In December of 2001, breast cancer was the furthest thing from my mind. I was busy. I had a loving husband, a nice home, three beautiful stepchildren, a good job. Then my perfect little world was suddenly turned inside out and upside down.
A routine, suspicious mammogram. A phone call. Mammogram #2. A stereotactic core biopsy.
My diagnosis: breast cancer, stage 2, infiltrating, ductal, HER2.
All of the above happened within the fearful, anxious, unbelievable time span of 7 days. And my life has never been the same.
The next nine months held a most strange quality of disbelief and exhaustion. It also held two surgeries, four chemotherapy treatments spaced three weeks apart, and 47 radiation treatments (spaced daily, over the course of 9 weeks).
It's been three years since my life was turned upside down and inside out?. Three years. My prognosis is very good. I hear this every three months depending on which doctor my appointment is with: breast surgeon, medical oncologist, or radiation oncologist.
Three years have passed. I look good. I feel good. And yet nothing has been able to quiet the storms of fear that threaten to overwhelm me from time to time. The insidious fear that the breast cancer might return. The intimidating fear of another potentially deadly diagnosis.
I have meditated and prayed about this. I have talked about it with my wonderful therapist and with other breast cancer survivors. I have tried guided imagery, journaling, and art journaling. These have all tempered the fear to some extent, but only for a very short while.
Then I began practicing SoulCollage? and my inner dynamics began to change.
SoulCollage? is a unique blend of spiritual practice and the fun of collage. Using our intuition and imagination, we create a deck of collaged cards where each card reflects a different aspect of who we are. The cards are then used to assist us to access our own deep wisdom and help us answer life's questions.
There are four suits in a SoulCollage? deck: The Committee (the inner voices in our minds), The Community (the family and friends who love us), The Companions (animal totems who lend us their energies) and The Council (archetypes who symbolize major life themes for us).
SoulCollage? cards are made using magazine images, scissors, a glue stick, and 5" x 8" pieces of mat board.
It turned out to be the best way for me to deal with the lingering fears that I was left with after my cancer treatments were over. I listened carefully inside of me to the voices that had something to say about my breasts, and my breast cancer, and I made three cards over the course of a few months.
The "voices" I named and then worked with in the coming months were: I am the one who fears breast cancer returning, I am the one who survived breast cancer and walked away from it (both of these voices were Committee members), and I am the one who gave you the courage to survive breast cancer (an archetype from my Council).
After making the cards, I journaled with them, asking each voice the following questions: Who are you? What do you have to give me? What do you want from me? How will I remember?
The entire process of making these SoulCollage? cards and then dialoguing with them led me deeper into my feelings about my diagnosis and all that I had been through on my journey since then. This led me to a very deep and powerful spiritual healing that is difficult to describe, yet very real in my life.
Now, when my fears of another cancer diagnosis threaten to consume me, I simply look at my SoulCollage? card that honors that voice inside of me and I acknowledge it. This voice, this fear will always be a part of me, but I do not have to allow it to control me. I am reminded of this because I also have the other two cards which speak to me of how I found the inner strength and courage to take the breast cancer journey.
Anne Marie Bennett is a freelance writer and self-taught artist who enjoys playing with mixed-media collage, and all forms of color and words. She has a BS degree in Education from Southern Connecticut State University and has taught children, teens and adults throughout the East Coast. She is a breast cancer survivor and feels closest to her own soul when she is writing, creating art, teaching, and sharing the gift of SoulCollage? with others. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband Jeff and two highly cherished (and spoiled) feline companions named Sasha and Scooter. To see my breast cancer SoulCollage? cards and read more about them, please visit: kaleidosoul.com/breastcancer.html
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