I dream I am in a house of rough men dressed in black. I am naked from the waist up, jewels of gold, red, and blue embedded in my breast. The King comes in and I tell him the thieves have stolen my clothes. He doesn’t believe me. Later, I am walking on the road with the King. We see the thieves with the clothing. “Now do you believe me,” I say. “I am so sorry I doubted you,” says the King. I walk away from him. He wants to go with me. “No,” I say, “This path is for me to walk alone.” He is sad, but does not follow. I walk out onto the top of a high, ancient stone wall, without fear or anxiety, one step at a time, the jewels in my breasts luminous in the rising sun.
I had this dream the night before I met with my breast cancer surgeon. It gave me an ebullient image, filled with meaning, as I entered a path so many women have walked. All the “clothing”, –the façade of a no-cancer body has been stolen. The King, the animus or ego, has been robbed of the self he showed to the outer world. What remains is the divine essence of the feminine, the jewels, atop an ancient wall that straddles the membrane of life and death.
I have experienced all the terrors, high anxiety, and roiling emotions of a woman facing cancer. Partial mastectomy left me with radiation to follow, and years of medication to inhibit the return of the disease. Excellent prognosis. A low grade breast cancer so many women have endured and recovered from. And yet, when my surgeon said, “Looks like it is cancer,” I knew my life would never be the same. I felt I had a choice: to go through each ordeal, trembling, searching the Internet, focused on what could go wrong, or I could take a step back, and see this as a profound journey of self discovery.
I chose the latter, and it has brought me into a new world. I feel my own vulnerability as never before. I feel the reality of the suffering of others as never before: the faces of the people in the waiting room, each one with eyes that know cancer, women with head scarves, men who make jokes to cover their fear.
Everything that was ordinary is now extraordinary. I feel a depth of joy, relishing every moment with family and friends, delighting in the warmth and caring of the angels at Settle’s Northwest Hospital, splashing my granddaughter in the swimming pool even as I fight back tears.
Each day brings new revelations. Carrying “jewels” in my breasts, I remember my pregnancies. When I carried my children, my breasts grew hard, enormous, so sensitive to the cold. I watched in awe as the dome of my uterus grew, even as now I notice the long lateral scar across the moonscape of one breast. In my dream, I walk across an ancient stone wall, the jewels in my breasts radiating in the rising sun. Now I receive the rays of a large mechanical eye that moves in its orbit across my body, shooting its greys as an act of healing, even as healthy cells are also being destroyed. A part of me is being sacrificed so that a more healthy, and a more conscious me can be born.
As with pregnancy, I pay close attention to everything I eat and drink. No alcohol, no caffeine, 85 grams of protein a day, veggies and fruits in abundance. Pregnancy brought a shift in my identity as I prepared to become a mother. Now, far beyond child-bearing age, I feel pregnant with a new wholeness, a new creative identity, held and cherished by the divine. As I walk along the ancient wall between life and death, the light of consciousness shines into the jewels of the archetypal Feminine, the giver and nurturer of life, embedded my body, in all of us, regardless of gender.
Halfway through radiation, I had the following dream:
I see a beautiful green plant, like no plant I recognize in waking life, full foliage, rounded leaves. Out of the center of the plant comes a gentle fountain of water, from a source deep within. The water bubbles up and over the plant. This image is bathed in light, a light that brightens and brightens until all I see is the blinding white light.
I woke and thought, “Was that the white light? Am I dead?” I realize, no, I am vibrantly alive, and the self-watering plant is the life force. It lives within me. And when I die, I will live in IT.
Does this mean the cancer is a “gift”? Certainly no rational person wants such a diagnosis, but at some point, we all face the reality of our “mortal coil”, as Hamlet would say. But if we can listen to our dreams and search our inner and outer lives for meaning, the frightening things can be not only endured, but transformed, and echo into eternity.