After being diagnosed with cancer, I set intentions — both spiritual and practical — that helped guide me through the experience.
During a morning meditation in February 2020, the words, “Patricia, schedule your mammogram,” crashed into my awareness like a bolt of thunder and lightning. Conveniently, I had not yet scheduled my yearly ritual of 37 years. Thinking that at the age of 77 I was in the clear, I dismissed the fact that one out of every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and for women of color, the diagnosis is often more severe.
Yet, as I frequently do, I paid attention to the message and scheduled my mammogram at the Carol Milgard Breast Center the very next day. I truly expected to get the predictable “all-clear” results I had year after year. Instead, I was stunned when the center called informing me my images necessitated a biopsy which was conducted the very next day.
Three days later, Cheri and Judy, two dear friends who I had recently met, accompanied me to find out the results.
A very kind ARNP greeted us. After making us feel comfortable and answering some of my questions, she commenced with the results. Glancing at the report she held, I noticed several symbols indicating negative.
Taking a deep breath, I said to myself, “Phew. The coast is clear!”
However, with her eyes gazing directly at me like a laser beam, she stated: “Unfortunately, we found cancer in your right breast.” The words pierced my consciousness like the sizzle of a branding iron, forever marking me with the term CANCER. Just like that, I became a cancer patient.
Looking at Cheri and Judy, their faces ashen gray, I wondered did my face looks like theirs?
In that moment, I was reintroduced to a revered friend, “mindfulness,” who embraced me like the comforting arms of a lover. Breathe. Relax. Take in all that is around you. Feel the ground. Feel the seat beneath you and listen carefully. Breathing deeply, I allowed the nurse’s words to spill out from her mouth like the warm, flavorful smells of the pinto bean juices spilling from the pot that I remember from my New Mexico childhood. Although difficult to hear, she tried her best to deliver the news softly and carefully.
Stunned, yet somehow soothed, I heard a gentle Northwest rain falling softly on the building rooftop and the voices of Mi Abuelita (my grandmother) and Mi Madre (my mother). Their message: “Don’t worry Mi Hita, (daughter), we are going to take great care of you!” With their words, my journey through breast cancer began. The message from my feminine ancestors, like the start of a mesquite branch fire, created warmth and hope.
I took another deep breath and asked the nurse to give me a moment to absorb the information I just received. Looking at the wall poster of the goddess, Pele, I readily embraced
the power of her fire and light. I know that her light guides me through the darkest of tunnels and whatever may lie ahead. I am empowered to listen to my strong inner voice. So often I have ignored her throughout my life. Not any longer.
“We’ve got this Patricia!” Cheri and Judy loudly declared as the three of us simultaneously hug.
Their encouraging words, as well as the support of my ancestors, are the support I needed to launch the first steps of my journey. While parts of my body felt as shaky as the 1989 earthquake I experienced while living in the Bay Area, my inner self felt a deep cavernous calm and stillness. Everything is going to be okay. I know, deep down in my heart, I know. I AM NOT ALONE!
Stepping into this new journey with the vision of a redefined 10,000 steps, I embraced each step with confidence. Everything I had done in my life up to this point prepared me for the upcoming challenge. I have the power to choose, and I choose to use this experience as a journey for healing past traumas that have occurred throughout my life — traumas that I continually work on yet understand there is more healing to be done.
After returning home that evening, Pepito, my beloved 13-year-old Chihuahua, who always slept in a crate beside my bed, jumped into bed with me for the very first time. He has not stopped sleeping with me since that night. My beloved Pepito has become my “24/7 doctor.”
Completing my meditation that evening, I set the following intentions as my roadmap for my journey:
Meet the journey with faith, prayer and courage. Trust that spirit shall guide me to my inner wisdom.
Keep my lightheartedness and laughter, even when the road is a constant switchback and the next destination not clearly visible.
Take time to play. Celebrate the miracles of each day. Be grateful.
Stay focused. Lead with an increasingly open heart and express kindness wherever I go.
Ignore my nemesis when it seduces me to partake in sugar.
These intentions became my spiritual pharmaceuticals. I have learned that by listening to my inner voice and trusting myself, unexpected miracles happen. I am learning. I am taking risks. I am embracing new ideas and seeking the potential and new opportunities.
On Oct. 28, I am proud and happy to be turning 80. With the ever-presence of my elders, I embrace my cancer journey not as a victim but as a partner in guiding me toward true healing. I know I can count on my medical and support team for helping me encompass the journey with an integrated approach.
This post was written and submitted by Patricia Benevidez. The article reflects the views of Patricia Benevidezand not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.
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