Determined to reach their destination, his words advanced toward their intended target. Entering the space between us, they became disjointed, jumbled, as an emotional fog surfaced resisting their intrusion. Gradually the doctor’s disclosure sporadically hit home. “…lab report…lungs…gut is telling…rare case…male breast cancer.” Stunned, I sat motionless, unable to respond.
Inside amplified thoughts reverberated. Male breast cancer? I never heard of this. Men don’t get breast cancer, do they? Reality was slowly sinking in.
Months earlier I had discovered the lump in my left chest, but out of fear ignored its warning signs. A few months after the finding, my left nipple inverted, elevating action over fear. Sitting in the surgeon’s office I was struggling to comprehend the results of my surgery to remove the lump. Terrified and confused, I closed my eyes hoping it was all a dream.
Emerging from the expanding fog, fear stepped forth and took control. Having grown up in an era that demanded and expected secrecy of one’s gayness, I had granted fear a permanent residence within. Frightened of anyone knowing the real me, I successfully compartmentalized my life. My gay self was completely divorced from my roles as an elementary teacher, sibling, and at times-friend. I denied my own power, allowing this toxic behavior to seep into the essence of who I was and how I chose to live.
Following the diagnosis, I robotically adhered to old familiar patterns- giving full authority to my doctors, the drug-Tamoxifen, and fear. My entire focus was on that magical five-year date – when I would be in remission, when I would be cured, when I could go on living. When was my self-imposed prison, my personal holding cell. This needed to change, but how?
It would take a recurrence to induce a shift within, a life-saving transformation. Cancer’s return magnified my disbelief, frustration, and anger. Partnered with a regimen of radiation and a more potent drug, I was teetering on the brink of a meltdown.
Losing more of “me” each day, my rage intensified the daily inner rants. How could this happen? I’ve been seeing my doctors, taking Tamoxifen, and completing the bloodwork! Realizing our medical community’s knowledge of male breast cancer was in its infancy and therapies prescribed are those designed for women, the rarity of this disease was revealing its ugly truth. I wanted answers. Why don’t they know what to do for men? Why aren’t we determining if effective therapies are different for men and women?
I was at a crossroads. “What do I do? What path do I take? Do I just plop myself in the midst of this quandary and stay put?” The questions rapidly multiplied as I found myself lost, overwhelmed, and discouraged. Yet, it is these difficult life junctures where lessons unfold and by listening and trusting, we learn.
Inside, a remarkable transformation was setting root. Its life-healing tendrils guided me to a journey inward – a passage to the depths of my being – a place where my truth was held prisoner.
Here I discovered what was hidden within and steeped in the strength uncovered, I forged a new path. Discarding my long-held doubts and fears I initiated the quest of coming back to me.
Empowered, I garnered the courage to stop the life-draining drug and delved into the restorative practices of yoga, Reiki, acupuncture, and energy medicine uncovering the intimate relationship between energy flow and healing. I consumed the works of various authors unveiling insights on the responsibilities and power to heal that lies within each of us.
At peace and firmly centered in my direction to heal, I ventured into the mystical realms of the Buddhist philosophy, an astrologer, psychic, and shaman each gifting a deeper understanding of who I am and the opportunity to reclaim what was lost long ago.
Breast cancer’s tenacity is unparalleled. It is an equal opportunity invader which recognizes no boundaries and harbors no want of discrimination. Yet, my cancer was a catalyst for change, an awakening. Where fear, anger, and resentment were my companions, now gratitude, forgiveness, and self-love are my partners in living. Cancer was a portal to my inner emotional labyrinth affording me an honest view of the relationship I have with myself. This journey took me to the darkest recesses within, where my true self was granted freedom and where the discovery of my cancer became a diagnosis of life.
Michael is the author of Healing Within: My Journey with Breast Cancer. Contact Michael at email@example.com or on Facebook. Michael lives with his partner, Tim, in Greenwich, NY.