I’ve had several essay ideas floating around my head lately, but the turn of events in my life has left me, at least tonight, with the desire, or need, to share a deeper part of myself. Warning: this is of a religious nature.
When we arrived in Seattle on this clear skied, below freezing day, I’d come to terms with the small lesion found in my breast, for which I was to get a biopsy. Due to ferry times, we arrived early with time to walk Abby. While walking, we “stumbled” upon the back of a HUGE church in the midst of blocks of medical buildings. It was St James Cathedral.
I’d already decided on a lumpectomy and radiation, spoke yesterday with the same radiation doctor who 20 months ago, after a lumpectomy, told me he did not think I was a good candidate for radiation for other health reasons. I told him how for something so small I was willing to try it in lieu of a mastectomy. He assured me if there were clean margins on this lumpectomy he could keep the dose low. I felt I had a plan.
I’m sure I’ve seen St James from the front, years ago. I certainly have heard of it. But slipping in through the small nondescript side door, we were not prepared for the cavernous grandeur inside. With Abby tucked under my arm, we stood in awe in the warm, dimly lit serenity, such a contrast to the cold wind and bright sun outside. Even greater contrast to the scattered anxiety of my mind.
After my morning appointment, imaging showed indicators of more cancer in my breast. Now two biopsies were to take place today (one two weeks ago showed cancer in the sentinel lymph node). I asked for a break to gather my thoughts and emotions and talk with Mike. I had less than 45 minutes. I realized, confirmed by the doctor, the lumpectomy option was not likely to be an option.
After sitting in the cold parking garage, crying, hugging Abby, and eating the carrot soup we brought, we took a walk, the cold wind penetrating the layers of clothes we wore. Drawn back to the peacefulness of the cathedral, we again slipped in the side door. We only had a few minutes, but again, a wave of calm washed over us.
I am deeply spiritual, and my relationship with God is an important part of my life, but I was not raised Catholic. However, I’ve always loved the huge cathedrals, often built by the Catholic church, as well as smaller, humbler, churches. They contain a holy tranquility. A trip to Germany 28 years ago to visit my friend Shiva, a yoga instructor who has lived in Nuremberg all her life, included a pilgrimage to some of the most beautiful churches of Bavaria. Shiva knew them all, their architectural style, history, etc. We saw beautiful small churches and grand cathedrals, most built thousands of years ago.
What drew me in the most at St James was not the huge nave, but the small alcove next to the door we entered. It had a lovely statue of Mary. To me, Mary, and the women saints of all religions, is a human manifestation and reminder of the love and compassion of Divine Mother. Happening upon this little alcove in this huge cathedral, on this challenging, emotional, mind numbing day, reminded me the Divine (or whatever is your preferential name for Spirit) is everywhere, in everything, in every event. Self consciously, I lit a candle, for myself. And cried.
I don’t know my future, the decisions I’ll need to make, the treatments I’ll go through. Like anyone facing cancer, I have fears, I’ve had too many friends die of cancer to not consider that possibility. I’m concerned about Mike.
The unexpected turn of events in my life, after years of caring for my mom as she declined, has left me numb, angry, scared. But the peaceful calm I felt walking through that side door gave me a small glimmer, and a rather grand reminder, there can be unexpected peace even in the eye of the storm.
(For readers who knew my mom, and did not know she passed, there is a memorial page for her here: Ruth Hubbard)