Thursday, March 8, 2012

Radical Vulnerability and Love...

Today I finished cancer treatments that began on July 1st 2011. I had already been through a lion’s share of intense experience in my 43 years on the planet; and I couldn’t help but ask myself why I needed cancer on top of the other challenges.
In asking “why”, I chose to enter a conscious, personal conversation. 

My question was indeed: “why”, not, “why me”. It had more to do with alignment, than being martyred in any way by the “ailment” our culture calls cancer.
In July of 2010, I was aware of an energetic shift in the tissues on the left of my sternum. I knew the moment it happened on a microscopic level.  One night, just as I was about asleep, I felt a twinge in my cells. I thought to myself, as I rubbed the left side of my sternum into my left breast: 

“I want to check out what that point is on an acupuncture chart, there is something going on there.”
In five months time, it grew to the point I could feel something the size of a dried up pea. My two sisters that are home health nurses, referred to their training and asked me: “Is it tender?” and informed me that cancer isn’t tender to the touch. 

To my relief at the time, this little bump was tender; and I had no family history of breast cancer to think of, I ate fairly healthy (occasional dalliances with pastries notwithstanding), no smoking or drinking, wasn’t overweight and didn’t seem to fit the profile.
As I sat in meditation at Bodhi Yoga, playing the deep tones of my crystal bowl, the tiny, tender bump in my left breast over my heart would almost dissipate completely and be gone for a day or two.
A few more months went by, and I continued my yoga lifestyle, eating well, mothering Tom, teaching certifications, and working through the grieving process of Rex’s passing, on June 27th, 2010.
March rolled around, and the tiny bump was hurting when I laid in a twist over the flat bolster in Yin Yoga, so I soon met with a doctor who preformed an ultrasound and told me: “It’s just a fluid filled cyst...I could drain it, but it’ll just come back...I’d just let it be.” At the time, my body knew this was bad advice, but I let it be.
By June it was bigger and uncomfortable. I could also feel a change in my armpit, which I knew full well to be a danger sign.
Between March and May, I had been distracted with someone who was invasively profiting from my ideas and image. I tried (without real success) to call them to some sense of accountability, and was saddened by the outcome.
I had repeatedly tried to forgive, but realized that my role in the relationship was wasted, without helping this person I care about come to awareness of how they were enriching them-self off of my energy, as well as the integrity of my emotional and intellectual capital.
My hope and intention was that conversation between us would offer them the chance to clear the energy of infringement. The potential for resolution was there, but not fully realized through the outcome; yet I knew I had accomplished my role in our time together and I felt sad that It was at an end.

The end of June 2011, marked a year since Rex’s sudden illness. In the days, weeks and months since his passing, I blogged about him as a way of processing my grief, and to let his many friends at Bodhi Yoga and his clients, know that he, (as well as the love he shared), was still very close. My blogging entries were intended to share my deep belief that what our society calls death, is such a scam; and that those we truly know deep love through, never really leave us.

On my bike rides up the canyon along the Provo River during Spring and early Summer, I was trying to map out a future that would be drastically different from what I had assumed. I peddled my bike in meditative prayer, asking God to give me a mantra that would open me to a new life and bring my grieving full circle.
I could feel both Rex and God's awareness of me, close on those rides, and in a short time, the mantra came into my mind crystal clear:
“I surrender my life to thy love in store for me”

On the day this mantra came fully into my heart, I got on my bike to head home down the canyon, along the river. I noticed, in the sky above me, a rainless rainbow had appeared; a beautiful sign to me that God was listening.

I had been contemplating, how when we loose someone close, that we love (by death or the end of a dysfunctional relationship) we sometimes, for a while, can loose our faith in life. I was aware of this, and wanted to use my grief on growth, rather than giving up or getting stuck.

I wanted the one year date of Rex’s passing to be a private time I spent just with myself. Like so many others, I was processing the loss of a huge presence in my life. I didn’t want to blog about it; yet that evening his presence was nudging me to again write down my experience with him and in the end I did. (click her to read)

The following week, I could tell that the tenderness I had felt in my chest, was the pressure of this bump pushing into my muscle. The bump itself was big enough now I could tell that it did feel “numb” to my touch, and I knew it was time to act.
I went into see Dr. James Woodmanse, who owns CottonTree Family medical (the office where Rex and I worked). When he looked at it, palpating carefully, he asked:  

“Remind me about the history of this?”

I replied: “Well, I’d have to call it a little piece of granite headstone” (meaning Rex’s) and we both chuckled. It was July 1st, one year to the day of his funeral.
On the surface of my skin, it showed none of the normal signs of cancer. When James tried to drain it and nothing came out, I saw the concern on his face. He scheduled the ultrasound revealing a tear-shaped, invasive (fast-spreading) tumor, and there I was, in the odyssey of the past nine months.

As I have reflected back on THE MOST, of my collection of intense life experiences, I marvel at my own radical vulnerability, and the immense outpouring of love and kindness coming to me from all directions.

I have reflected often on last summer’s new life mantra:

“I surrender my life to thy love in store for me.”

I have come to know more about true love and true friendship than I ever thought I had the capacity to experience. I have joked often, that I believe I am being prepared to win the lottery because:

The depth of love, and felt prayers, and faith, and foot-rubs, and baths drawn, and homemade Jam, and veggies from the garden, and banana muffins, and bread, and t-shirts, and soft-warm-hats, and dancing monkey dolls, and funny DVDs, and books, and dinners, and head scratchers, and cookies, and love notes, and bags with money and heartfelt gifts left on christmas eve with an anonymous knock on my doorstep, has been monumental.

A dear neighbor who is in her 90s has showed up to keep me with fresh roses on my counter weekly as I went through chemo.

Yogis Karen and Sally and my dear, dear Melanye have cleaned my house, made me herbal tea, and done Thai Yoga on my sore and grieving body.

Lovely Yogi Kim, bringing jars of freshly juiced veggies every few days.

80 year old yogi, Lynn, reading up on and keeping me abreast of natural remedies and safeguards for treatment.

Frank working his magic behind the scenes.

Jamie taking my Thai Partner Yoga clients and shipping online orders out to so many of you.

Michael, Andrea, Frances, Elizabeth, Karen and Christi taking care of the center's yoga classes and assisting me in leading certifications, and all the kindness and prayers from students there.

Energy healing and cranial sessions, and Yogis across the globe sending me distance healing help and love, and Kathy’s once a day (EVERY DAY) email photo of some beautiful landscape to freshen my heart.

Students in Bodhi Yoga classes on Friday mornings, chanting “The Long Time Sun” mantra for me and dedicating their practices to my healing on the days the IV Chemo infusion dripped into my veins.

My sisters: Jeanie, Twila, Von and Melody, and brothers: Whitney and Lance, and Tom’s dad all watching over me, flying in and out of town, supporting and loving and cheering me on, from close and long distance.

Dear sistahhhh Kathleen Jensen driving Tom to school in the morning, making sure we’re okay at night and so much more, in an endless stream of friendship and sisterhood I never knew I would have in my life.

My church family fasting, praying and loving me, like a low drum-beat in the back of my heart; and the young-men-Priests bringing me the Sacrament, so I could partake of the sacred bread and water in my home each week, one of whom lost his own mother to breast cancer not long ago.

Three doctors and surgeon and nurses, including my former yoga students, nurse-yogi-Stephanie, who was there prior to surgery (both times), and nurse-yogi-Shawna who I found holding my hand as I came out of the anesthesia.

Doctor Woodmanse holding my Thai Partner Yoga office for me, waiting for my return, when I hope soon to take some of the pressure off of him:) and everyone at CottonTree pulling for me.

So many of your listening ears, facebook and blog comments of support and encouragement, and love expressed on a endless spectrum.

So much so, that there have been countless times when my cup has runneth over, as it is right now in recollection.

I stand amazed and deeply touched amidst your help and support.  You each in your own way, made it impossible for me to die of a broken heart, and instead have broke my heart open further than I could have ever done on my own, dear sisters and brothers.

During these treatments, people have said over and over that cancer is a lonely condition.  And I say, with tears in my eyes that I have no idea what they are talking about. I have felt deeply HELD in your love every step of the way.

From here I meet with Doctors once a quarter, and in two years, with no recurrence, I am considered in full remission.

I know without doubt that if it does reoccur, that I have done everything I can, and so have YOU; and that this initial experience has served a worthy purpose of putting things in context.  On my end, I have become acquainted with radical vulnerability and love in it’s truest and purest from.

Above all else I am thankful to my Tom. 

As his mom, I am fully aware that this is an intimate part of his own life-experience, that will in many ways, be a significant marker on the map of the rest of his life too.

He has played it all very close to the vest; and I honor his deep wisdom, quiet resolve, and good, kind, dear heart. I know how much he loves me.
So today I looked up what the acupuncture point is that I first felt, as it turns out, it is a point ruling the “sealing of the spirit in the body”, also ruling the health of the milk ducts...and my original medical diagnosis came in as “invasive ductal carcinoma.” ;)
Several acquaintances I shared this experience with are no longer here in body with the rest of us, and to them with whom I shared a chemo room, and witnessed on their worst days, I offer the most sincere thank you I can muster. Your passings from this life, so close in my view, taught me gratitude and perspective, and the value of living life from as honest a place as I can muster, even when it has entailed some of my own toughest moments.
So tonight again in gratitude, and on behalf of Tom as well, I thank each of you. We are looking forward to this journey of rebuilding my mind-body strength and stamina; a soulful path, that is after all, my specialty.
Sending you Peace and Blessings and a steady stream of gratitude always.
With love,

Syl & Tom