It's been fifteen years since I went down that particular path. And what a journey it's been. I found it myself during a monthly breast check and knew in a moment my life would change. I looked up and said, "Why me?" and heard loud and clear, "Why not?" I stood there, took a couple of jagged breaths and told myself it was the end of the pity party. If I hated the catalyst of change, I would hate a part of myself. I could happily fall into the vortex of breast cancer, or I could 'work with it' to heal myself. Not a battle but a work in progress.
For any of you who have gone down this rabbit hole, you may know what I'm talking about. The innumerable doctor's appointments and tests, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and recovery. No pain with the lumpectomy, just the hassle of willing the drains to go down below 20 cc a day so I could start chemo. Chemotherapy left me with a gift of clarity and the joy of learning how to just 'be'. It showed me how to accept the kindness of others and tender compassion. It also revealed how the simplest things can be so beautiful and vivid. An accompanying life-breaking physical weakness gave me a choice; either give in to it while softly taking a last breath or another gift of choosing life. I was not suicidal but feeling intimately close to death. Not going to talk about how poisoned and sick I felt.
It deepened my character in a most positive, profound way. The Chemo Brain effects, although not as pronounced, are still with me but I have long passed the couple of days where I could not find my way while driving home but thankful for muscle memory and recognizable landmarks to say I was almost there.
Now is the time to heal yourself
When my hair grew back, I got curls I had long wanted (my hair has absolutely no body to it and the curls are now gone) and a colour I didn't know existed. Radiation showed me other cancer traveler's journeys through conversation and the deep, prolonged two-year fatigue presented a wonderful opportunity to just 'stop' . . . and surrender to the need of sleep, self-care, and healing. A wise nurse had called me during recovery and said, "Now is the time to be selfish with your time. Now is the time to heal yourself. Your job is to eliminate stress from your life as an ongoing way of living." It was a tall order.
Happily, my experience at the BC Cancer Agency in Surrey made me feel like a queen each time I walked in. Everyone was so kind and I was well supported with access to various programs involving nutrition, make-up, snuggly hats, wigs, library services and energy healing. I really didn't know anything about the latter at the time. However, I did know that trying to reduce the stress of being positive and supportive while maintaining a normal routine for our two daughters, ages eight and ten, was imperative. It's quite amazing to be surrounded by people who could read emotions before you, yourself, could identify them. It was like being cradled in compassion. The energy healing sessions were nothing less than lovely and loving. I 'felt' like I was being healed. It was the right thing to do and it 'did' have a lasting effect.
Was the energy healing modality the practitioners offered actually Reiki, the 'universal life energy'? I really don't recall. But, what I do remember is that it reduced the emotional pain of my cancer experience, improved my mood by alleviating stress and anxiety about the seriousness of cancer and improved my quality of sleep. As typical as it is, I do recall the special, deeply relaxed feeling post-treatment, almost wanting to sleep like that forever. I wholeheartedly believe it helped to initiate my body's healing and on so many levels.
There is much anecdotal evidence of Reiki benefits for those who are experiencing cancer. "Patients have reported feeling more relaxed after a Reiki treatment as well as feeling more mentally and emotionally balanced. Additionally, . . . according to Penn medicine, the Abramson Cancer Center (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) has released reports showing that, when combined with traditional treatments, the use of Reiki can reduce stress levels, alleviate anxiety, improve relaxation and reduce perceptions of pain in patients with cancer. Likewise, according to the American Cancer Society, one research study showed that cancer patients participating in Reiki sessions were less likely to experience pain than those who were not participating in Reiki sessions.”1 In fact, there are over 1,000 hospitals throughout both Canada and the United States where Reiki is offered as a complementary healing treatment to traditional medicine.
Fast forward to 2017, I'm still here and healthy. Now, it's my privilege, in deep gratitude, to offer Reiki to others who may or may not be travelling the same medical path.
1 IARP. (2017). Reiki and Breast Cancer.
Reana Selody Joubert
Pondering, mulling, musing with pen in hand about animals or people, sometimes family or sometimes wild. Oh, and news & events, too.
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