One Woman's Story
KISSING THE DRAGON
I was 35 newly married and about to be diagnosed with breast cancer. While visiting my mother in the Pacific Northwest, I had a dream.
I was standing waist deep in murky water, and on my left was a beautiful silken haired woman emanating a golden light. On the shore was a dark woman veiled in mist, and in the water between us was an alligator. I said to the woman on the shore, “Be careful, the alligator will bite you.” She began running around in fast motion, frightened and being chased by the beast. She yelled, “Look, you don’t have to let it get you. You can run from it!” The alligator slipped back into the swamp and swam towards the woman and myself. I warned her, “Be careful, the alligator will bite you.” She smiled so calmly, and looked at me with emphatic love and then down at the alligator perched with his nose floating above the water. Gently she cupped the chin of the reptile, lifting his snout to her mouth and kissing him softly. As she released him, he chomped through her right thigh. Opening her arms wide she put her head back, and looked up as if towards heaven, all the while smiling peacefully through the awful experience and projecting golden light.
A few days later my mother and I were in church witnessing a moving sermon on pain and spiritual growth. “When confronting pain, your first response is to curl up into a ball and tense against it, --but this makes it so much more difficult. If at that time, you can remember to open your heart and let the pain wash over you, it makes it so much easier to bear. In other words, as an old Buddhist parable goes, may you have the strength to kiss the dragon, and let it bite you.” My mother and I looked at each other with shock, for she was there when I woke from the dream.
Within weeks, I found a large lump in my left breast. After a long awaited "routine" sonar appointment, the doctor diagnosed me with invasive breast cancer. At that very moment; when I was in the dressing room about to be overcome by panic; the face of that goddess came to me; and a calm encased my spirit. The memory led me to stretch my arms and heart wide open and say a prayer, “I know that if my feet are on this path, they are there for a reason. I know you will send me the wisdom I need to get through this with grace." Perhaps the great mother came to me to share a secret, it’s not what happens to you-- but how you respond to it that makes all the difference. As that wise man in the church had stated: “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional”.
Thinking back on that dream, I realize what the lesson was. The great leaders of history have acted just as that goddess did. “Everyone loves a man who smiles on a sunny day, but the true worth of a man is a man who can smile when nothing is going his way”. Facing the moment with calm and benevolence, even when facing ones own mortality and inevitable or existing pain is the true test of a human, man or woman. Breast cancer is a uniquely feminine experience of despair, therefore it seems the symbol of the feminine divine was sent to guide me.
Although there are certainly times when the world felt sideways and blurry, cancer taught me acceptance and gratitude. To struggle against unfolding events is truly a worthless cause. Remaining balanced in the face of adversity is its own reward it's own opportunity. It’s a lesson that has truly freed me.
Fully realizing my generational background in natural health was my first step to becoming and a turning point in my life. Using that birthright to help myself and then others, provided meaning for my life and allowed me to thrive. Adding to that the powerful meditation practice of Vipassana solidified amazing momentum for the foundation in it's infancy. You Can Thrive! came about after my first two retreats in 2004 & 2005 which the idea began and gained clarity.
In living with the ongoing life-and-death experiences that cancer provides daily in my service, some personal truths have emerged. This diagnosis guided me, ok --it kicked me, to my true calling. You Can Thrive! was founded for those who come after me with breast cancer in New York City. Since 2005 YouCan Thrive! has seen incredible growth. I thank God and the amazing humans who have put their hands on this idea and moved it forward with me. You can be one of them, join us. We are Pink for People.