face, as I remember the last time I was in that room, when the discovered my cancer, the last time that they squeezed my breast into the imaging machine. How the impossible had become possible, how life could turn without warning or notice, on it’s head, how the ceremony of being mortally wounded began.
Sitting here, in the space of not knowing how the story will evolve and also not knowing how I will hold the story that will evolve. Hoping for something bigger than the desperate prayer that I will be “okay”, that the scan may be clean. Hoping for an opening to say YES to whatever appears on the trail for me next, surrendering my judgment of what it may mean. Can I entertain the possibility that everything I need to heal forward, to evolve, to live out my destiny, is right here, presented to me – alive in the good or the bad news that the doctor may bring? And to exercise what they call “the last of the human freedoms”, the freedom to interact with whatever is on my path, in my unique way, to weave it into the healing that I am more deeply committed to than anything else in my life now.
And yet, here I sit, in agony, facing the terror of possibly more medical intervention and the nightmare of cancer recurrence, feeling the sharp pain of my own ego survival instincts, suffering my humanness.
Then the door opens, and the technician returns, with a “release” paper. All looked normal, she said, almost taken aback by my catatonic expression. It takes me a few minutes to let it in, to allow it, to feel it enter my being, my body jumping up and hugging her first, unbeknownst to me, then my mind, reading again and again the two words on the paper in the doctor’s handwriting “Looks great!”. That’s it? I say. That’s it, the technician says.
As I leave the hallway, I see another woman, gown on, moving with distraught body posture, between the bathroom and one of the examination rooms. Is she okay? Someone today, will sit in the same chair as I sat in last year and hear their worst fear come true, that there is an area that looks suspicious…. Who am I to be healthy?
I walk outside into the waiting area where my man sits in the companion version of the land with no name, that I have just left behind, the in between, the waiting, being suspended mid-air. WE ARE OKAY, I say to him, WE ARE ACTUALLY OKAY! And we hold each other in our moment of glory, lost now, in the relief of this new territory, not quite knowing where to turn next. I take a picture with my release paper in front of my chest, much like a prisoner with her number, only that my paper sets me free, to cross the threshold of the building that I entered a year ago, and that like bookends has spanned the journey of this past year through the seasons of my treatment.
Now what? Only in the weeks to follow, do I realize that there is an aspect of incorporation here, that I was unprepared for. In many ways I still am in treatment and yes, still on Tamaxofin. But something is concluded with that first clean scan, and I find myself now in new territory yet again. Getting a clean bill of health has me question what it means for me to be “normal”.
What is my new normal? Is it still okay to take time for myself, for my healing practices, for qi gong, yoga, medicine walks, writing, voice recordings, support groups and the like? Even if I am healthy now? What is health? In many ways true healing has only just begun. What is this new life asking of me now?