Breast Cancer,
& Pruning

My Story - Part I

By this way and that a life is lived and the soul advances.
But it's only after years of being shaken and searched does the soul fully blossom and reveal its radiant features.
This image will link to the card available on Etsy. Print available on my website here.

October has been Breast Cancer Awareness month. I've hesitated to offer any advice, or links or information, or even any of my story: there is so much good effort, good advice, good intention already circulating. In fact, I was going to write about the Celtic celebration of Halloween - Samhain (pronounced 'sowen') today, with a little Greek mythology thrown in for color. Samhain is considered the Autumn 'cross-quarter' (between Equinox and Winter Solstice), when the veils between this world and the unseen world become thin... I'll just say that much. Being a rapturous nature child, I revel in the lore and the points of transition along the wheel of the year. But, as I said, I was going to write about this... then found myself listening to another voice - maybe under the influence of Samhain after all.

My story is not unique. God knows, countless women face breast cancer; many are pulled into its orbit and descend like Persephone to its dark underworld. But, unfortunately, all do not return to a verdant spring to greet Demeter (check your mythology for this poignant Greek story of Autumn and Winter) as I did. I've lived to witness many springs (15 all told) since the pruning of my left breast.

I thought I would share some of my story because it is inextricably woven into my art and writing and intentions. I would have to say, for me, breast cancer was a gift, a terrible gift. Terrible, like Kali (Hindu goddess of destruction), in destroying my illusions and destroying my fear. Breast cancer coaxed me out on many limbs to commence many leaps. And the many crashes and the many bruises that followed set me up to earn fearless (I say 'earn fearless', as in earn cred) and gain wisdom. I feel compelled, it turns out, to share this wisdom... about leaping, falling, failing, finally prevailing, not so much to realize success, but to realize the resilience of my spirit and discover the color of my calling. The outcome of all this is that I must (as in no choice) make art, I must write, I must encourage and hopefully inspire others. What you see on my blog, on my website, in my cards and prints, is a result of waking up in a recovery room 15 years ago and taking my first breath for the second time.

I'll start at the beginning and then over the next few posts fill in some of the early episodes in the journey home to myself after cancer. The cancer part absolutely triggered the journey part. Not so much cancer even, as it was loss. It could have been a divorce, which I have experienced, the loss of my father, which I have experienced, or any number of losses big and small - and I've had a few.

Breast cancer is a particular kind of loss: loss by pruning (literal and metaphorical); pruning that seems to set up extraordinary opportunity for terrible growth (descent to deep, dark places to germinate new seeds) after rounds of terrible destruction (fear of leaping is obliterated). I hope you're getting my context for 'terrible' by now: terrible = powerfully transformational.

All of this is my personal experience - I can't speak for anyone else. I've read accounts by women who say breast cancer was not a gift, there was no redemption in it for them, and they resent others who call it a gift. Again, I can only testify about my own truth and I send love to each of my sisters who have a different story to tell.

But, this is enough for today... so for next time, Part II: I Am Pruned

I climb. I backtrack. I float. I ramble my way home.
from Mary Oliver, West Wind