My peyote healing

We sit in a teepee.

It’s moist and chilly. I had to drive down the mountain from the coast at 4 a.m. this morning so I could meet the elders as they broke for their morning fast.

At 5 a.m., they opened the teepee flap and Native Americans emerged. They all wore jeans and t-shirts (mostly). I felt my preconceptions crack.

I’m at my aunt’s house sipping badly flavored vanilla coffee before dawn and I’ve just been diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer a few days before, and I’m watching a bunch of Indians groggily exit a two-story-tall teepee on the edge of her property. Sur. Real.

It’s only been a week since my doctor called with those words you never want to hear: It’s cancer.

No, really, stop, I’m only 43. This isn’t supposed to happen for another 30 years. I’m right in the middle of shit. I have two kids in grade school. You can’t be serious.

And now, the sun has just woken and I’m entering a tent overfull with men, women, and kids who’ve all been awake all night — healing, connecting, and doing something I can’t put my finger on. Frankly, I’m too aware of myself to see what’s really going on. I’m a foreign intruder with my old aunt, mom, and uncle in tow, all entering someone else’s sacred circle because we own their land. How can it get worse? Which means in my heart, I’m feeling it’s still all about me, although soon it will be all about them and I will just have to catch up to that.

My aunt bought her house on what she discovered was Native American land — traditional land for celebrating and connecting. Years ago, some tribespeople approached her and asked if they could still celebrate on her land. Of course, yes (embarrassed that I own your land). So every month or two, a big teepee and picnic tables and Porta Potties appear, and an all-night ritual commences to connect us to the stars.

My aunt was blessed, right?

She called the tribe when she learned I was diagnosed. They said yes we’ll take your niece. Come before dawn.

 

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Will I live five more years or fifty?

You know that feeling when you haven’t talked to someone in a long time, and each time you try . . . you think about how awful you’ve been that you haven’t talked to them in so long?

And so your fingers stick on the keyboard, and the phone remains untouched in your purse or pocket. You just don’t know what to say. How do you begin?

That’s how I feel now.

I left you all somewhere in the middle of December, after my last chemo, bald and floppy and utterly wiped out. And then … silence. Nine months of it. Holy cow. Where have I been? Where did my life go? Where has yours gone?

Here a brief catching up: I’m in remission from Stage 2 breast cancer. I had six months of chemo, two months of daily radiation, three months of lymphedema therapy, and three surgeries in just about one year. Add on heapings of the alternative therapies and healings (herbs, qi gong, acupuncture, Reiki, rebounding, juicing, shamanic journeying, and emotional cleansing) and you can see how busy I’ve been.

Being sick and getting well can really take up your life.

Right now, it’s a gorgeous Sunday morning. My orange and pink roses are firing off blooms in front of my window, my family are all still asleep, and I feel like I’m just waking up.

I mean, really waking up.

Waking back into life.

I’ve leaned a hella lot about cancer this year. And I’ve learned even more about the way we think, feel, and anticipate (or brace for) life. My own personal life goals jumped tracks and landed in all new territory.

“Go with the Flow” has a much richer, deeper meaning.

The concept of manifesting is much more nuanced and interesting.

One thing I learned is that cancer, or any illness that can come back, plays with your head. Is it gone or isn’t it? Am I safe or am I still in danger? Will my body cooperate, or is it going to kill me?

I jokingly refer to this dynamic, and the uncertainty that’s always bubbling below the surface, as the 5-year and 50-year plan. (My husband hates it when I talk about this, because it’s … you know … talking about death.)