It is the night before my mastectomy. I go for a walk along the beach. I have walked along this beach so many times. This will be my last walk with both my breasts. I train my consciousness into my left breast. My breast is sore. I have already had two pieces of my breast removed. I try and feel into my breast. Can I detect the cancerous cells? I don’t know. Maybe it does feel different. But I feel perfectly healthy. It seems so bizarre that I can feel so sick when I’m suffering from a common cold but when I have the life threatening disease of cancer I feel perfectly fine.
I am scared about my surgery tomorrow. It will be my fourth operation under general anaesthetic in two months! I hate having general anaesthetics! Having my life go past without having any conscious experience of it freaks me out. The thought of dying under anaesthetic scares me. I want to be present at my death; to be able to welcome the moment of leaving this life. I am scared I will die tomorrow.
As I walk along the beach I think of all the amazing support I have received from so many people over the last two months. My breast, or the cancer in my breast, is giving me such a precious gift. I have had so many people call and visit me and wish me well. I feel so loved. I feel happy, content and at peace. I no longer feel driven to construct my life. I now know that my life is here. Perhaps for the first time in my life I am truly satisfied with who I am, with my life as it is.
“The essence of it is to let yourself see how much clinging to how you want your life to be is nothing more than a process of self-torture. Drop it, and allow yourself to fall openly and unguardedly in love with your life as it is and everything in it” (Santorelli, 1999, p. 182).
I have an incredible feeling of peace wash over me. I realise I am ready to die. I would leave this life without any regrets. I have lived my life to the full and to the best of my ability. Although I would like to live longer to continue to experience the amazing miracle of human life, I am reconciled to the fact that I might die tomorrow.
I have the humorous thought that I guess that’s one way of dealing with all my concerns about getting old. Maybe this has happened to me to allow me to see the beauty in growing old, to truly realise what is important in my life. I now know what is important in my life. It is about relationships with people. To feel connected to others.
I have a sudden realisation I have been doing this all my life. I have actually been tending to the most important aspect of my life all along. I have given myself such a hard time for not achieving more, contributing more to the state of the world. I now realise I have made a contribution to the world, at least in a small part of my world. I am reminded of the poem I wrote just before I was diagnosed with cancer, in fact it was the day before my annual breast screen in which the cancerous lesion was detected. The last two stanzas now seem eerily prescient.
At times I feel shriveled by my fear!
What are my fears?
Fear that I will waste this precious gift of life.
That I will not be worthy
of being allowed to live
while others have died young.
My sister Ann who died at 35 years of age.
I’ve had an extra 20 years of life
What have I done with this?
Have I made good use of this time?
YES I can now truthfully respond. I have made good use of my life. I have not wasted this precious gift of my life. As I walk along the beach the night before my mastectomy. Not knowing whether I will survive the operation to walk along this beach again. I have a moment of insight.