I fidgeted with the slip of paper in my hand, stared at the two names written there, the names of the oncologist and radiation oncologist. It was hard to believe that little black lines on white paper could create such a physical sensation in my body.
I’ve been doing energy work for over 15 years. I recognize the power of energy and the interaction with our physical body and have experienced firsthand how emotions can affect health and well-being.
Even so, I was surprised by the energy of cancer. Yes, cancer has its own energy, which I felt very strongly. And it wasn’t only the energy of my own cancer. I felt the collective energy of everyone touched by the disease. It was thick and heavy, a strong current with a mixture of fear and urgency that threatened to sweep me away like a flooding river.
And it was easily triggered. I felt its force every time I thought about the cancer, but I usually managed to hold it back. It was when I had to do something about the cancer, however, that this energy threatened to engulf me. That was when I had to fight the hardest.
Once I told the surgeon I would schedule the surgery after I had seen the oncologist and radiation oncologist, I was committed. I had to follow through. I had to schedule those appointments, and that wasn’t easy. I laid out the plan in my head. I would see the oncologist in a week and the radiation oncologist the week after. My handwriting was shaky as I wrote the dates and times on the same piece of paper. I was happy with that plan. But I still had to gather up the courage to make the calls. The cancer energy was gaining strength as it swelled toward me, and I was tempted to let it take me away. I didn’t have to make those calls today, I thought. I could put them off a week or two, maybe longer. Spontaneous remission was a thing, right? Maybe I’d just wait for that to happen. I felt fine.
Deep down, I knew I couldn’t do that. I refused to let the energy sweep me away. I made the calls and set up the appointments as I had planned.
Mine was the first appointment in the oncologist’s office that day. I’m an early riser and like to get these things over with. Tom and I had the waiting room to ourselves. I was grateful for the empty room as I got up to walk around and settle my nerves. There was artwork hanging on the walls that had been done by cancer survivors. We talked softly about different pieces while we waited. There were prints of oils and water colors, mostly of nature—birds, trees, oceans—as if all the survivor artists understood that to heal they had to connect with nature. Some of the pictures had religious overtones, and some were just plain freaky. I had no idea what those were about.
A pleasant nurse came to get us. As we followed her, I was surprised at how big the place was. How many exam rooms there were, and how many doctors and nurses were gearing up to start the day. In that moment, I felt the enormity of cancer, how big it could be.
I felt it trying to take away my power.
I took a deep breath and followed the nurse into an exam room. The nurse took my blood pressure and temperature, and asked questions about my paperwork. These activities kept me focused and allowed me to concentrate on things within my control. But then she left, and while we waited for the doctor, the anxiety returned.
The oncologist came into the room with a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes and a firm handshake. He was tall, dark-haired, with a beautiful complexion. He always seemed very well-kept, no matter what time of day I saw him. He paged through my paperwork, confirmed the diagnosis as DCIS, then thumbed through the forms again as if looking for something, shook his head, and asked when I had had the surgery.
“I haven’t had surgery,” I replied.
“You haven’t had surgery?” he asked, perplexed.
I confirmed that I had spoken with the surgeon but had not had surgery.
He put his pen away in his pocket, leaned back in his chair, and said, “Then why are you here?” as if he were scolding me.
I was taken aback. I am an adult, and I was often the one on the other side of the desk. I was not used to being scolded as if I were a child. I had my plan, which I thought was reasonable. Everyone who might be involved in my care would give me their expert opinion, and I would make my decision when I felt I had enough information.
“I want to know what my options are and what you recommend,” I blurted out in a voice higher-pitched than normal. I was not feeling as confident as I had when I arrived.
After a look that was not quite disdain, he regained his professional composure and ran it down for me. I was not a candidate for chemotherapy and because the cancer was estrogen receptive, I would be on hormone therapy for five years to reduce my chances of recurrence. He then examined me briefly, ordered some bloodwork, shook my hand and then Tom’s, and was off to the next patient. Maybe that person would do it the way he expected.