Saturday, 31 October 2015

Breast cancer awareness month: Hummingbird

Author: Sarah C

My heart is full. I am joyful. It is two months since my surgery and I am well. I have got through this. I have lived through this. I am in love with this moment. My stomach flutters like the wings of a hummingbird and life pulses through me.

Yesterday I spent all day in meditation. Mindful. Mindful of the fact that this is the end of the acute phase of my cancer journey. My wounds have healed. No fluid, no swelling, just a scar which looks less angry every day. I have accepted the loss of my breast and am slowly coming to terms with the practicalities of what this means. Negotiating changing rooms and swimming pools and conversations with awkward questions.

The hardest part has been having to massage the scar every day. Looking in the mirror at the wound where my breast once was and slowly, gently trying to bring the flesh back to life. The surgeon cuts through the muscles and nerves and the area of the wound becomes numb. With proper care and attention you can coax the nerves back to life but you have to be brave. You have to look at the site where the cancer was, you have to face the trauma of the cutting and the stitching and marvel at the miracle of healing. You have to be kind to yourself, body and mind. You have to take time. You have to accept.

Yesterday in meditation I decided to celebrate this moment. To enjoy the crescendo of this part of the healing process. The body is a miraculous thing. Life is a marvellous journey. I am scared of tomorrow and the tablets I will have to take and the risk of the abnormal cells multiplying and dividing, forming a new army ready to invade like Putin’s people on the borders of the Ukraine. But this is today, this is now. I am well. I stood and I closed my eyes and I said thank you to whoever or whatever has led me here. Whatever has been my guide, my Sherpa on the rocky terrain of illness, I know I have been guided through to this place.

As I closed my eyes a dove swooped down in front of me. It was a big and powerful bird and it quickly disappeared. Then quietly, gently a hummingbird came into sight and stayed, hovering just over my heart in front of my chest. Technicolour and startlingly beautiful, I felt like Mary Poppins without the excruciating Dick Van Dyke and the fluttering of its tiny wings reverberated through my body with a joy and freedom I cannot describe.

Eight years ago at a time of crisis I went to Barbados and made some decisions that changed the path of my life. The decisions took courage and strength and meant breaking with the old ways to find a new happiness. There was a humming bird nesting on the veranda of the house I was staying in. Every time I stepped out on to the veranda the humming bird came out. My heart opened at the sight of it and I found the courage to live a new way, inspired by this tiny bird who could move so fast and yet always stand still, entranced by the energy and the strength of this magical creature. Yesterday the humming bird came back.

Tomorrow I get the tablets which mark the start of the next phase of my cancer journey. The banality of the everyday living with chronic illness, daily poisoning myself with the tablets in the hope it will kill the potential future threat. My own personal war on my own personal terror but for now I just need to hold onto this moment and make sure I keep my humming bird with me as I make my first faltering steps into the future. 

Sarah writes at

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