There is a quote from Seduction of the Minotaur by Anais Nin that continues to haunt me: “We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.” I believe that our previous experiences shape our perceptions. To free yourself from fear and anxiety, which are based on an illusion, you have to unleash the monster confined in the labyrinth of your subconscious.
“We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.” – Anaïs Nin
It sounds simple, but it’s hard to let go of the monster inside. I had breast cancer, and nothing will be the same. Things seem to be one way and then revealed to be another. I cried when I had to speak the words out loud to my family. I got angry with cancer for “getting” me. I pushed sad thoughts away when I didn’t have the time or energy to deal with them. I felt relieved when spared from radiation and chemo – and a little guilty. It sounds irrational to feel bad about not “suffering” as much as other women. Still, it’s all part of the trauma of having breast cancer. Little black clouds will always follow me.
After my double mastectomy, I looked at my reflection in the mirror. Purple-ish crescent scars and wrinkled, baggy flesh collapsed across my chest. Did I do the right thing? My breast reconstruction didn’t take place as planned. An area of breast tissue had poor blood supply during surgery, requiring a delay to allow time for the delicate tissue to heal. Would my body betray me again? While I waited for my next surgery, I flirted with the idea of going flat. It wasn’t so bad, was it? But my skin thrived, thanks to a daily application of a clear, oily, garlicky-smelling “voodoo gel” known as dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO). Now, I have newly constructed breasts in a neighborhood of many weird, prickly sensations.
I am very aware of my body. I have new challenges to face living with cancer’s collateral damage. Can I allow what is here physically and emotionally and meet it with an open and responsive heart? I hope I can. I’m still striving for equanimity to achieve a steadiness of mind and clear understanding so I can live with the constantly changing and shifting world inside and out. Pieces of my life fell apart, and I’m stitching them together to make them whole. But the pieces don’t fit exactly the same as they once did. Cancer took up space in the maze of my mind and sucked the air from the room; I refuse to let it define me.
Pieces of my life fell apart, and I’m stitching them together to make them whole. But the pieces don’t fit exactly the same as they once did.
Recently, a strange calm like still water has taken hold of me. The hard edges of fear, anger, and sadness have been smoothed like stones tumbled and abraded in streams. I don’t believe my tangled feelings have disappeared completely. I can’t say that I have slain the monster – I still have work to do. For now, the monster is subdued. I am ready to begin again.