Ta-Ta For Now

Content Warning: mentions of breast cancer and alcoholism

FYI: This is my final post.

Yes, you read that correctly, MY. FINAL. POST.

I had to come to terms with something very recent as the possibility of breast cancer began dancing around the horizon of my life. Early in August I found a lump and went in for an emergency exam by my physician. She agreed there was something there, so I booked an appointment to go all the way to Danville, PA for a mammogram and ultrasound. Not the best thing to experience. Yes, this is the moment when women (and a few men) get to experience having a part of the body pressed into a pancake. I did laugh quite a bit during the interim portions of the exam as it was that, hyperventilate, or run to the nearest bar.

I ended up having to go for two rounds of mammograms as the radiologist was struggling to really identify the issue. Apparently, there was the first time in the history of weight loss, that losing 100 pounds was a problem. My original images’ pre-weight loss wasn’t comparable to the current images. The shape changes with a lot less fat. When the tech said she needed to use her ‘squishy’ tray I immediately began quoting Dory from Finding Nemo. We both laughed but seriously that tray hurt. The ultrasound wasn’t much better. The radiologist came in and told me in person ‘that yes, there’s a mass as well as fibro-glandular cysts. However, due to your weight loss, we’re not sure what we’re looking at so come back in 6 months before we send you on to a breast clinic.’ So basically, I get to walk around with a painful (possibly cancerous) lump for 6 months, go for more imaging, and then get sent down the road.

I really feel like Life is playing kick the can, only I’m the can.

As this added health challenge was added to my plate of things to juggle prior to the start of school, I found myself debating if I needed to cut back on anything. Lots of praying later, being the blogger for Marywood had to go as I needed to conserve my energy for my health, my education, and my recovery program. I have enjoyed writing for the school immensely and I know I’ll miss it.

When I knew I had to do this final post, I wanted it to be more than just a quick summary with some artwork of the past, with a fond farewell kind of post. I’d rather it be like it always has been, something of quality and of service. That means art therapy and breast cancer.

It can always be terrifying to discover one has breast cancer, let alone facing the possibility of facing a potential diagnosis of breast cancer. I know it runs in my family on my father’s side. My great-grandmother died of breast cancer. It was so aggressive that by the time it was discovered she had lumps appearing on her back. My dad has had a lump removed but thankfully it turned out to be a very hard lump of fat. So now it’s my turn I’m guessing. It’s a great opportunity to utilize many tools I have picked up over the years to maintain my sanity (and sobriety), get in touch with that part of my heart to process the mind-body connection, and be proactive spiritually through prayer and painting.

I pulled some data from the CDC’s website on some facts to be aware of especially with the growing numbers of men (yes men) being diagnosed with breast cancer. Per the CDC website “Breast cancer is most often found in women, but men can get breast cancer too. About 1 out of every 100 breast cancers diagnosed in the United States is found in a man. The most common kinds of breast cancer in men are the same kinds in women—invasive ductal carcinoma, invasive lobular carcinoma, and ductal carcinoma in situ. The most common symptoms of breast cancer in men are—

  • A lump or swelling in the breast.
  • Redness or flaky skin in the breast.
  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
  • Nipple discharge.
  • Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.

But for women, this is something we learn to look for in high school. One would think it normal to always be aware of the possibility of breast cancer. It’s even worse for those who come from families with high rates of cancer. I have already lost 2 friends. One died in her late 20’s and the other in her early 50’s. Per the CDC, “ About 42,000 women and 500 men in the U.S. die each year from breast cancer.”

 “Different people have different symptoms of breast cancer. Some people do not have any signs or symptoms at all.

Some warning signs of breast cancer are—

  • New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).
  • Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.
  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
  • Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.
  • Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.
  • Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.
  • Pain in any area of the breast.

Keep in mind that these symptoms can happen with other conditions that are not cancer.”

That last sentence is why I have not been panicking at all. There really could be something completely different and not cancerous at all. Time truly will tell. I also believe that what I am going through is a form of spiritual training and it really is about many things that have to shift in me. The most were I had to begin to really forgive myself and members of my family for everything. I noticed that when I began doing this the symptoms of inflammation in the areolas, redness of the skin and slight discharge of the nipples vanished in days. The 2 small lumps that had been suspicious in my original mammogram from over a year and a half ago had vanished as well. But, this asymmetrical mass in my left breast, that as of now is classified as Benign-3. Meaning there is less than a 2% chance of malignancy. Pretty good news to me.

Besides, heart disease is still the number one killer of women versus cancer. I’ve good heart health and will continue to focus on the positive. I remind myself often that I am not alone and many others around the world are either experiencing something like this, have experienced it, and/or were affected as a result of a loved one dealing with the same issue. It’s a small world after all.

So life is good albeit painful. I am having far more pain flares with this lump, in part due to the constant work of heart-centered therapy techniques and in part of where the lump is located. The pain itself is draining so my physical quality of life hasn’t been the greatest, and that means less restorative sleep. But my gratitude has deepened, my spiritual life has grown in leaps and bounds, and I am loving having a life based completely in service to God and others.

I also have been looking at art differently. I used to focus on the darker color palettes. Now I am focusing on the lighter color palettes. It really has given the art a different feel, which in turn gives me different feelings that have helped me find comfort in myself even while in pain. Life really is better looking at it as a glass half full rather than half empty.

I may be signing off at this time but it won’t be long before you hear from me again in some capacity in the writing world. I thank you all for reading my words and being part of my journey thus far. I wish you all the best and ta-ta for now.

I rose from the ashes
wings made fire
burnt thru those walls
Love grew Higher

Pain reseeded into Earth’s floor
Mother of Life
giveth me more

Son of Man, Daughter of Light
stand before you
now rescue them all
Trueselves remain
To enter Thy Door

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