03. Chapter 5: Packing for Twin Journeys

At first blink, illness –especially cancer does not look like a spiritual exercise. In the face of a serious illness, we can become paralyzed, suspend judgment and intuition and accept an environment where options seem to no longer exist. When the body is dealt a serious physical blow, doctors often take advantage of the situation, providing healing “options”that define healing within the most narrow of definitions. It is up to the individual to turn illness into a spiritual exercise and to bring dreams—and other alternative healing methods of choice—into the healing process.
In the summer of 1989 I had begun to experience physical pain, the first physical pain, sharp stabbing pain in my left breast, pain so severe that I could not breathe. I was frightened by the pain. I searched for an unusual lump, anything unusual, but found nothing that I could identify as “different.”The pain was never constant. It was periodic, always stabbing and intense. My inner voice began to come awake, telling me there was a problem, that this pain was abnormal. I pushed the voice aside, ignored it, insisted that it was wrong. My father had died only half a year before so my first thoughts were that I had taken on anxiety or some inner discomfort that was manifesting itself as pain. That rationalization only worked for a short time.
The pain nagged at me. I was dreaming my illness but my dreams had not yet shouted at me with images that I recognized as illness, so I recorded the dreams and put them away. I was an intelligent young woman who attended to my health, took regular suggested medical physicals and read all the literature. All the literature stated that pain was not associated with breast cancer. I had been diagnosed with fibrocystic breast disease—a condition that generated pain and benign lumps. There was nothing to fear from pain which was supposed to be normal. So, I pushed the inner voice aside.
Through the summer and into the fall the pain became more intense. There would be long periods of no pain and I would lapse into feeling that I had imagined something wrong, but intuition, unremembered images in dreams, tugged stronger. Sometimes while riding in a car or just walking or washing dishes, a sharp stab of intense pain into my left breast would cause me to bend over, gasp, and remember that this was not anything I had ever experienced before. I would remember that in between the periods of no pain there was a pain I could not identify as anything in my previous experience. That in itself was part of my body’s intuition that no assurance from a physician could assuage.
Then the pain changed again. The pain was more frequent. I called my gynecologist’s office in early October, but the receptionist casually informed me there were no appointment dates available until sometime in 1990, almost six months away. I hung up the telephone and sat for awhile, staring at the floor and thinking about nothing in particular. Another stab of pain, so intense I bent over, frightened and angered me. I had been thinking about my dreams of the previous month—the dreams and the intense pain; something was wrong. I called again and told the receptionist I needed to see someone soon, that I had a lump in my breast and that I thought it might be a problem. After a few moments of juggling peoples’times and places she managed to move my appointment into November, to a date only two weeks away. Murky dreams that presented nothing concrete but seemed to tug at my soul plus the pain had motivated me only days before to search my breast aggressively for something unusual. I found nothing until I bent over and probed in another direction, deep into an area behind the front tissue. There was a ledge with something small and hard beneath it, almost like feeling under a rock and suddenly finding something. The “something”under that ledge was a lump! Later two physicians would describe the imagery of my breast cancer; one would use the image of a ledge of tissue and one the image of a compass of stars. In looking back through my summer of dreams that drew pictures I had not recognized upon first recording them, one dream presented a ledge with debris beneath and one dream described the left side of an orb with a compass of stars.
Now I was more frightened than I had ever been in my life. I had followed the stabbing lines of pain to their source and found the lump. The lump moved, plus it was painful, both signs of a benign lump according to the printed literature. Then why did I not believe the printed literature? Why was I so terrified? My dreams, my inner voice, intuition, were shouting “danger;”the warnings were real, and I knew I was in trouble. Although my dreams had not presented clear enough pictures for me to recognize breast cancer, they had been disturbing, gnawing away at my subconscious. They had come forward into an intuitive feeling that something was very wrong and very dangerous. The dreams which combined with or, more than likely, created intuition, now presented a sledge hammer feeling of certainty that the lump I felt was malignant. I could no longer ignore my inner sources.
The moment I acknowledged to myself that I believed I had a malignancy, my murky disturbing dreams changed. The new dreams seemed more specifically about illness or about a problem that I had and could not identify.
[In SHE WHO DREAMS, this chapter explores early warning dreams of diagnosis and Wanda Burch's discovery of the remarkable power of dreams in providing guidance on a healing journey. Follow the links to purchase SHE WHO DREAMS from Amazon, from the publisher or visit your favorite bookstore.]