08 February 2011

Our lives have only one name

When my dear friend and client Aro called for a last minute Reflxology appointment, I could tell that something was going on. Turns out she was on her way to get an MRI to find out whether or not she had cancer. Although told there was only a slim (2%) chance that this was so in her case, the MRI did indeed reveal DCIS or duct cancer in situ. As Aro explained it, "from that moment on, everything just went so fast", and from one day to the next she was scheduled for surgery.

DCIS is sometimes classified as Stage 0 of breast cancer, the earliest stage of the disease. The question for women with this diagnosis is not “Will I live?” but “How much treatment will I need?” DCIS is one cancer that can truly be considered curable. However, until the 1980s DCIS was routinely treated in the same way as most invasive cancers — with mastectomy. Now breast-conserving surgery or lumpectomy is often recommended when DCIS is limited to one site and the tumor can be removed with a clear margin. Then radiation therapy is recommended because it reduces the chance of recurrence after surgery. Additionally, a medication called tamoxifen may further reduce the recurrence rate. All this was to be Aro's path for the next few months.

During this period, I worked on Aro's feet almost every week. But doing so was different than all the other times she had come for reflexology. At first all I could think to myself was, "how can I make this go away? " And of course I could not. But over time I saw that what I could do - or what we could do together - was to make our sessions as real as possible. Only by doing this did her feet and ultimately her body and mind relax. And later when she came to me during radiology sessions - I saw that when we could just allow the body to be where it was - sometimes tense or nervous, other times tired or emotional or simply quiet or peaceful - I was able to work even more deeply on the relevant reflex areas of Aro's feet. She always left the Salon feeling in her words, "wonderful".

Aro is now cancer free and "back to her former life" with one major difference - she has put on the breaks. Before the cancer she neglected everything - including herself - to attend to whoever or whatever wanted her attention in that moment. After the cancer - it has become more like this: if Aro is tired, she naps, if she is hungry, she prepares food for herself, if she is engaged in a quiet moment, she enhances that with meditation. She radiates a glow that I would say comes from being loved and cared for - first and foremost by her self - and too by her beloved family, boyfriend and friends.

From my perspective, I saw that our Reflexology sessions gave Aro a refuge; a sense of space to remain herself while being bombarded with decisions she had to make on her journey to wellness. I felt that the best gift I could give her was my presence. In any case the best knowledge that I could give her did not come from my brain but from my heart. But most striking was the gift Aro gave me - the reminder that our lives have only one name - and that name is gratitude.

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