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The Blessings of Breast Cancer (An Unlikely Title, I Know)


Several years ago, I got the distressing diagnosis: breast cancer.  Some abnormal cells in the margins of a sample they biopsied.  My treatment included a course of radiation, which I had over the summer of 2005 at the Helen and Harry Gray Cancer Center at Hartford Hospital.  Everyone there was professional and compassionate as they tatooed the tiny marks they needed to line me up properly on the table and direct the radiation at precisely the right spot.  Every day for six weeks I drove into Hartford for my 8 a.m. appointment.  If there was no parking at the entryway, one of the attendants took my keys with a smile and parked it for me.  All this kindness couldn't obscure the dreadful fact that I had breast cancer.

I was often in and out in 15 minutes.  Made it seem like a breeze, this painless treatment.  I imagined a golden shield over my heart, protecting it from the invisible, cell-killing treatment.  I prayed that my lungs would remain unaffected by the noxious beams penetrating my left breast.  All this was before my training in Energy Medicine, before I even knew the power of intention.

But there were people there who did understand the healing power of touch -- the volunteer Reiki practitioners that I saw whenever they had an opening after my treatments.  They would kindly ask how I was feeling.  One day I was fine, the next -- the question brought tears.  I had received Reiki training; in fact I had been taught by Alice Moore, Director of Integrative Medicine at Hartford Hospital, so I knew they were using ancient Japanese symbols to activate the life force energy that flows through all living things. The Reiki practitioners were condiuts for "Ki," allowing it to flow through them and into my (compromised) body.

They did this by placing their hands at specific points, starting with my head and ending at my feet.  This was so comforting -- warm hands over my tender heart, warm hands over the pit of my stomach where the fear was lodged, warm hands on my bare feet, bringing me down to earth.

I recall one session in particular, with a lovely woman named Lucy.  That day I had my period, with the usual cramps and low back pain.  We spoke briefly as I got settled on the massage table.  The music that day, always soothing and ethereal, was the sound of falling rain.  I was transported to the Adirondacks, where I spent many summers as a kid, sitting in a bunker at Camp Nazareth with the canvas sides rolled up, listening to the sounds of a summer shower. Occasionally, thunder rolled in the distance.  From the top bunk in my memory, I saw the crystal droplets of rain , dripping from the eaves into the wet, rock-lined trench below, like those beaded curtains so popular back then, in the late 60's.  The thrumming was mesmerizing.  I let go of my worries (who should I share this with -- this bad news of mine?) and slipped into one of those rare moments of trust and surrender.

Lucy slid both her hands under my aching back.  Just rest,  she murmured.  I allowed myself to sink into the nest of warmth and nurturing she was creating for me. I felt the pain draining into her open hands while warmth suffused what I now know is my second chakra -- the emotional center of my being.  My low belly seemed to have become a simmering cauldron of power, gently stirring like a pot of soup over a low flame.

All I know is you can't get that in a doctor's office -- that deep presence, that compassion, the intimacy that comes with trusting touch.  I knew then that I wanted to be able to give others what Lucy had given to me -- peace of mind and body despite difficult circumstances.

I was truly grateful for modern science, the technology, the professionalism and capability of the doctors who oversaw my treatment, the staff who arranged appointments, even the guys who parked my car -- the level of care was excellent.  But my experience of Reiki, of being on the receiving end of Lucy's healing touch, was life-changing for me.

That summer I discovered Louise Hay's little book, Heal Your Life, and began piecing together the energetic origins of my breast cancer.  Breasts represent mothering, nurturing, nourishment; the left side of the body represents receptivity, taking in, feminine energy; and cancer -- resentment, grief, and rage.  Would I end up resentful if I remained completely devoted to raising my girls at the expense of my passions?  Was this cancer scare suggesting I should nurture myself in a more balanced way?

I decided yes!

With the enthusiastic support of my family, that Fall I began my studies at the Institute of Healing Arts and Sciences in Bloomfield, CT.  I describe it as four years of learning energy system anatomy, healing techniques, and group therapy! (Only half kidding here; there really was group therapy. OMG, the stories I could tell!)  The safety that was provided allowed us to get really honest with ourselves and all the ways we undermine our own well-being, thinking all along we're doing the right thing. Healing came from deep acceptance of ourselves and each other as we ditched beliefs that no longer served us.

I am now blessed with a growing healing practice, Blue Heron Healing, where I am honored to pass along the gift I received from Lucy and the other talented Reiki practitioners at the cancer center.  It was the alternative therapy I received that summer that expanded my medical care to include my soul.

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Note:  I was a member of the last graduating class of the Institute of Healing Arts and Sciences.  In response to many inquiries, I'll be offering Opening the Channel:  Introduction to Energy Medicine, beginning in the Fall, 2016.  See the tab of the same title on my home page for more information. I'd love to have you join us!


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