Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Breast Cancer: How My Body Knew Before I Did

Moonbeams and Eco-Dreams was never meant to be about me. That's why I have a journal. I come here to transcend me. If I do share personal details it is as context to causes dear to my heart like environmentalism, health, Fair Trade, and micro-lending.

Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer on January 3, 2014. I started searching the internet for stories from women like me. Women whose lives had been turned up-side-down by those two words. The realities these strangers endure make me feel less alone. I wanted to hear everything. What stage were their cancers? What were their symptoms? And OMG how did they get through it all? There is no replacement for hearing from those who have been through it, so I will share my story, too.

My body screamed warnings at me during the year leading up to my diagnosis. In retrospect I see just how stark they were. But I put them in the back of my mind at the time because they seemed so bizarre. I think you'll agree.


 "It's time for you to get cancer."

During the summer of 2013, several times a week I'd wake in the middle of the night to the thought, "It's time for you to get cancer". I ignored this because it pissed me off. I thought my brain was just screwing with me, like a recurrent nightmare or something. I even mocked it. Like damn, I forgot I set up that cancer getting appointment - how inconvenient!

An Archetype From Beyond

A local woman named Cheryl died of cancer a few years ago. She was a friend of a friend. In the summer of 2013, about five months before receiving my breast cancer diagnosis, I could not stop thinking about Cheryl, which was strange since I didn't know her. It was almost like something about her was trying to break through my consciousness and get my attention. This went on for a while. I told our mutual friend this at church one day and we tried to figure out what it could mean. I'm not implying that the spirit of a stranger was trying give me a dire warning from beyond. I just think my body was using Cheryl as an archetype to warn me that I too had cancer, but I didn't pick up on it. Both my parents had cancer, but it is normal for me to think about them a lot. This had to be a person I had no reason whatsoever to think that intently about. I think that's why my psyche chose her.

My Life Kept Flashing Before Me
In the fall of 2013 my life started flashing before me. Every few hours I'd get flashes of memories from childhood that I'd completely forgotten, followed by stuff from my teen years, then something from adulthood. It was always poignant, different each time: like playing with a beloved toy, my first crush, seeing my husband for the first time, watching my son take his first steps. Though much got packed in these were over in a flash, until the next one. This had never happened to me before and it was jarring. I said to my husband, My God, it is like what they say happens when you're dying. It has not happened again since I was diagnosed. Again, I think my body was trying to get my attention.

The Lady Who Diagnosed Me With Breast Cancer In A Dream

When I did my annual appointment in November I was under no suspicion of breast cancer whatsoever. This was just a routine screening. In between having the scan and receiving the results I dreamed a woman in a lab coat said to me, "you have Stage 3 breast cancer". I woke up startled and her imagine was burned into my memory. I said that I would know this woman if I saw her on the street. Once I was diagnosed with (Stage 1) breast cancer I joined a local cancer support organization. I had to meet with a counselor to sign some papers. This woman walked over to me I thought I would pass out. It was the woman from my dream! She said she is a nurse and a breast cancer survivor herself. There's the white coat! During our appointment I was foggy and distracted, but I didn't say a word to her about any of it. What could I say? Nice to meet you, now get this....

Mine is Stage 1 but in the dream she said Stage 3. If the dream was right about my having cancer to begin with then why was it wrong about the stage? Is there something I don't know yet or is this a warning about the future? Or, perhaps it means nothing at all. Maybe it is all just one big coincidence? Who knows? Time will tell.

I Dreamt of Recurrence In The Other Breast

A few days after my diagnosis I dreamed someone put an x-ray of my chest on a screen. It contained the tumor on the right side, but another on the left. I just had an MRI and no tumor was detected on my left side, but the dream was suggested there was, or would be.

I'm a pretty data driven person, so I'd never make a major medical decision based just on a dream. But I'll be honest: given my history of precognitive dreams I was rattled. My first thought was that I needed to get a mastectomy. But since I do not have BRCA 1 or 2 my surgeon thought it unnecessary. He says the data shows no difference in survival rates between women who have mastectomy vs. those who do lumpectomy and radiation. He also said the statistical chances of getting cancer in the other breast is small. I began leaning toward radiation but the decision never felt good in my gut. And then...................

Last week I received additional markers on my tumor. I am Her2 3+, which gives me a better than average chance of getting breast cancer again. I wasn't surprised. In fact, I kept insisting to my husband that I was going to be Her 2 positive, but he no way since Triple Positive Breast Cancer is rare (My tumor was also estrogen and progesterone positive). I was right.

There are several rare mutations some breast cancer patients have that render them sensitive to radiation. If these patients receive radiation in one breast it increases their risk of developing breast cancer in the other one. I am being tested for these mutations to help me make my final decision on surgery vs. radiation, but I'm leaning toward mastectomy. (Update: I have no known cancer genes. I had a lumpectomy and radiation.)

In Retrospect

Given my history of pre-cognitive dreams you may wonder why I didn't move on this sooner.  I guess since the vast majority of my dreams are NOT precognitive it can be hard to separate normal nocturnal gibberish from actual warnings. And when the message is YOU HAVE CANCER you hope that's just fear based fodder for the gibberish bin so that's what you choose to believe. Yet, if I'd heeded my body's warnings and got checked when I first found the lump in September that could have meant not needing chemotherapy. But I'd had several lumps pop up over the last few years. I ran straight to my doctor and they ended up just cysts, so I assumed this would be too. I was wrong. The same thing happened to the late Elizabeth Edwards. So my message is this: no matter how many lumps you've had checked out that turned out to be cysts, never assume. Let the doctors tell you what it is and is not.


  1. Hi Moonbeams,

    Needless to say, your post has floored me! I am not surprised about your precognitive dreams, given your well-known gifts and having these kinds of dreams in the past. It is also easy to see how much of your anxiety in the past - a state of "hyperawareness" one might say, has likely been precognitive as well...that is, you always sensed/knew at some level that there was going to be this "other battle', as well as the challenges with autistic son Alex.

    I am going for my mammo screening Friday, after putting it off, and reading your post has certainly confirmed that I won't be changing my mind. I too have endless lumps, having fibrocystic breasts, so I know how easy it is to get impatient with oneself and decide not to bother. I'll be thinking of you, and sending you my prayers. I think once this is behind you, the Road ahead will be much easier, with more peace.

  2. Hi Carole,

    Thank you so much for your support. I am always grateful for your insights.

    I think you are right, as you so often are when you sense something about me, that I did know there would be this battle. When I was thinking about having a child I kept going back and forth. I knew something was going to happen that was going to challenge my ability to be the kind of mother I wanted to be. It wasn't a pre-cognitive knowing that the child would be special needs. Honestly I didn't see that coming and I'm glad I didn't. It had to do with me, but I didn't know what specifically. I ignored it and proceeded forward because I wanted a child and I'm glad I did.

    I'm glad to hear about your screening. Several women have told me they've sought out screenings since I started speaking openly about this. I have wondered if that was the right thing to do because of privacy, but that makes it all worth it.

    Thank you so much for your prayers. I hope you are right, that the road ahead will be easier when this is done and that I will have more peace. Right now it is hard to even see the road, but it is good to be reminded that it is there.

    You know how I like to look for archetypes to get me through difficult times, like the Madonna and child when A. was regressing? In my mind I have related archetypically related chemotherapy shamanic initiation. In indigenous cultures they take the initiate close to death, tax his mind and body to the point of extreme strain, close to a breaking point. Then, if he survives, he emerges stronger and ready to serve his community. For some reason that archetype comforts me right now.

    1. Fascinating, as always, and I agree with you about the initiation. I actually just wrote a post about Carl Jung, his early traumas and his evolution as a shaman. I do see that archetype as fitting you - it has been a long hard road since childhood for you, and I do not feel this is random or accidental, or karma (in the sense of having to do "balancing" as people like to call it!). You have the visions, the dreams, the deep, chakra-tearing conflicts for which there is no way out except through...this is the archetype indeed. It is so much harder for the "modern" because there is no forest, no hut, no bathing in the icy stream, no banishment from the village...except there is, but in ways that don't fit the "book" that the indigenous people were given. We have to piece it together, and I think you are doing this. Bless you, and keep in touch. Carol


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