When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, life becomes a whirl of new information, it takes on a new dimension, revolving around scans, bloods, markers, infusions, and side effects, of which the most dreaded is hair loss. Too easily overlooked in all of this is the force within us all with its wonderful message: we can be ill, yet whole. Inner wholeness was something I discovered and reclaimed during my treatment for breast cancer, and it has become for me a true ally, not just in my illness but in all of my life. This book is an invitation to women with breast cancer to consider trying to re-find that wholeness, as I did, on the Pink Ribbon Path. It is a Path for healing, for living, for hope, a journey which once embarked upon becomes a daily joy.
From the time I joined the cancer community in 2009 I kept a journal in which I wrote down personal reflections and transcribed prayers or words that I found inspiring. This I did during the different stages of breast cancer: on Diagnosis, during Treatment; after Treatment; and After That, when life and living became renewed sources of profound joy. During this time, the Pink Ribbon Path slowly emerged, a spiritual path enabling rediscovery of inner strength and thus of undivided wholeness. This spiritual flourishing means meeting with awareness whatever challenges arise. Whatever the circumstances, whatever the outlook, you are not alone in your illness. The Spirit is walking with you.
Wholeness and resourcefulness encourage transcendence in relation to what is so often feared by cancer patients: recurrence of the illness. This book, I hope, will speak equally to women whose breast cancer has returned. I pray that, for all women, it may be a reminder, alongside medical treatment and care, to seek the treasure within.
The Pink Ribbon Path reflects the emotions I felt at each stage of the journey: the fear when out of the blue there was a diagnosis of breast cancer; the hope that medical treatment would be effective; the new and different fears and anxieties that followed treatment; then, the slow evolution of spiritual flourishing, come what may. Through these emotions I found myself growing ‘downwards’, towards my inner, true self. Perspectives changed.
Being on any path needs discipline, although once the Path becomes a way of joyful living, time is made, willingly, for the daily journey. A transforming event for me on the Pink Ribbon Path was encountering Christian Meditation. Dom John Main OSB summarised its effect well: When we meditate, not only do we stand back from the individual operations of our being, but we begin to learn to find a wholly new ground to stand on. We discover a rootedness of being. The rootedness is not just in ourselves, but we discover ourselves rooted in God. Rooted in God who is Love.
Christian Meditation is an act of love. It does not produce bells and whistles during our silence. But over time we find love growing in our heart, we become lovingly attentive to our selves in our everyday, just as we are, however tired or week. At the same time, we reach out to others compassionately. And as we know that God has sent His Spirit to dwell in us, we become open, rooted, to His Being. This rootedness or wholeness brings greater clarity, and forgiveness of anything that may stand in the way of His love. It facilitates a choice of responses to events rather than reactions to them. Anyone going through major illness will know how often their reactions are driven by fear.
The mind is the surface of the heart, the heart the depth of the mind (Hazrat Inayat Khan). The Pink Ribbon Path is the Path of the heart. If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, I hope you will regard this book as a companion on successive stages of the journey, using the readings for reflection at each stage, perhaps composing and adding your own . Needless to say, you may join the Path whatever the stage of your illness : the journey inwards may begin at any time. A Loving Mind-Body Awareness, narrated by Sue Norton, follows the four stages in the book. This stopping and becoming lovingly aware of our mind and body is integral to the journey, from the beginning. It is as much a part of the Path as the two daily Meditation sessions to which we listen with the ear of the heart. Dom Laurence Freeman OSB, Director of The World Community for Christian Meditation, has kindly provided Meditations to listen to, and there is a wealth of other material available on www.wccm.org May Loving Awareness and Christian Meditation accompany you daily at every stage of your journey.
My thanks could never adequately be expressed to Dom Laurence, to Sue, and to all those, especially my family, who are or have been guides and supporters to me on the Pink Ribbon Path.
August 25 2013