The Scarlet C


During the past two weeks I became aware of a dark passenger inside me.  Unlike Dexter’s, this one had tangible form, and was growing, ever so slowly inside my left breast. More than anyone, I was surprised that my cells had turned on me in this way. Surely a vegan diet, steady exercise regime, positive attitude and all around healthy lifestyle was protection against such an alarming turn of events.  Alas, despite all my seemingly preventive measures, with a phone call and the words, ” I don’t have good news for you,” I entered the portal of the “C” World.  Cancer:  the dreaded  something talked about in hushed tones, with nervous sideway glances at the one being talked about; a topic inspiring dramatic narratives, many tragic, some triumphant, all brave and heroic.  My first thought (in the age of social media and instant information) was how to spin this?  When one declares, “I have cancer” it seems to trump all other aspects of one’s self, and there is a risk of forever more being labeled a “cancer victim or survivor.”  I know I don’t want to be the former, and I want to do more than survive.  I want to live–I want to THRIVE–and I am so much more than the group of wayward cells that were clustered and ensconced in my breast tissue. Oddly, I didn’t immediately adopt the common rhetoric of the ‘war on cancer.”   Just as I know the critical voice that hounds me from time to time is really a part of me, I also know these cells are me too. Thinking of them like some juvenile deliquents running amok, I approached them sternly and lovingly, with the attitude of refocusing and retraining–and the request that they must reform or go. I do not harbor resentment at my cancer cells for they have given me the message that something in my body/life is out of balance.

Fear of cancer is visceral.

Facing my mortality provokes a myriad of reactions: fear, denial, bargaining, depression, anger. Less obsessed with “why me” and more with “why not me,” my dark night of the soul came on quickly and unrelentingly following the diagnosis. Lacking information other than vague words such as “mild, non-aggressive”, my imagination soared to new heights of fear and dread. Although steeped in knowledge about healing and alternative approaches to medicine, I was still vulnerable to the culture of fear which surrounds a diagnosis of cancer. However, it was my knowledge–my experience with healing–which turned things around in my head and helped me gain serenity. (Indeed, the power of positive affirmations is remarkable, as is the calming effect of Matcha Green Tea). That and simply getting more information about the extent of the malignancy that was living rent-free in my breast. Until my Dr. told me exactly what I was dealing with, I could not talk about it much, nor think about anything else.   Having been “staged” as a category I, I can now speak of cancer with more neutrality than fear. I have formulated a plan of action and move forward with renewed vision and purpose. Although I respectfully honor every individual’s approach to dealing with a cancer diagnosis, I continue to find it helpful to downplay it’s effect on my life and well-being.   Hurray for races for the cure, support groups, pink ribbons and research. I am ALL for it,  and will no doubt be an active participant in club “c” (in volunteering to help others)  to which no one wants an invitation. And yes I want and NEED support. However, in describing my experience,  I don’t want to give cancer any more power in my life; I choose to refocus my attention on the healing part. And gratitude. And forgiveness. And Love.  I am SHARON with a capital S who is dealing with “c.”

In addition to the surgery I had Tuesday-a lumpectomy–I continue my vegan/macrobiotic diet, stepped up with Matcha green tea, vitamin supplements. I engage accupuncture, reiki, herbal treatments, self-affirmations my cat, my dear husband clark,  helping others, teaching, making art, prayer, laying on of hands, family, friends,  laughter, potlucks, good movies, dance, nature–anything to restore balance. I remember to breathe deeply more often, smile a lot, and cannot think of a better place to be in my life than right here, right now.

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