The dragonfly, transformation and rebirth

When you are diagnosed with breast cancer there is a before and an after in your life. This is the beginning of the story of my personal process.

There's (temporarily) a bug in my chest

On 19 June 2023 my life stopped.

It has taken me time to process the news and piece together the pieces of my life that were left lying on the floor.

Now that my head has clicked and my perspective has changed, I feel strong enough to write and tell what I have experienced since then.

It is still early days, but maybe it will help other wonderful women in the same situation.

The uncertainty phase

There is a before and an after when you are told that you have an breast cancerBut I would say that there is an intermediate phase, full of uncertainty, which begins with all the tests you undergo at the hospital and the time it takes until the result is confirmed.

In my case, those were very tense days, when I could hardly sleep, because my mind was travelling at the speed of light and would not let me rest. There was a lot of uncertainty, although a part of me was already anticipating what they were going to tell me.

In the tests I could see the faces of the doctors and technicians who attended me. None of them could confirm anything without the final results, but their faces were like open books to me.

In these stressful days I tried to do some meditation exercises. I just prayed to heaven for a message that could calm me down a bit.

A few words then echoed in my mind: "Don't be afraid, don't be afraid"..

But fear is free and travels fast.

Confirmation of breast cancer news and treatment

Internally, I was preparing myself for the news. On the 19th, during my visit to the gynaecologist, I received the worst news of my life. I had a malignant tumour in my right breast. I remember that I went to this visit with my mother. We were both in a state of shock and a thousand things went through my head.

My life had come to a complete halt. The first thing I asked was whether I had any hope of survival. The doctor then, in the midst of this terrible news, very firmly assured me two or three times, that the treatment they were going to give me was curative.

Curative, curative, curative.

That calmed me down a bit, but my head was already scheming about everything and it was all bad and pessimistic.

The doctor explained to me the process that I would have to follow from now on, an MRI scan and a visit with oncology to carry out the chemotherapy treatment and then surgery. She made it clear that if the surgery required reconstruction, it would be done on the same day, so I would leave with a full breast.

However, he told me to prepare myself, because I was going to have a very tough year.

We said thank you and left the surgery with tears welling up in our eyes. My mother and I hugged and left for home.

Coping with the news of breast cancer

From here on, everything was hell for me. I have always been a very positive and optimistic person, but this was terrifying. On the one hand I was trying to anchor myself to the words the gynaecologist told me "curative treatment, curative treatment".But on the other hand, fear was running rampant in my mind and my mind was projecting destructive and chaotic scenarios. I couldn't control it, I was overwhelmed. I just wanted to disappear.

Then came an MRI scan, followed by a visit with the oncologist who explained to me in more detail what I had and how far I was affected. I couldn't stop crying in the consultation room. I was very broken. But, in spite of the bad things, there were also very positive things (white flags), in the diagnosis in terms of the extent of the tumour and this is what I had to anchor myself to in order to continue.

The oncologist explained to me the treatment I was going to receive and on 3 July I underwent a CAT scan and an electrocardiogram and then began my first cycle of chemotherapy of four total in the first phase, with 21-day intervals between each cycle.

The main objective is to reduce the size of the bug that has (temporarily) lodged itself in my chest.

The dragonfly, transformation and rebirth

On 28 June, I was watering in my garden, when out of nowhere a dragonfly appeared among my ferns.

I had never seen dragonflies in my garden. There have been many butterflies, ladybirds, lizards, grasshoppers, snails,... but never a dragonfly, so I momentarily stood still.

The dragonfly made a short flight and landed back on the fern, right in front of me. I asked for permission to take a picture and quickly took out my mobile phone and was able to take several pictures before it took off and flew away.

Libélula en uno de mis helechos.

I looked up on the internet what it means to see dragonflies and was amazed at what I found.

Dragonflies represent transformation and rebirth.. They are also considered totems of mental lightness.

I interpreted it as another message that could apply to me.

My life was transforming and I had to be reborn. And lightness of mind was also a requirement that I needed to implement. I have always been a person who overthinks things, ruminates and ruminates on thoughts, on what people say, which affects me greatly. Something here was telling me that I necessarily had to start making adjustments in the way I process and manage my thoughts.

I was very happy to have received such a powerful and enlightening message and I knew that my first illustration to portray this process was going to contain a dragonfly.

I have made this illustration to represent the transformation and rebirth symbolised by a dragonfly.

I have made it with Adobe Illustrator and it is therefore a vector illustration. I have created several colour versions, with pinkish colours in all of them, as pink is the colour by definition of the breast cancer ribbon.

The invisible network of support and love

I would like to highlight and go much deeper into what has helped me the most in these first steps.

There is an invisible network of support and love that envelops you from the very beginning. This network is made up of people who love you, but also of people that life will introduce to you during this process and who are also directly or indirectly linked to breast cancer, either because they have experienced it personally or because they work with people who are experiencing it.

Family

My family, especially my parents and my brother are my most direct support and on whom I have unloaded a lot of weight. Their unconditional love, affection, support and constant care are the elements that are giving me the most strength.

Friends

In my case, I had first-hand friends who had already gone through this process and who from the beginning supported me, listened to me, gave me encouragement and words of comfort, because they never once doubted that this was not going to be cured.

One of them was also the first one who, when I told her I had a lump in my breast, forced me to go to the hospital, to the emergency room, so that they could see it right away. I was waiting for the appointment, but it hadn't arrived yet. My friend insisted that I not wait another day and that I take action by going to the emergency room. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, for giving me that push I didn't know I needed.

Having positive friends in whom you can unload part of this burden is very important, because they will give you encouragement when you don't have it, when you are more fragile, when you are very small. Courage and lots and lots of good love.

I clung to his words in my moments of greatest doubt and fragility.

I think what I needed most at the beginning was confirmation that there would be a way out of this black hole my mind got into and they partly gave it to me.

I get emotional and teary-eyed now remembering it.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Other friends (who fortunately have not gone through this), also saw me cry, cry a lot, having hit rock bottom, and they consoled me with endless love, affection and patience.

I felt very fortunate to be able to call them when I had my emotional lows and have them cheer me up.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

As my new situation became known, the number of messages and calls of love and support were enormous. I can't thank you enough for so many expressions of affection.

Earth angels

Nube con luz especial
Cloud with special light

But then life presents you with others as well. earth angels that appear at the very moment you need them.

On 3 July, when I had my CT scan early in the morning and before I started my first cycle of chemotherapy, one of the technicians took my hand at the end of the test and inquired about my condition.

When I explained what was happening to me, I started crying. I was very nervous and also very scared. My earth angel told me that she had gone through the same thing five years ago. She explained her case to me, which a priori was more difficult than mine. And there she was now, five years later, helping me. She gave me a big hug and told me that everything was going to be fine. She recommended me to exercise, which is very important in these processes and I noticed how my anxiety had reduced and I had managed to calm down enormously.

I left for the next test, an electrocardiogram, and after breakfast, I went to the hospital area to get the first course of chemotherapy or as I like to call it, healing poison.

Control management in a breast cancer process

In this process, there is an important turning point that brings you down to earth and makes you realise that you can't have everything under control. This is a very important lesson to internalise.

The mind always wants to have control over everything and in cases like this, you necessarily discover that there are things that escape you and that nothing happens, because we don't have superpowers, we are only human beings.

Mentally I did a little exercise in which I drew a list of things that were in my power to control and things that were not.

Those that were not, were basically limited to the process and cure of the disease, so I put that responsibility on those who can only control it, which are the doctors.

I was immediately relieved to be relieved of that responsibility and focused on what is in my power and what I can control: food, meditation, rest, some exercise and loving myself a lot.

There was also something else I could control.

I knew my hair was going to fall out with chemotherapy.

My hair has always been my trademark and I was scared at the thought of losing it, but I also knew it was inevitable.

A few days into the first round of chemotherapy, I took control of the situation and asked my brother to cut my hair. He braided my hair and cut it, first above my shoulders, into a very short bob. I have always worn my hair very long, but I actually liked the way it looked.

After a few days, I asked him to shave my hair this time very short. A military haircut style that I also liked, although I looked a bit strange at first.

Finally, a week later, I asked him again to cut my hair, but this time completely. I was starting to notice slight hair loss and I didn't want to give the chemotherapy the power to make me hairless. I and I alone had decided when to remove my hair. In part, I felt empowered.

I had already bought some scarves and started wearing them every day.

From here on, everything was much kinder and gentler and I started to see everything with different eyes. This was my new life and I loved myself more than ever.

Mi nueva imagen con pañuelo y sin pelo

My herbalist allies

I am a great believer in the help that natural and herbal remedies can give me.

From the very beginning, my naturopath recommended some products that would improve my immune system. I also took advice from the herbalist and now I consider them to be my super allies:

Meditation and self-healing

In addition to these products, I have also started to practise Jin Shin Jyutsu.

This is an art or Japanese self-healing technique to harmonise your body and mind. Since almost the beginning of my diagnosis I have been practising some of the exercises and I have seen a considerable improvement, both physically and mentally. My head gradually became more focused and came out of the black hole it had been in for about two weeks.

It is highly highly highly recommended to do them daily. Going deeper and reading about this technique or art on the internet, I found out that it is used in some American hospitals as an aid after oncological processes and it has been proven that patients improve, as the negative effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy are practically neutralised, except for fatigue.

I found it so interesting that I decided to go for a face-to-face consultation in Madrid with a Jin Shin Jyutsu master and he is helping me a lot. Thank you Oscar!

I leave you their website, in case you find it useful: https://jsjparati.com

I practice daily various exercises, for general harmonisation, as well as to work on specific points, such as improving the immune system ("Flow 13") or small circuits to help eliminate toxicity from the body or to prevent mouth ulcers from forming.

Exercise

Among the things I can control in this process is getting some exercise.

Every day I go for a walk for an hour, when it is no longer hot. Walking brings me a lot of peace and I use the walks to organise my thoughts.

I go at the pace my body and energy set for me on that day, I never force myself to do more than I can do. Listening to my body is the best thing I can do.

I like to take photos on my walks and reflect the peace they offer me, like the beautiful sunsets this summer.

Thanks for reading this far. In new posts I will tell you more about this personal process.

See you soon

Beatriz

Un atardecer de agosto en uno de mis paseos
An August sunset on one of my walks

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