Breast Cancer: 1 Degree of Separation
I sat down to write an article about Breast Cancer. Not really sure why since I know so many people that are first hand experts. And I am fortunate enough to be at arm’s length and hold an inexperienced and innocent view. I truly believe there is always a reason to support an experience. Good or not so good. But when it comes to the ‘C’ word; well, I often wonder what is a good enough or high enough reason for anyone to experience cancer. Then I always seem to pose the question “isn’t there another way to learn the same lesson? Or an experience to have the same emotional learning opportunity?”
My very first experience with breast cancer came just two months after moving to Los Angeles, California from Vancouver BC. One of my closest friends – Roberta (Bobbi) Stackhouse called me saying she had found a lump while in the shower. I was 28 and she was 34 and it was September 1997. When we hung up the phone I cried. Not because I felt bad. But because I had no clue about Breast Cancer or what she might have to go through in the coming months. From my perspective my fears of being of ‘uneducated’ and ‘ignorant’ had come true.
My ignorance and fear of not knowing what to say allowed me to find excuses. Excuses for not taking the time to see her when I was in Vancouver later in the fall. We talked on the phone regularly. We would reminisce about fun times hanging out after work. About, her dog Duke – the German Sheppard she had lost to cancer. We talked about friends, family anything to pass the time while she went through radiation, chemotherapy and a double mastectomy. I felt safe in my little apartment in Los Angeles while she was back living with her parents just north of Toronto Ontario. Then during one of our conversations in late February 1998 we were chatting and she was excited that the doctors had sent her home. And that it seems she is in the clear.
We both breathed a sigh of relief. And I felt like I had been given a second opportunity to show her that I cared. We made plans to see each other later that spring when I would be home in Ontario visiting my family just an hour away from her.
A week later, while sitting in my office I received a call. The number was Bobbi’s but the voice wasn’t. It was her sister calling to tell me that she had passed away the night before. That she had not felt well and they took her to the hospital and she was gone very soon after.
For me there were tears and too many questions; then there was the guilt that never seems to subside for not taking the time to drive by her home the weekend I was in Vancouver. And that is when my questions started … Really? There was no other way for me to learn the value of friendship? Really? There was no other way to comprehend the value of staying present? Really? There is no cure for cancer? But all these continue to go unanswered, and with each friend that learns of their own diagnoses I am afforded the opportunity to ask the questions all over again with one simple difference.
Trust. Now I trust the answer isn’t for me to know but at sometime in the future it will be and until then I trust the experience for the person is truly for their highest good and my role is to step into faith and do what fear kept me from doing before – offering myself as a friend, confident, healer and anything the individual may just ask of me and yes that would include taking time out of my schedule and commitments to drive and spend time with them for fear is no longer controlling my decisions.
And finally the awareness that I sought I found I sat down to write this ~ September is the month in which fear held me back from visiting Bobbi thirteen years ago. It is the month Tito, my first dog first started showing signs of his bone cancer. The month of September is the month Aine, my second dog started showing signs of her stage 4 skin cancer which was removed successfully, and September is the month Tucker, my third dog started showing signs of his stomach cancer.
Ironically, September is the month this article is being published – no coincidences that both Bobbi, Tito and Tucker are always close at heart and Aine is laying by my feet as I write this.
With this I encourage you today to take a few moments to reflect on those who are energetically close to you – allow their energy to touch your heart like you’ve not allowed before and push back the veil of uncertainty to boldly step into trust. Do you you must, live like you love, and be who are.