During the semiconscious state waking up from an anaesthetic; I heard a soft authoritative voice standing at my bedside, dressed in green scrubs - “the news is not good”. Was I dreaming? Did I hear him correctly? Shock, disbelief and astonishment engulfed me. That was not the news I hoped for and he added that he had scheduled an appointment for me to see him in two days to discuss my options. I felt as though I was hit by a tornado. A week ago, I had seen my G.P about a lump in my left breast, the size of a pea. “You are worrying about nothing”, she said. I assertively pushed back and insisted on a biopsy. She then referred me to a surgeon. In the recovery room, still dazed from the general anaesthetic, I struggled to get myself off the bed to get to the bathroom across the hallway. When I got there, I collapsed on the toilet seat and broke down in floods of tears. The privacy of the enclosed space provided me with temporary comfort. I was 43 years with three young children who still needed me.
In the days that followed, I entered a very dark abyss of emptiness. I met with the surgeon. Discussed my options. Decided on a radical mastectomy. The surgery was uneventful. During my two days of hospitalisation, I had a visit from a breast cancer survivor. I now had a disease that defined me. Lots of time for quiet reflection. At times, my meaning making mind went into overdrive. I wondered about my mortality. Would it be weeks, months or years? My prayers for help were fervent and intimate. I questioned the purpose of this new life lesson. What would my future be like? My marriage had been ailing for a long time. When I shared the news we both embraced and broke down in hot tears. But we will need much more than a few hot tears for the long journey ahead.
The weeks that followed was suffocating. Some days I imagined my exit from the world. I was overwhelmed with worry about my three children, ages 15, 12 and 9 years. My emotions fluctuated between hope and despair. My pity party with Me, Myself and I led me to be very inclusive. And my alter ego, Pam, the fighter, the positive thinker had departed. Living the old adage, “misery loves company” anyone willing to lend me their ear heard my bad luck story. As well, daily glances in the mirror were a constant reminder that my body image had changed. My breast which defined my femininity, and had given and received pleasure, and had nursed my three babies was now a defining scar. Would the other breast suffer the same fate? I wondered. Many thoughts about life - the ebbs and flow of rivers which always flow downward. Never up. The female monthly menstrual cycle, the patience of pregnancy and the toil of childbirth. Mother earth, the keeper of life's ancient secrets, what hidden message did she have for me? I knew what Providence in its mystery had taken away. But what plans did Providence have in store for me?
In my interior, a subliminal shift was occurring. A slow spiritual gestation of something new. My thoughts were shifting away from myself and a different inner conversation was occurring. A desire for something new. Not a vacation to a foreign land. I was already exhausted trying to find meaning. I just wanted a nurturing experience. Something to help me to move forward. My awakening experience was illuminating. I could sit and wallow in self-pity or I could choose to live life. The C. word did not have to define me. And this was the beginning of my life as an Art museum. I registered in an oil painting class. A totally new and absorbing experience. The extent of my past art was drawing stick people in my exercise book. Now I was ready to discover something new and like a newborn, I was eager to learn. At the end of my first classes, my Art instructor spoke the prophetic words. Pamela, “ you have something, stick with it”. Healing words. Words that inspired and supported me. Exploring the new language of line, shapes and the nuances of colour pushed me forward in my healing journey. Like a nurturing mother Providence shaped; reshaped and redefined the new me. I fell in love with the illusion making process and in 2009 I obtained a certificate of Fine Art with Honors from St Lawrence College. I am a 23year breast cancer survivor and according to the survivor mortality statistics, I have crossed the barren land. All thanks to my creator. The occasional private sale and gifts of art to my family and friends have also helped me on my road to recovery and recounting my journey of loss and rebirth is my epiphany.