Counseling About Breast Cancer

Dear Harvey,

I promised to write to you about my bout with breast cancer. A year ago in July, some microcalcifica-tions were discovered on a routine mammogram. After a few more non-invasive tests, I was told I should see a surgeon. Accompanied by a beloved Co-Counselor I reviewed my options with the surgeon (all the time believing that nothing whatsoever was wrong, yet still being massively frightened, ashamed, and annoyed). I decided on a surgical biopsy (essentially a lumpectomy). I got lots of sessions and even convinced the surgeon to let my Co-Counselor stay with me through a most intriguing and highly messy needle placement. Since there was no lump, a needle (read piano wire) had to be inserted into the breast, under x-ray with computer assistance, to serve as the road map for the surgeon. I was able to have my Co-Counselor with me until I actually entered the operating room and have Co-Counselors with me in the recovery room as well. I also had a whole series of one-way sessions at home that evening.

I'd arranged to have a Co-Counselor with me when I received the results five days later. However, I was so certain that absolutely nothing was wrong that when I discovered I could learn the results one day early, I let them tell me over the phone. Big mistake. I told my adult children the results and headed off, more or less in a daze, to have a session and plan my RC class with my assistant (who had been with me for the needle placement). She counseled me long and well, and eventually we decided that rather than teaching class that evening I would spend time with another Co-Counselor, M-. When we gave M- the news, her response was so relaxed that I immediately discharged profusely and decided that for big news, more Co-Counselors are better than fewer. They get to support each other. M- suggested that I teach my class on cancer, and so I did.

Just a few words about my class: It was a fundamentals class, mostly women, mostly people of color, and my daughter was in it. That night, for her "new and good," my daughter shared how we had been hit by a truck the day before and had all walked away from the accident virtually unscathed. The truck became the metaphor for my class.

Because of Labor Day, the class had not met for two weeks. I told them how three trucks had hit me during that time, but that only one truck was real. The first truck was the accident. I told them about it, discharging all the while, and then had them do a mini-session. The second truck was the surgical biopsy. I discharged about that, and then they did another mini. I concluded by having my assistant counsel me about the third truck, the diagnosis of cancer, after which they took a longer mini. It was a great class. I was in awfully good shape the next day when I saw the surgeon and in the succeeding days as I endeavored to chart the course of my treatment.

I made good use of my Co-Counselors as I figured out my next steps and treatment options. I had a second surgery to find clear tissue margins and then seven weeks of radiation therapy. Once again Co-Counselors were with me before surgery and afterwards. Radiation therapy was every morning, and I either had a Co-Counselor with me or a mini-session beforehand. Radiation is tiring, and I found it hard to go after people, so it was wonderful when they came after me. Some days I couldn't do much more than sleep. I finished my therapy in December, have had two clear mammograms since then, and have been given a clean bill of health.

I used my time with doctors, nurses, and other patients to share RC information, particularly about listening, discharging, and reclaiming our thinking. I attended one program on breast cancer which was supposed to be uplifting but was designed very poorly. This is a field that could benefit greatly from what we in RC have figured out.

Two years ago at the Midwest USA Regional RC Conference, when I told you I had had three deer jump across my path, you said that it meant it was all up to me. In the intervening time I have taught seven fundamentals classes and have seen all of my four beloved children learn RC, share the information widely, and begin to assume leadership in building their Communities. It's been a joyous ride.

Harriet McKinney
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

(Present Time No. 110, January 1998)

Last modified: 2016-08-22 02:11:22-07