So, yes, I was the woman in the preceding post who received a callback after going for a mammogram in January.
The secretary who called said they needed to do more mammograms and do an ultrasound.
“Did they see a lump or something,” I asked.
She replied: “Not really. They just need to take another look.”
It would be a week before my appointment, giving me far too much time to worry.
The fretting started immediately, of course. What if . . .?
Within hours, I had researched mammograms and potential health problems, from benign cysts to breast cancer and its various stages. I learned that about 5 to 10 percent of women are called back for further examination after an initial mammogram, and that in most cases, the follow-up reveals there are no health issues.
But in some cases, more investigation is needed in the form of biopsies and possibly more. Much more. It could get worse.
Still, I was immediately heartened to learn that even if one had the worst possible result — Stage IV cancer — it wouldn’t be an immediate death sentence.
There, I said the word: Death . . .
That was the bottom line, of course.
I’m part of the voluntary Quebec program that screens women between the ages of 50 and 69 for breast cancer with mammograms every two years. I’ve been doing this for several years, so I felt they had seen something in my January mammogram that wasn’t there two years earlier.
How quickly does breast cancer grow, I wondered.
Two years was more than enough time, I learned.
Yes, I was aware that I was getting way ahead of myself, that there might not be anything wrong at all. I have particularly dense breasts, and my research revealed that sometimes ultrasounds are needed for a clearer picture.
But . . .
No matter that we — that I — can be snatched from this Earth at any moment through accidents or massive body breakdowns (heart attacks, aneurysms etc). We live with that. We generally don’t fret about it.
But the first hint that one might have something that could possibly be the thing that kills you can lead to a lot of anxiety, my research on mammogram callbacks showed. All of the research mentioned the anxiety. But the program I’m in is designed to catch breast cancer early, to nip it in its bud.
“That’s why I’m part of the program,” I told myself.
That was Day 1. I did most of my research at work, during free moments.
There were six more days to go.
The preceding post — called Perspectives on our mortality — was also written on Day 1. So, yes, you can see that it didn’t take me long from the morning phone call to start appreciating things I have been taking for granted, and to shrug of trivial annoyances.
But a lot more happened in the six days that followed.
Back in my CEGEP (junior college) days, I took a course on Death and Dying. Our main text was Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s book of the same name, which studied the seven stages a person goes through when they learn they have a terminal illness.
So, I was up to speed, I felt. Besides, I have strong spiritual beliefs: reincarnation, karma, the immortality of the spirit.
There would be no seven stages for me — if, in fact, I had terminal breast cancer.
Au contraire, I would face death with the resolve of a Shaolin priestess, fearlessly, with joy in my heart, knowing that death is simply a transition process. As W.Q. Judge wrote:
“That which men call death is but a change of location for the Ego, a mere transformation, a forsaking for a time of the mortal frame, a short period of rest before one reassumes another human frame in the world of mortals. The Lord of this body is nameless; dwelling in numerous tenements of clay, it appears to come and go; but neither death nor time can claim it, for it is deathless, unchangeable, and pure, beyond Time itself, and not to be measured.” – W. Q. Judge
I realized I had been somewhat lax in my spiritual ways of late, that I had been sidetracked by so many of the world’s impermanent woes and had been just plain lazy in the pursuit of noble purpose (besides my job as a news editor).
I had wandered off my path. I had forgotten my mission in life.
Of course, as soon as I realized that, I took the first step back onto the path.
And I felt happy, so very happy to be back on course. It didn’t matter what the prognosis might be after the following week’s mammogram and ultrasound.
I sat in a pew in Mary Queen of the World Cathedral on a few occasions during those six days, and renewed my vow to the Great Spirit to be an instrument of brotherly love whenever possible, and to let harmlessness be the keynote of my life. I prefer the term “Great Spirit” to the word God, because “God” implies some patriarchal authoritative figure, whereas “Great Spirit” implies to me an energy force that embodies the Universe and animates everything in it. We are manifestations of that energy force, and its energy within is — call it what you may — is the only part of us that is immortal.
Essentially, we are all gods, as more than one sage has pointed out.
That is my truth. I don’t expect anyone to blindly believe it. But I came to that “truth” in my 20s when I rediscovered Theosophy.
When I talk (silently) to the Great Spirit, sometimes I get a warm, tingly, fuzzy feeling. But I hadn’t had that feeling in quite some time. It came back to me several times in my conversations with the Great Spirit over the course of the six days. To me, it was/is a reconnection with the Source.
I was and am back on track.
I guess you could call it a spiritual reawakening.
I didn’t try to make any deals with the Great Spirit, such as if you let me live, I will do this or that. I simply renewed my vow, regardless of whether I was to live another five years, 30 years or die the next day.
I found myself listening to some of my favourite spiritual music by the likes of George Harrison and a track or two from Godspell.
Yet despite all the spiritual happiness I was feeling, I wasn’t completely without worry for what the follow-up mammograms and ultrasound might reveal. It wasn’t about death anymore, though. It was more about what a bother it would be if something was found and I had to go through various treatments.
I didn’t sleep very well the night before the appointment. I tossed and turned and kept waking up . . . What if?
Well, I’ve kept you waiting long enough: the new mammograms and the ultrasound showed there were no problems. The doctor wanted to take a closer look because my breasts are quite dense, and the first mammograms did not give a clear picture.
Of course I felt relieved. But I wasn’t jumping for joy. I was exhausted.
I returned to Mary Queen of the World Cathedral before work that day and renewed my vows once again. I meant it, Great Spirit, no matter what, no matter when you decide to take me back.
In hindsight, the week leading up to the follow-up visit may have been a preview, in part, of what is to come for me — if I don’t die suddenly.
Sooner or later, I will learn that I am dying of this or that. And I am sure to have some fear and dread at first. But I know that my spirituality will quickly triumph, and that I may welcome the impending liberation of the spirit and its return to its Source.
There are no coincidences in life.
I have been reawakened.
Thank you, Great Spirit.
Love to all . . .
We are not brought into existence by chance nor thrown up into earth life like wreckage cast along the shore, but are here for infinitely noble purposes.— Katherine Tingley