© Kathy Jones, 1998
Printing single copies of this book extract for personal use (only) is permitted.
To my beloved Mike
To Ariadne of the Red Thread
And to all the many people who
helped me get well again
This book is written in the form of a variegated diary of experiences Kathy had while she was threatened by breast cancer. The book is particularly valuable for awakening women faced with this challenge, or similar challenges. It shows how Kathy, on her own journey, got to the bottom of what ailed her, as part of her healing process – as well as her experiences with both hospital treatments and complementary therapies. On this page is the introduction to the book plus a selection of entries from that diary.
Breast cancer is a frightening and dangerous disease which now in the British Isles afflicts one in twelve women at some point in our lives and kills over 1400 women every year. And these figures are rising. It is said to be caused by environmental toxins or a genetic susceptibility to the disease, but no-one knows for certain why one woman contracts breast cancer rather than another. Each woman who suddenly finds a lump in her breast, is thrust headlong into an intense and painful physical, emotional, mental and spiritual experience. She has to quickly find her way through the maze of conflicting orthodox treatments and complementary therapies on offer to help her heal, while the threat of death from this killer disease hangs over her head.
This book is the story of my personal journey with breast cancer based on excerpts from the diary I wrote at the time. It tells of my experience with orthodox cancer treatments and with a whole range of complementary therapies, giving you an idea of what is available and which ones worked for me. At the back of the book I give a list of the things I tried and where you can find them if you are on this healing quest. The list is ever increasing as new discoveries are made about cancer.
I had never considered for a moment that I would ever get cancer. I had never had any major illnesses in my life. I was forty eight years old and had lived a seemingly healthy lifestyle for many years and was outwardly a happy and creatively fulfilled woman. I found that in order to heal myself I needed to understand why I had caught this disease. I knew there had to be underlying reasons why I had cancer, as well as there being toxins out there in the world which had given it to me.
My experiences began with a ceremonial walk into and out of the great Labrynth on Glastonbury Tor. Symbolically this journey continued day by day throughout my illness in my dreams and in visions as I saw myself following Ariadne's Red Thread and the Light from her Flaming Torch through the dark passageways of an Underground Labrynth. Ariadne is the ancient Kretan Goddess and High Priestess, whose Red Thread leads us into the centre of the Labrynth where the Monstrous Minotaur lives. The Minotaur can kill us or transform us. On our return journey from his lair Ariadne's Red Thread shows us the way out of the Labrynth back to renewed life. At times during the illness when I had lost all sense of what was happening to me I hung on to that Red Thread, even though I had forgotten why I was holding it. I have called this book, BREAST CANCER Hanging on by a Red Thread in honour of that dark time when I clung on by a thin red thread to life.
Amongst other creative activities I am a sacred dramatist and in the year before I became ill I had written a new play entitled And They Call Her Name Wisdom. This sacred drama is about alchemy and the pursuit of Wisdom. Alchemy is the physical and spiritual quest to find the Philosopher's Stone which can transmute base metals into gold, a substance which heals all disease. The alchemical quest is an allegory of the search for the divine feminine healing energy of Wisdom, who is described in all the major spiritual traditions of the world. Before I wrote the play I had done a lot of research into alchemy but it is an arcane subject veiled in mystery, which can only truly be understood by those who are practising alchemists. I had written the play mainly from inspiration without really understanding the complexities of the alchemical process.
When I became ill I soon began to see my experience as part of an alchemical journey, in which I was being transformed by the disease, not only physically but also psychologically and spiritually. I was being taken through a process of radical change on all levels, which I could not resist. Our Lady Wisdom was calling to me to transform my life and because of the aggressive nature of my cancer, it was for me a case of transform or die. Not all experiences of breast cancer are this extreme, but I can be a slow learner and sometimes need to be jolted awake in order to learn what I need to learn.
I know just how hard and desperate the experience with cancer can be and I hope that this small book will inspire those of you who have cancer to continue on your journey towards healing and wholeness. Disease presents us with the opportunity to heal areas of our lives that have lain wounded for decades and even centuries. I pray that you may be healed of your disease. I also hope that this book will help the families and friends who care for cancer sufferers to understand the depths of this experience. Finally I hope it may help broaden the approach of the incredible and dedicated doctors and healthcare workers who daily deal with this disease.
I live and work in the small country town of Glastonbury in Somerset, also known as the mysterious Isle of Avalon. I am a writer, healer, teacher, sacred dramatist and initiator. I have been involved in many community projects over the years and am a co-founder of the Isle of Avalon Foundation, Library of Avalon, Bridget Healing Centre, the Sanctuary at Glastonbury, and of the Glastonbury Goddess Conference.
Excerpts from a Diary
Monday August 14th 1995
...For the last six weeks or so I've had a slight pain in the side of my right breast. It's like one of those pre-menstrual aches you get in your breasts before your period comes, but it doesn't go away after I start bleeding. I have ignored it for a while. It feels a bit like the mastitis I got when I was breast feeding. I told Mike about it. He said Go and get it looked at, but I thought it would just go away. It hasn't, so today I went to see the doctor. She felt my breast and seemed a bit concerned and is sending me to Yeovil Hospital for some tests. I know it's nothing. Cancer doesn't hurt. Anyway I couldn't possibly get cancer. It's not in my life plan. I've been a vegetarian for 25 years and I'm too healthy, happy and creatively fulfilled.
Wednesday August 16th
Today I went to Yeovil Hospital for tests on my breast. I wasn't really worried and went on my own, thinking, It can't be anything. Having a mammogram hurt my sore breast as it was squeezed between those two plates. Ow! But funnily enough afterwards the pain went away. The breast still feels a bit swollen underneath but not lumpy. They did some ultrasound scans and then stuck this big needle into the swelling in two places and took a biopsy. Now its all bruised. They've told me to come back next week for the results and to bring someone with me. If it is cancer doesn't sticking those needles in help spread it if it's there? But it isn't. It can't be. We're going on holiday to Iona next Friday, the day after we get the results. I'm really looking forward to being in that peaceful place again.
I was starting to feel a bit worried and went to see Geoff Boltwood the healer at the Tareth Centre in Glastonbury. He produced beautiful perfumed healing oils from his hands which was extraordinary. I put some of the oil on my breast but I don't know if it did any good. He said not to worry he thought I was going to be here for a long while yet. Jaana came round and gave me lots of love and healing. She is very kind.
Friday 25th August
Yesterday at 11.45 in the morning Mr Payne - what a name, the surgeon at Yeovil, told me I have a malignant cancerous tumour in my right breast and because of its size and position all he could offer me was a complete mastectomy.
He told me, just like that, baldly, no empathy, no feeling, nothing. Mike and I just went into complete shock and sat there numbly. Then it was, Do you have any questions? How can you think of any questions, let alone a sensible one, when you've just had the biggest shock of your life? Then we were ushered into another room with the breast care nurse, where we clung to each other and cried and cried. After years of not crying at least this was something which made Mike cry.
I can't have cancer. It's not true. I don't want to lose my breast. I don't want a mastectomy. I don't want to die. Then it came into my mind that I could ask for a second opinion. I knew from somewhere I'd heard that you didn't have to have mastectomies these days. You can just have the lump removed. I asked the nurse if I could get a second opinion. She went to talk to Mr Payne.
She came back and said I could go to another hospital and get another opinion, but if I did it would mean that I would lose my place in the queue for surgery and that would delay my treatment and that could mean the cancer could spread and that was dangerous. What a frightening choice.
I never ever thought I would get cancer. It can't be happening to me. I don't want to die. I want to live. There is so much I want to do, so much creativity I have inside me to put out into the world.
On the way home from the hospital we went to see Pauline Watson, an old friend who had breast cancer herself a few years ago. She's still very much alive, though it was a huge and traumatic journey for her. Knocking on her door was a good way of removing the distance that had come into our relationship. She was great and informative. Eye to eye she was there, a friend of the heart. Maybe now our friendship will grow again. Maybe I can find my friends once more.
She looked at my astrology and said something about my missionary zeal which takes no account of itself and that the message now is that my first duty is to love and protect myself and to forget about everyone else. I realise that I don't know what that means - to love myself. She said I should only do the things that are good for me and stop doing the things that aren't good for me. She said I should go to Taunton where she had been treated, where there was a specialist cancer unit, that they were good. She said I should do it all - orthodox and complementary medicine. Everyone she knew who had used only complementary therapies was dead. Cancer is a killer! She also said something in passing about Ariadne's red thread and I suddenly remembered the Labrynth walk of just a few days ago and my rededication to Ariadne and asking for transformation. Oh Ariadne, holy one, I didn't mean like this!
I read somewhere, Cancer can never occur in a healthy body. A healthy body is in a position to recognise cancer cells and reject them. The defence systems of the body can become damaged in many ways and will eventually lose the power of being able to reject the cancer cells. Without knowing it on a physical level my defences have become damaged.
The book where I'm writing this diary was given to me a few months ago by Polly Bauer as a wealth journal. I couldn't imagine at the time how I might use it, but now I have a use for it. I had written Wealth feels warm, abundant, generous. Somehow my cancer must become my wealth.
I rang my mother and told her I have breast cancer. It was hard to tell her because I don't want her to worry, because there isn't much she can do except worry. She was shocked and was very sweet and loving.
Saturday 26th August
I woke this morning feeling very frightened. I sat in the garden as the sun rose in a blue, blue sky and cried and cried. I feel so scared. Now I can feel it in my body. I have cancer. This is really hard.
It was all arranged that I should go to Sedona in Arizona at the end of October to teach some Goddess workshops, so last night I had to ring Nancy (Safford) to tell her I won't be able to come. I'm so pissed off. I was so looking forward to going there and Mike was going to come too. Maybe I can still go after the operation. I might be better by then.
And what about the play And They Call Her Name Wisdom, which I'm supposed to be directing this December? Will I be able to do it? We have been given a grant by the Foundation for Sport and the Arts to produce Wisdom this autumn. The play is an alchemical allegory about the pursuit of wisdom and the quest to find the Philosopher's Stone - the stone of the Wisdom of Sophia. I have connected the physical processes of alchemy described in the ancient texts to the myths and legends of Glastonbury and Avalon and I trust that something alchemical and transformative will happen in the process of performing the play. I don't really know that much about alchemy. I know it's to do with purifying the soul rather than transforming lead into gold. And I love all those wonderful words that our Lady Wisdom has spoken through the ages, whether as Hokmah, Sophia or Isis or as I hear her speaking in my ear. I also felt a very strong connection to the Nine Morgens as I was writing the play and a direct communion with Merlin as I wrote his speeches, as if he was writing them.
I wrote the play about a year ago and first we were geared up to perform it last December 1994, but less than three weeks before the performances were due to take place the young woman playing one of the main characters, pulled out and it was too late to find another one. We decided to cancel the performances and wait until the flow had returned. Stopping the production midway was energetically a bit like being hit by a truck and felt weird, but at that point there was no other choice than to stop or do the whole thing badly. It was the first time I've ever stopped a play from happening. The energy rocked back and forward for quite a while after that. It didn't feel nice at all. I couldn't understand what was going at the time, why the play didn't happen then. I still don't really know why.
Also I hadn't heard by last December whether we'd been awarded a grant to produce it or not. That only came through this March. So we were planning to do it again this year 1995. Will I be able to direct it? Will I be well by then? I might try asking Sue Palmer if she will direct it. Is this the way things are meant to go for Ariadne Productions? I have always directed the sacred drama. Is someone else supposed to do it now? Should I let go of it?
I have just thought I might have cancer elsewhere in my body, It might have started somewhere else completely, in my lungs say. It's too much to think of. I wanted to wake up this morning and find that it had all gone away but it hasn't. We haven't gone to Iona. Mike and I are too shocked. I know nothing at all about cancer. Only that if you catch breast cancer early enough when it's small, it can be cured. What is early enough? What size is small?
It's still so unbelievable. If I who am healthy can get cancer then anyone can. I read that 1 in 12 women now get breast cancer. On Long Island where I stayed in June with Colleen and Fred 1 in 8 women get it from the pollution. The cure rate, at 50%, has stayed virtually the same since the 1950s. All the research into cancer and they still don't know how to cure it. It's caused by pollutants in the food, in the water, in the soil, in the air. Suddenly the world feels like a very poisoned place. But why has it happened to me?
I think it's to do with all the verbal and psychic attacks on me made by particular people in this community. A couple of months ago a woman came up to me in the street and out of the blue started shouting at me in my face. She accused me of plotting against her and her husband and how all her troubles were my fault. I was astonished. I didn't shout back but tried to turn away physically from her anger, trying to let it go past me. Which is something that I do - I'm afraid of answering back to people who are angry with me. I am so shocked in the moment of it happening that I hold onto my own reactions even when unjustly accused or even especially when unjustly accused. I turn it inwards on myself.
That argument with Bill at the gender party. He said he wanted men and women to meet in the middle of the gender experience. I said there was no meeting in the middle. If he wanted to learn anything new he needed to come over to the women's side for a while and listen to us. There is no true middle ground because the poles are not equal, everything has been weighted in favour of men for so long. As women we have been learning something new together over the last twenty years and men need to let themselves hear about it. I even said how afraid I am to speak my truth to a man because I feel that if I say what I really think about the world and what men have done to it, then the man will kill me. So I said it to Bill and everyone in the room and he got really angry and I could feel his unspoken rage at me, but he said nothing more and from then on there was no movement. I didn't know what to do. I was afraid to push it any further.
He took his anger out on me later by writing a ten page report full of criticisms of the Foundation and by implication of me and on the final three pages claimed that the only way things would improve was if I left the Foundation. Barry had employed him as a consultant to help us with organisation. We had opened up to him thinking we were working together. We told him about all the difficulties we've had as well as all the triumphs, but he chose to focus only on our shortcomings. This was only a few weeks ago. At first when I read the report I felt profoundly depressed and sad and hurt, that anyone could pour out such hatred under the guise of objectivity, a mean patriarchal trick, and not see all the good that everyone in the Foundation does selflessly for others and all the hundreds of people who have benefited and continue to benefit from its work. All the people who have generously given their time and energy, and me. But I couldn't say any of this directly to him. I was too afraid of the confrontation. Instead I absorbed all his crap.
And there have been many other times over the last few years. I have been a scapegoat in many communal situations, in plays, in the Assembly Rooms, just for speaking my truth, wanting to openly acknowledge spirit in this sacred place. There must be a victim in me wanting to be scapegoated, who thinks she deserves it, to draw it to me. I don't express my anger out there, instead it seems I absorb all the shit that people care to send my way. Mostly they never say any of it directly to my face, they say it behind my back. Glastonbury can be a bad place for destructive gossip. Is it that people want to wound me deliberately, or do I open to them and don't see where they're really at and then they hurt me? And it's that male Gemini energy again which can really do me in. The nice twin seduces me in and the nasty twin tries to destroy me. It happened with Emmanuel and now Bill.
Shortly after we received the report Bill was sacked. I didn't manage to express my anger directly to him. I just absorbed the attack. But he had ripped us all off. Barry paid a lot of money for a critical report whose main theme apart from attacking me, was that the Foundation should try to get government funding to teach subjects that nobody here in Glastonbury wants to either teach or learn. He did give us one good idea in a meeting, that of expanding the Foundation course brochure into a magazine, which we're going to do. It will be called AVALON magazine. The rest was complete junk.
Cary came round last night and I began to feel how cut off I have become from people without noticing it. Trying to do it alone. In protecting myself from being hurt I have protected myself from being loved.
What a lot of words today. I have entered Ariadne's labrynth. I have walked into the entrance and the path turns to the left on the third level - the place of the mind - and I'm trying to work it all out in my head as quickly as possible. Then round we go, on and down to the second level - the emotions. I am journeying to meet the Minotaur once again. I have a Taurean Sun and Moon in my birthchart and the Minotaur is one of my inner daemons.
Saturday 2nd September
Suddenly there's a huge amount to learn. I have to change my diet. Although I have been a vegetarian for the last 25 years, it's not enough. Pauline became macrobiotic when she got ill. That's quite a hard diet with lots of things in it that I don't really like to eat. I've just read a Bristol Cancer Help Centre book, The Bristol Experience by Liz Hodgkinson and Jane Metcalfe and they recommend no dairy, no salt, no sugar, no coffee, no tea, no chocolate, lots of raw and juiced foods. I'm doing it. I have become an instant vegan and feel terrified to eat anything that isn't organic or contains even a trace of dairy products. Luckily there is an organic vegetable stall in the market every week, but organic food is much more expensive than pesticide-laced food. There is some evidence that cancers may be triggered by pesticides and other pollutants in the environment. Breast cancer is connected to the rise in oestrogen-mimicking substances found in plastics which leach out into food and water and there is also a connection to oestrogens in milk and dairy products from things they give to cows. I used to eat quite a lot of cheese. Maybe that was it. I've stopped eating all dairy. The other difficulty is that the macrobiotic diet recommends no raw food at all as it's harder to digest, while the Bristol diet recommends at least 50% raw food. Which is the right one? Whichever works. I just have to go with what feels right for me.
On Thursday my doctor, Phil Jackson, sent me to Musgrove Park Hospital where they have a specialist breast cancer unit. I was very scared going there, but they are so good compared to Yeovil, calm and reassuring and they gave us lots of information. They said I could just have the lump removed and not the whole breast, even though the margins are small - that means the cancer is close to the surface of the skin. Allelujah! I didn't realise how much I really object to having my breast removed. They gave me Tamoxifen, an oestrogen blocker as breast cancer feeds on oestrogen.
After going to Taunton things felt much better - a relief. They seem to know what they are doing. They gave me confidence. I go in to hospital next Tuesday to have the lump and the lymph glands under my arm removed on the Wednesday. They check the lymph glands to see if the cancer has spread into the rest of the body. I'm scared. I love Mike so much. He is being so strong for me, so great. He makes all the difference.
After we'd been to the hospital we went into Taunton and bought an electric juicer. It's recommended in The Bristol Programme that you juice lots of carrots and fruit, anything with vitamin C and A, to get the antioxidants. Cancer cells are badly formed ordinary cells which multiply and aren't recognised as different by the body. Ordinary cells get triggered into becoming cancer cells when there are too many free radicals - positively ionised particles, and antioxidants help remove them. I think that's it.
I read in The Bristol Programme that cancer personalities are often do-gooders, kind, nice people in the caring professions who like helping others. They are uncomfortable expressing negative emotions particularly in their own defence. They find it hard to say no. They have a low self image. I hear some echoes of truth.
I read what I wrote a few months ago about wealth, then I write two others: Health feels alive, energy, activity. Cancer feels dark, dense, compacted, blocked, fearful.
I went to see Lili Redhouse, the Chinese herbalist at Wookey Hole to get herbs to boost my immune system. She also does acupuncture an.d is the first person I've talked to who seems to know anything about cancer in a holistic kind of way. She is good. I will get herbs from her all the way through. I will get vitamins and minerals from Phil.
The Bristol Cancer Help Centre recommends:
- 2-6gms Vit C with bioflavonoids a day, depending on the state of the cancer
- Beta-carotene (Vit A) 6mg three times a day
- Vit B 50mgs a day
- Selenium 200 micrograms
- Zinc 100mg a day at night, reduce to 30 mgs after 3 months Starflower or Evening Primrose Oil (Vit E) some say not for breast cancer, but I will take it.
- Co-enzyme Q10 which helps the other vitamins work Kelp tablets, linseed oil.
Saturday 9th September
On Wednesday I was taken down to the operating theatre about 9.30am in a wheelchair along long windy corridors. I felt very cold. I had decided not to have the pre-op injection as that's the one which takes longer to recover from after the operation. I took homoeopathic arnica to help reduce the effects of the operation. I lay down on a trolley feeling very frightened and alone. They put a needle into the back of my hand and gave me something to relax me. I felt warmth come round my back. Then they put cold anaesthetic in my hand. I was thinking about being surrounded by a circle of light, of all the people who were thinking of me at that moment and holding me in the light and I thought of lying on the back of a big white swan and then I was gone into the blackness - into nigredo, the first stage in the alchemical process.
There's nothing quite like anaesthetic blackness. It is just that. One minute you're awake and the next nothing. Its not like being asleep where there are dreams and energy. It's horrible. My basic fear is that death might be like that, just a complete extinction. Then the next thing you know, hours later, you're awake.
I came to feeling a lot of pain under my arm and breast. My first thought was that they had said there would be no pain! Then they gave me morphine but everything still hurt. And then I felt cold, very cold, and I went off into a painful sleep. The day and night just disappeared.
The next day when I tried to stand up to go to the loo I was so faint I couldn't walk, my blood pressure was very low after the anaesthetic and losing blood. There were two drain holes with tubes coming out of them in my side where the extra fluid and blood came out of my breast and armpit into a bag. I had a shooting pain every time I moved and I couldn't tell whether that was the wound or the tubes still inside my body. It kept me awake. The surgeon Mr Ramus came and said they were pleased and thought they had removed all of the cancer as well as a patch of pre-cancerous cells surrounding the tumour. I was longing to see Mike.
Barry came to see me which was really kind, and then Pauline, and Charlotte, who is another breast cancer survivor. Mike brought Iona and Torky, my beautiful children. We are playing down the seriousness of my situation for them. I don't want to worry them unnecessarily. I could be completely better now. I don't want them to be badly affected by this.
I came home from hospital yesterday evening after the drains were removed. One of the tubes was very long and went all the way through my breast. The sharp stabbing pain went when they took the tube out which was great. I was very glad to come home. Everyone in hospital was very kind but I felt lonely particularly at night when I couldn't sleep. My bed was right next to the nurses' station and they talked all night and with the pain, kept me awake. It is lovely to be in my own bed again. Mike is wonderful. He looks after me and takes care of me through all this horror.
I just had a look at the wounds in a mirror. It's OK. My left breast looks long and pendulous and my new breast has a great cut underneath it. It's almost back to the shape it used to be when I was younger a bit skewed around to the side. Nipple to the right. I will need some new bras. In some ways it's an improvement. There's a big cut in my armpit that hurts a bit more. I didn't really realise what having the lymph nodes removed meant. My arm has filled up with lymph. It's all puffed up and the skin feels stretched tight over the inside.
Looking at the life line on my hands. On the left one a second line is added in parallel to the life line. On the right there is a break and slippage, like an earthquake. It then joins onto a smaller parallel life line. This is obviously the break in the line of my life. I've wondered for a while when this would come in my life. But maybe I will survive.
Thursday 28th September
I had a good talk the other day with Phil about my fear of dying. I have spent my whole life being afraid on some level or another, of the dark, of violent men, mad drivers, all sorts of things. Those first years I lived alone in Wales I was so afraid each night that someone would come to get me, that someone would walk across two fields in the dark just to attack me. The one time that a friend did turn up unexpectedly in the middle of the night he walked right into my bedroom and I just woke up and said Hello, and felt no fear at all. So its a fear of things which aren't real. I used to leave the farmhouse door open to see how far I had gone in overcoming my fear, but the fear persisted and has continued on through my life.
The root of it is my fear of dying. Whatever I have done to try and change it the fear has stayed there. After this experience maybe I will no longer fear death. I feel that it's really incarnational. That it's a fear that I came in with, that I had when I was born. It's something to do with the way I died last time which I think was a sudden and horrible death during the second world war. Until now death was always something far away that would happen one day in the distant future. Now it is right here in front of me. I feel I could die so quickly. We all could yet we don't think about it normally.
Phil asked me what I would miss most in being dead Iona and Torky, my children, who I really can't bear to think of leaving it would damage them too much. Then there is Mike, I would miss Mike so much. I would miss making love, making love with Mike. I love the ecstasy of our intimate spiritual lovemaking. When you're dead you can't touch people physically. You can't hug them. I would really miss physical touch. It's the Taurean in me.
After the experience of the healing circle I felt that that would actually be a wonderful way to die. To lie dying in the Miracles Room and let go peacefully surrounded by many friends. It would be lovely and they would all get a hit of the numinous Otherworid too. I just realised that's probably why in the old paintings all those people waited around the death bed. It wasn't just to feel sad or waiting to get on to the next monarch or whatever. It was as a support to the dying person and to experience the energy of the in-between worlds. We have forgotten how to support each other in death.
Mano has just given me a free massage. I must have been storing up good karma somewhere for all this that people are giving me. I am healing.
I think Essiac is a diuretic. I peed four times in a row in the night. I also began bleeding today. Is this the last time ever? If I have chemotherapy it will probably destroy my ovaries and give me an instant menopause. I'm not ready for all that as well.
Wednesday 4th October
On Monday Peter Hunt came and gave me acupuncture to boost energy levels in my kidney and liver meridians. It was kind of him. And Nutana came and gave me a foot massage and a lovely statue of the Egyptian Goddess Sekhmet which Lloyd has made recently. Sekhmet is goddess of powerful and dramatic healings. Nutana said she thought I could heal without having chemotherapy. I didn't have to do it that way. I could do it just with alternative therapies and the help of my friends. She sees me as being much stronger than I am. I feel I need all the help I can get. I am nobody special.
Yesterday Mike and I went to see the consultant at Taunton, Dr Elizabeth Whipp, where do these doctors get their names? We had to wait an hour and a half to see her, but she seems very good. She is a big woman with lots of vital energy. She told us that my tumour was grade 3 - the most aggressive kind of cancer, at stage 2 beginning to spread. It was 3.2cms in diameter - rather large. (1-2 cms is small). The tumour was near the surface so that the margins between the tumour and the skin, were small on the outside. The cancerous cells were in the middle of a patch of pre-cancerous cells and they removed it all.
There were cancer cells in two out of the eight lymph nodes they removed from under the arm, so the cancer had begun to spread but I could be completely cured right now. They could have removed everything. Chances of survival to 10 years are 50/50 without chemotherapy and radiotherapy and 85% with. Without additional attention the chances of it coming back in the breast are 1 in 3. That sounds rather high. Everything is percentages and chances. I want to know what is going to happen to me. I want it to be gone completely. If it comes back they recommend mastectomy. It looks like I will have to do it all, chemotherapy and then radiotherapy. I want all the chances I can get.
With chemotherapy they give you several doses at regular intervals. Cancer cells are malformed ordinary cells which are easier to kill than ordinary cells. The idea is that with each dose of chemicals about half of the cancer cells are killed and half struggle on and begin to grow again. Then half of those are knocked out by the next dose and soon. The idea is that by the fourth dose they can't get up off the floor whereas the normal cells of the body can recover. The quicker growing cells found in the hair and nails are also knocked out, which is why the hair falls out. Chemo also destroys the ovaries and I will probably become menopausal although some women's periods do come back. I have been pre-menopausal for a while now with my hormones going haywire and starting to get hot at night. It could have been the pre-menopausal surges in oestrogen levels which caused the cancer.
Dr Whipp seemed to suggest that three months of high dose chemo is better than six months at a lower dose, although with the high dose you lose your hair. She said six months of feeling low grade illness can be a long time whereas with the higher dose you feel really ill and then it's over in three months.
What shall I do? I want to be well for the Goddess Conference next summer and I will have to have the radiotherapy as well after the chemotherapy. If I have the shorter higher dose I will finish it all by about April. If I have the lower dose I will only finish all the treatment by the summer and wouldn't be able to do the Conference. I may just have to lose my hair. I hate being ill. What a choice. It's such a daunting thing to look forward to. This is very hard, Ariadne, very hard.
Quality of life now on a 1-10 scale (10 high):
I need more exercise, rest and fun!
Wednesday 11th October
I followed Denise Linn's visualisation on tape of going to the City of Healing to meet the inner healer. It was very powerful. I found myself walking past large buildings made of big square stones. I could see the stones under my feet and to the sides. The healing temple had large decorated double doors. Opening them, inside there was a black panther who changed into an old woman - my ancestral figure who I have met before. She appeared in our kitchen once and is my ancestral spirit teacher. Then she changed into Ariadne and then Sekhmet and Tara and then to a lioness. She is a shapeshifter.
She spoke to me, I have been with you since the beginning of time. I accept all that you are. I have seen your struggles, your failures, your triumphs. I love you unconditionally.
It made me cry to be so accepted.
On getting well again
Five life changes or stress 3-18 months before the disease appeared:
- Taking responsibility with Barry for the Isle of Avalon Foundation for it continuing.
- Feeling that I will fight patriarchy even if I'm the only one on the planet who will.
- The attack by that woman in the street.
- Attacks by others passed on to me by her and by Bill shouting at me in the information office.
- The report from Bill attacking me - being made a scapegoat. All that work and again no recognition. (Did I do all that work for service or to get recognition? To get approval?)
Five greatest stresses now:
- Fear of being killed by cancer.
- Fear of losing my hair through chemotherapy.
- Fear of being ill from chemotherapy.
- Lack of money for the next few months.
How I may be participating in maintaining stress:
- Continually thinking about the stresses.
- Resisting what will help heal me.
- Not moving towards what is good for me.
How to remove stress:
- Face my fear of dying - get information, change diet, etc., to improve health.
- Accept loss of hair - ask for help.
- Create positive images about chemotherapy.
- Ask my mother for financial help.
Needs being met by the illness:
- Time to myself - to read, do nothing, be, walk.
- Love - receiving love, feeling love from many people.
- Being able to ask for and receive help.
- Being able to express emotions openly.
- Being released from blame and other's expectations.
- I'm supposed to be able to function, no matter what.
- People didn't love me before.
- I must appear good and perfect.
- I must keep working for others rather than myself (the good old monk).
- I deserve blame (shocking!)
Monday 16th October
Saturday and Sunday Mike and I went to Wales. We found a lovely little cottage, a converted barn with a balcony where the bed was, to stay in at Cilycwm. We walked up the hill behind the farm up onto the top of the moorland. It was a long strenuous walk that puffed me out but it felt good. I didn't sleep too well and on Sunday we went to see the river and the nature reserve up past Rhandirmwyn. The river there is wonderful, churning and spuming as it races down the narrow gully and there are many nature spirits in the wild land. It's such an invigorating spot.
We drove across to the other side of the river and went to Junction Pool where the two rivers meet and the huge Ajna rock in the landscape temple sits between them. Mike jumped across a chasm of water where the river funnels between the rocks to get to the Ajna rock. I didn't feel I could jump the chasm without falling in so I waded across the river in my wellies further upstream. We sat for long time on the huge red rock. It's very good there. On the way back I took my wellies off and put my feet in the water. It wasn't too cold and felt good.
It's such a beautiful valley. I'd like to have retreat centre there with Mike one day. Facing death I am free to vision whatever I please. Inhibitions go. Why limit myself. I have nothing to lose.
Wednesday 18th October
I asked my mother if she could give me some money to help over the next few months when I won't be able to earn any money. It's hard enough for Mike having to do most of the work for me and the children, as well as having to having to earn all the money. She was wonderful and said it would be her pleasure, what else is money for? She has a very good attitude to money particularly at times such as this. She will send me a cheque each month for a few months that will help pay for the mortgage, my acupuncture and Chinese herbs, and anything else that I need. It is a great load off my mind.
Andrea gave me Cadmium sulphate and homeopathic Cancer to take. I visualise my white blood cells like big comic strip cube weights landing splat on the cancer cells and killing them. I'm not very consistent in my visualisations. They are a rather random event, but I do it when the images come into my mind.
Pauline came over in the evening and said that if I shaved my head, she would shave hers too, with me. How amazing!
Friday 20th October
The White Lady is on the levels this morning - beautiful mist under a pale blue sky and golden sun. I had a good session with Phil about dealing with fear. I want all my fear to be gone, dead, killed. It is a monster that bites others and bites me in the solar plexus and I want it gone from my life. I visualised my left hand as the monstrous fear and my right hand was me. The left hand squirmed and twisted with fear. Then the right hand began touching the left slowly and caressing it, caring and loving the fear away. It felt good. I have been afraid for so long.
Edwene has come to Glastonbury this week with her group. Yesterday I took them on a Goddess guided walk up around Chalice Hill and to the Tor, the White Spring and Chalice Well. Then I did a Goddess workshop and visualisation in the afternoon for them. It's great to be doing something creative again, to feel that I can still do something for the Goddess.
Do the things that you love to do and leave the rest for others, Pauline said.
Thursday 26th October
I feel like I've been hit with a sledgehammer. At first it seemed easy. We went to Musgrove Park hospital in Taunton in the morning. I had a blood test and then we did a short relaxation and I had a foot massage. There were two older women there who had been having chemo, one for five months and another for six months. They seemed alright. In the visualisation I went into my beautiful garden which was filled with flowers and lawns and a statue of the Goddess with a tall hedge behind her. Then I thought it was like the Temple garden where the Minotaur lives, but I didn't want to see him in his shadow form now in this garden. He then appeared to one side as the gardener with his blond hair. He was very gentle and very strong. That felt good.
Then we went into another room where the doctor came in with two huge syringes, one filled with a clear, white liquid, cyclophosphamide, the other with red adriamycin - white and red, the alchemical colours. It made me smile. This is an alchemical process and it's happening inside of me. This is the mingling of the red and white, the coniunctio oppositorum. She put the two drugs into a tube in the back of my hand - and then an anti nausea drug. From the fact sheets they've given me they both sound highly toxic and can occasionally do you long term damage. I hope not for me.
It felt OK and we came home. My pee went bright red. I started to clean the house, then Kay came over and took me over to her house for some healing. I began to feel a bit ill and spaced out and from then on it was downhill all the way until about 8pm when I felt really low, then it evened out and later I went to sleep. My brain was still active though my body was wiped out. I didn't feel sick or nauseous. I woke in the night and couldn't get back to sleep, my mind raced. Then later I dropped off. Now its morning and I feel low and tired and ill but OK.
Mike has given me a lovely print of The Magic Circle by John Waterhouse. A woman is drawing a circle in the sand around a cauldron on a fire. Smoke rises from the conjuration. Outside the circle are crows - ravens - Morgens. For me she is Morgen la Fey and my body is the cauldron in which the magical red and white are blending and transforming. I shall never be the same again.
I visualise the red adriamycin washing through and into the cancer cells killing them, then the white sharks come along and eat the dead cancer cells and take them away.
Monday 30th October
This has been a terrible five days. I don't know if I will be able to cope with this four times over. Its so horrible. I feel absolutely felled by poison. Now my stomach hurts and I have diarrhoea. For days I have felt flattened, constipated, poisoned and feverish. My poor body is in the athenor, the furnace which holds the alchemical vessel. The contents are being heated up together over and over. How can I endure this? Yesterday I ate a throat sweet to try and change the taste in my mouth and my tongue went bright green. Everything tastes flat, metallic, disgusting. Yuck!
What is the rhyme or reason for this?
Why is it happening to me?
Thursday 2nd November
Six buzzards are flying up outside of my window. They look wonderful. The light today is very bright and beautiful.
Friday 10th November
My hair has begun to fall out. So it is going to happen after all. It's amazing how they can predict exactly when it's going to happen. Just running my fingers through my hair and out it comes in great handfuls. It is really weird.
Monday 13th November
Yesterday we held an amazing death and rebirth ceremony for me in the Miracles Room with lots of good friends - Diana, Lorye, Pauline, Chris M, Lydia, Oshia, Viv, Sue B, Sue P, Stella, Aye, Chris C, Chris H, Jaana, Elizabeth, Kevin, Tyna, Pauline, Barry, Mike, Jonathan, Jo, Jon, Andrea, Lilli, Nicholas, Indu, Moya and some more whose names escape me.
Before Mike and I got to the Miracles Room I felt very nervous but once the ceremony was happening I was no longer afraid. First as I sat in Mike's arms everyone shared memories of how they had met and known the old Kathy and I felt very fond of her and was amazed at the variety of experiences she had had with so many people over such a long time. It was wonderful to listen to everything everyone said. In particular it was lovely to hear the memories of other mothers - Aye, Andrea and Stella, of times we had together with our children when they were small. That was really lovely. And to hear many people's memories of the intensity of being in the Ariadne plays.
Then we began the death part symbolised by shaving my head. The most amazing thing was that Pauline and Chris Makepeace had their heads shaved too, with me, so I would not be alone. It was so incredible that they would do that for me. I don't know if I could do that for someone else. We began with each person coming up and gently pulling some hair out of my scalp. It came out easily. Then Elizabeth began to shave the rest of it. Pauline and Chris were shaved at the same time by Aye, and Chris and Nick, until there were the three of us, bald. I know it wasn't easy for Pauline to shave her head when there was no physical need to do so, only for her a psychic one. Chris shaved off his very long hair that he's had for years. Just amazing! They have both got themselves sponsored to shave their heads and will donate the money to a cancer charity.
Then I was reborn walking between my friends and stepping into a bowl full of Chalice Well and White Spring water and rose petals. I put all my hair into a box like a mini coffin and will bury it in the ground somewhere.
It was so liberating to have my head shaved and now it is bare and it feels wonderful. I look like a conehead. The Tibetan in me is revealed for all to see. I feel like the monk I once was in a previous incarnation. If death is like this I will die happy. I realise that although I have a fear of dying I will walk into the moment of death with an excited heart. All it takes is to let go and turn and look into the future face on instead of trying to run away from it, which is pointless anyway, because it is going to happen one day.
This morning Iona is afraid to see me without hair. She says she never wants to see my bald head, ever! So I will cover my head for her. Torky doesn't seem to mind. We will go slowly.
All the puppies have gone at last to good homes and it's great there is no more piss and shit to clear up every day. We made some money selling them which covered the costs of feeding and vaccinating them, plus a little bit more. I now understand why people breed dogs. The money is very helpful at the moment. Being ill is such an expensive business. I hope Smudger can have some more puppies next year when I can really enjoy them.
I had a dream of cancer as a yellow substance like cinder toffee. I got the sharks to eat it. (Later I asked Dr Whipp what colour breast cancer cells are and she told me they are yellow.)
Wednesday 29th November
I dreamed this morning that a bomb which was attached to a pipe in my house had been disarmed. It was no longer going to explode. There was a plaque there to commemorate the fact it had been there but it was no longer dangerous! Fantastic! The cancer must be dead.
I'm feeling good, better than last time. I've got more energy. There is a white line across the bottoms of all my nails. The chemotherapy kills all newly growing cells, including the nails and I will get a white line after each dose.
I've bought four great hats and I have found I'm a dab hand at winding colourful scarves round my head something I thought I would never be able to do.
Friday 8th December
I had the third lot of chemo on Wednesday. After we left the hospital and before I started feeling ill, we went shopping in Taunton and I bought a lovely red coat for a treat. I am wearing lots of red at the moment. It gives me energy. I now have red trousers, red cardigan, red hat and now my red coat - rubedo! We went home before the dreadful feeling came on.
I feel disgusting today. Alison gave me a good healing session this morning. She is amazing. She just turned up out of the blue. I think Jaana asked her to call when she went away, and each time after the chemo she comes and gives me healing. Elizabeth came in the afternoon and gave me a massage. Her hands are strong and she works deeply pushing out the toxins. As she massaged my chest out came a cry from deep inside, What have I done to deserve this?
I don't know. I have done nothing that bad in this life. Sadness came pouring out of my body with tears.
Late yesterday I listened to a tape of Paul Weston talking about his Nazi incarnation and his redemption in Avalon through Jesus. As Elizabeth massaged me an image came into my mind of shaved heads - naked bodies lying in the gas chambers of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. An image of myself shaven headed, lying in a pile of bodies. Then of the shaven heads of women collaborators in France - those who had slept with the enemy, who had betrayed. Breast cancer they say, is about lack of self love. The reason I wouldn't love myself is because I feel I don't deserve to be loved. Why would I feel that? Because in some way I have betrayed the love of others? I felt a great sadness. Whatever I did I'm sorry. I'm sorry if I betrayed you. I'm sorry for all that I have done to harm others in my life and in all my other lives. I'm sorry if I hurt you. I'm sorry.
Then after a while came a wonderful feeling of self-forgiveness. I forgive myself for the hurt I have caused to others. I cried and cried.
Saturday 10th February
I'm feeling a bit tired today but on the whole I'm feeling very good. The Goddess Conference is a real inspiration. I wonder how far ahead I can plan for other projects. Next year for my 50th birthday we were planning before I got ill, to go to Mount Kailash in eastern Tibet. The other night we watched this great film about Kailash without words, just music. It looks very beautiful, changing shape as you walk around it. Sublime, beautiful, shaped like a gigantic phallic tip. I have a feeling I may not have the physical strength to make this journey next year, if ever. I do not know how far I will be able to stretch myself when this is over. Until now I have taken my physical body for granted, but no longer. The last four days here it has snowed and is all white and bright. I took lots of photos and some video.
I'm reading Grace and Grit by Ken Wilbur about his wife having breast cancer and eventually dying from it. It's good on all the thoughts that go through your mind, back and forth - why it's happening, the fears and the realisations. Love is.
I'm now having hot flashes nearly all the time. The chemicals have done my ovaries in, although they may recover. At night I wake several times between 2 and 6am first very cold and then suddenly hot and sweating. I'm in instant menopause and can't take any oestrogen to balance it out because that's what breast cancer feeds on. Men have such an easy time of it physically. They're really lucky.
I'm a bit sore in the ribs below my right breast. I hope it's just repairing itself and is nothing meaningful. Can the cancer have moved out of my breast down into the chest wall? My nails are breaking as the dead parts reach the ends of my fingers. My hair is just beginning to grow again. I must continue to strengthen my immune system. I still take all the vitamins and minerals, the Essiac and am taking Chinese herbs to recover from the chemotherapy and prepare for the radiotherapy. My poor body is having such a hammering.
Before I got cancer I always assumed that my body was strong and could take anything I did to it. I could always push it if I needed to and it would respond. I've always had a lot of energy. Now I have to come to terms with the limitations of my physical condition. I understand how amazing the body is. It is a temple in which the spirit lives and we are lucky if we are healthy. Without health we can do little.
Another realisation - I always believed that there was a direct positive relationship between spiritual energy and the health of the body - that when the soul's energy was flowing unimpeded into and through the body you were healthy. If you were ill you were on some level, usually unconscious, blocking your soul energy coming into expression. That gave me a rather moralistic view of illness - you are doing something wrong if you are ill. A bit of blame the victim. But I have now had some of my most spiritual experiences when my body has been physically almost destroyed. So the relationship is there between the soul and disease but it's not necessarily direct, sometimes its reciprocal. It's more like disease is created by the soul to push us beyond our current limits and is itself part of a deeper healing process. Disease is itself a form of healing if we can recognise it.
Tuesday 17th December 1996
Mike and I drove to Bristol this morning. Yesterday I got very frightened. Having removed it from my thoughts all during the play I felt scared. What if the cancer has returned? We got to the hospital late with nowhere to park the car. I went into the small room and the nice Mr Halliwell was there, no nurses, just machines. I lay down and he put cold gel on my breast. The first thing he said was, That's good, there's no blood flow. First feeling of relief - if it's cancer there is blood flowing. He went over the whole breast. There was the dark mark, the shadow cast by something small, less than 4/10cm. It could be scar tissue from the operation. I think it is. It felt wonderful. It isn't cancer.
He sent both of us away joyful. We had both been feeling afraid. Mike had been anxious for several weeks but I had decided to enjoy life anyway and had a great time doing the play. It was the first time we had been to a hospital in eighteen months and had good news. Every other time we had been there had been bad news or some horrid treatment. It was wonderful.
I suppose this is how it will be for the next few years, going for check ups, every so often having an alarm call. The message is clear stay awake, remember, do not forgot all you have experienced and learned.
Wednesday 4th March 1998
I am still alive and feeling healthy. In the last few months I have had the all clear from Mr Halliwell - the black spot in my breast has completely disappeared; from Dr Whipp; and a couple of weeks ago an all clear mammogram. Everything is OK for now.
It is two and a half years since this experience began and I have learned so much that I probably could not have learned in any other way. It has been so terrible and yet so amazing. On that Tor Labrynth walk at Lammas in 1995 when I asked the Goddess for transformation, I had no idea what I was asking for. I did not know that transformation could go so deep. Her ways are full of mystery and the path to wisdom is veiled in allegory.
I have learned so many things. I know now that we are truly One and there is no separation between you and me, between me and you. I know that we can harm each other by our thoughts as well as our actions and we can also help heal each other. I would not be alive now without the love and care of my beloved Michael, Iona and Torky, and the love and care of at least 200 other friends. I love many people and I know that love is the most important thing in life no matter how much we disagree and argue about the details of living.
I have learned about forgiveness. I have learnt to forgive others for the hurts they cause me, rather than holding onto pain, and to ask forgiveness for the hurts I cause to others. Perhaps most importantly I have forgiven myself for hurting other people, for making mistakes, for doing it wrong, because I was always my own worst critic and judge. I have learned to love myself.
I have remembered and experienced the power of healing. I worked for many years as a healer, then lost faith in it all when healing failed to cure my newborn baby, Iona, of her near fatal illness. She had a life-saving operation at six weeks and was completely restored to health, but I had lost my simplistic belief that healing could cure everything. I also lost the belief that it could cure anything at all. I stopped working as a healer. Having cancer I have realised that in one sense all disease is itself a form of healing. It is the soul's attempt to awaken us to an inner imbalance, forcing us to expand our limited horizons and consciousness. I believe in the power of healing once again, not to cure everything - doctors and nurses are great on the nuts and bolts of disease and at saving lives, but to restore wholeness to broken human beings. Over the last six months as well as writing this book I have also been finishing a book on Soul Healing which I first began writing nearly twenty years ago. I have begun to teach a certificated course on Esoteric Healing for the Isle of Avalon Foundation and I am also beginning to run healing workshops for cancer sufferers and their supporters. Kevin Redpath and I have created a moving multimedia performance about the experience of cancer with wonderful music and glorious slide images.
I know now that one day I will die, hopefully later rather than sooner, and I am no longer so afraid of dying. I look forward to it as part of my soul's journey. I do not claim to have found the Philosopher's Stone, to be able to change base metal into gold, but I have learned of Sophia and the Wisdom of Her ways. As I journeyed through the cancer Labrynth I clung onto Ariadne's Red Thread following it into the centre where I faced the Minotaur in his lair. I saw him and myself transform and have returned to tell the tale.
I know that the Goddess loves me as She loves each one of us, accepting us completely just as we are. She is the starlight fire by night and the white mist at daybreak. She is nature in all her glory. She is the way and the goal. Her voice calls softly on the wind to each one of us,
Have faith in me. I am always with you. I will never leave you. Speak to me often.
Throughout the ages you have called my name Wisdom,
Veiled yet glorious to behold,
None shall see my face who has not rent the veil to immortality.
l am in you and of you.
Before the world was made, I was.
When you are no more, I shall be.
Let it be known - today, the Eternal Feminine Sophia
In an incorruptible body is emerging into the world,
In the unfading light of a new goddess never seen before.
Heaven shall be one with the deep,
The songs of the wise shall be sung around the earth,
For I am Wisdom and I am come among you.
From AND THEY CALL HER NAME WISDOM
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