The black angel bending over me in the darkness of the cold, stark hospital room is the last to tend to me. Through an anesthesia haze I see the feathers of her wings lightly waving as she alights beside me. Her wingspan touches the bare walls enclosing me while I lie alone in the small metal bed. A breeze blows on my face; I look up and see kindness in her ebony eyes. Having lived with death in the corner of the room for years, this presence is no stranger to me. Has death come for me as this luminous raven woman, fluttering in disguise to trick me?
The angel’s wing touches my arm and becomes a hand, gently stroking my arm. She whispers, “I have been through this; you will get through this, too.” In that moment, she becomes the angel of mercy, the messenger of hope, the woman who has traveled the path before me and has reached her destination alive. Once again I have sent death skulking back into the corner to wait.
The nurse, the woman, the cancer survivor finishing my care leaves feathers floating around me as I stare out of the drapeless window to an urban night sky with its wires, flashing signs, and empty buildings awaiting the occupants who will arrive at day’s beginning. She will not return, but the touch of her winged fingers and her tale of resilience will remain, will be felt long into the years following this first encounter with the journey of cancer survivorship.
It only takes a few seconds to receive the news that you have been diagnosed with cancer—yet from that point on, your world has been changed forever. You enter a vast terrain of uncertainty, isolation, and insecurity when you finish treatment for cancer. What is it like to face daily life now that you are someone who has been diagnosed with cancer? Fear of recurrence, anxiety and depression related to uncertainty, loss and financial difficulties, and concerns around sexuality are all a part of this new territory. You may feel isolated, alone, and distressed. You have all the knowledge within you to understand and create your own healing, but sometimes you need guidance to help you find where you are and to support you in discovering where you want to go.
Excerpt from Surviving the Storm: A Workbook for Telling Your Cancer Story
My experience with breast cancer began in 2007. I’m fortunate to be in remission yet, as it does for all of us, the shadow of cancer still lingers to this day. I’m still around in October of 2018 and in October of 2017 was priviledged to go to Harmony Hill, a beautiful retreat center in Washington, to be part a facilitation team for a cancer survivor retreat. It was a beautiful and powerful experience and I still think of the women (and one man) who I had the honor of being with for a weekend. I wish everyone of you who has suffered with a cancer diagnosis could be packing your bags and heading off to a lovely and nurturing retreat. Yet, if it’s not possible for you to take a retreat, here are some suggestions for you to create your own retreat. I encourage you to nurture your body, mind, and soul and give yourself the space and time you deserve to honor your own healing.
*Create a quiet healing space for yourself
*Take a walk in a natural setting
*Listen to your favorite music
*Treat yourself to something you wouldn’t ordinarily do for yourself
*Let everyone else take care of themselves … even for a moment