04. Chapter 8: The Healing Cocktail

In a dream of killing the bats I throw the bat down a flight of stairs where it is impaled on a knife-like tool, but I use poison – chemotherapy – to destroy the remaining bats. This mix of surgery and chemotherapy, given to me in my dreams, became my Healing Cocktail, a lethal syrup of dreams and medical technology, a prescription for a return to health. The dreams for that cocktail came long before I first walked into a doctor’s office. They were already providing me the ingredients for the alternative and natural methods that would allow me to safely proceed both with the brutal surgical removal of the cancer and the subsequent attack on the remaining cancer cells with chemotherapy.
On the day of the surgery, I moved through the morning’s activities robot-like, coincidentally hearing the morning news commentator speaking of national events or dates in one’s life that become reference points against which every subsequent event is preceded by “That happened three years before or two years after...” “After what?” Breast Cancer? Would this process become so much a part of my life that it would become a reference point? Almost eleven years later I sat in a sophisticated National Breast Cancer workshop and reacted with unanticipated disgust at one of the facilitators insistence, stated emphatically more than once over the next several days, that having breast cancer would and should be the theme against which every event in a breast cancer survivor’s life would be measured. Her statements took on a life of their own, a mantra of sorts. Following her lead, several participants began and ended their sentences with “before I had breast cancer” or “after I had breast cancer”; and the room, filled with impressionable survivors, applauded those statements. I was appalled. I had been tempted briefly in those early moments to make breast cancer a definition for my life, but thirteen years of living and personal growth taught me how important it was not to do that.
However, on this day, in March of 1990, my concentration extended not much farther than the reality of my having breast cancer. I took a shower. I stared in the mirror at my breasts, two of them, perhaps for the last time; and then I dressed. I first dressed in a blouse with a somewhat plunging neckline—just one last time. Then I found a t-shirt and jeans. My body and my mind were tense, jittery, on edge; and I tried to remind myself to take deep breaths. I tried to remind myself to take any kind of breath, to stay alive for one more moment that might turn into another moment and another until days and months and years, perhaps even decades, had passed and having breast cancer would only be a dim memory, just a moment of my life long ago. Ron was packing my small bag for my hospital stay, readying the car and playing time-keeper. My surgery was early; in fact it was still dark outside, and there was a dreary cold rain. The hospital was most of an hour away. I was dawdling, holding onto old memories of who I was and how I looked with two breasts, just for a few more hours, just as long as possible.
The telephone rang. The voice was one I had not heard for a very long time, an old friend, Oren Lyons, who was faith-keeper for the Onondaga Nation. My years in the Mohawk Valley had brought a few enduring friendships among the Six Nations. I had shared those friendships with Robert when he first came to Johnson Hall to research Six Nations history and culture. My best friendships were always intuitive ones, and Oren called this particular morning because he felt that something was wrong. He had dreamed about me and found the dream disturbing—a dream in which I was very ill. I told him as much as I could in the few moments I had to talk. He asked what the exact time of my surgery would be and told me that he would be gathering the chiefs of the Onondaga Nation together to smoke for me. In this ancient traditional ceremony the tobacco smoke would take his prayers of healing to the heavens. This offer of prayers deeply touched me, a blessing that would stir the spirits of the heavens, woods and rivers where I now made my home.
Then I made one last telephone call before leaving. I called my mother. I had not told her anything about my diagnosis of cancer. She was experiencing early stages of dementia and would have turned her limited understanding of my illness into a worrisome reflection of her own health problems. The new problems we were both experiencing with my mother’s increasing dementia had been mirrored in my dream of her falling from a second story window. In the dream I couldn’t stop her fall. I had originally associated that dream with her difficulty in dealing with my father’s illness and subsequent death. Now the dream seemed more relevant to her current situation. My mother’s dementia hampered her ability to see positive directions to many situations she was facing. She would have dwelled on my illness and would have begun to weep and call me repeatedly, believing I was dying. She had no base, now governed by disturbed memory, for believing someone could survive cancer. I didn’t need that added burden; nor did she, but, at the last moment, Ron insisted that I must tell her something. I told her I was ill and needed surgery. She was concerned and wanted to know if she should come and stay with me. “No,” I said, “I will be fine. I will be home in a few days and will keep you informed of how I am doing.” That brief conversation seemed to work for her, and I was glad I called.
It was time to go. On the way to the hospital I sat in the back seat of the car. I wanted to be apart from my family so that I could think, so that I could wrap myself in my aloneness and find if there was anything there that I had overlooked that could help me. There were a few wet snowflakes and early morning drizzle on the car windshield in the darkness of the new morning; and light was just coming in patches in the sky, leaving me with a feeling of loneliness and aloneness so deep I couldn’t reach out beyond it, not just yet.
[In SHE WHO DREAMS, this chapter brings Wanda through surgery and allows the reader to experience her use of dreams in her recovery from surgery and in the beginning of her healing process. She discovers the boundless ability of the dreaming self to pursue healing within the dream and to bring healing images forward into waking where they can be mined for use in the day. Follow the links to purchase SHE WHO DREAMS from Amazon, from the publisher or visit your favorite bookstore.]
...All of the dreams were confirming elements in my magic healing cocktail stirred carefully in a syrup of surgery and chemotherapy, all working their magic under the guiding star of my spirit and intuition.