By Jennifer Boileau
Usually I find clarity in stillness-meditation, being outside in nature, or being on the boat in the water someplace. But recently I got a heavy dose of clarity wrapped in a very unexpected package-my routine mammogram. I will start this story at the end, letting you know I’m ok. And I know now that no matter the outcome, I would’ve been ok, but the eventual biopsy was negative for cancer. The lesson was positive, though, and it’s why I want to share it.
The beginning of the school year always means one thing for me-my annual mammogram appointment. I always go right away, wait for results, and I’m in and out in record time, no issues. This appointment was different, and to be honest I had an uneasy feeling that morning when I drove in. I had the first scans & sat to wait for results, only they came to tell me they needed more pictures. Then more. Then just one more. Then an ultrasound, where the radiologist came in, put her hand on my arm and quietly said, “I’m so sorry”.
I didn’t ask what she was so sorry about. The faces of her and the tech had said enough. Clearly they found something that looked like cancer. I felt panic descend over me, a squirrel trapped in a box feeling, but outwardly I think I looked calm. I was taken into a room where you get set up with a surgeon for an appointment and to be honest, by this point I felt like I was walking through molasses. I was there, but not really. While I sat in the waiting room between all the scans, I had been fighting back tears, and seeing so many others around me doing the same was overwhelming. I found myself using the strategies of grounding myself, and the using breath techniques that I teach in yoga & meditation classes to keep myself together. That’s what struck me the most-I was literally finding out -from the inside out- how these grounding and breathing techniques REALLY work-not just when random anxiety shows up, but when your life gets turned upside down in a literal instant and you think you might scream, or run, or completely lose it.
When you schedule with a surgeon, it’s only the consult to decide what will happen next. He was amazing and funny and took the edge off of my anxiety about the situation, but he showed us what they found-a 7mm mass the size of an eraser head, said he felt I would most likely keep the breast, most likely wouldn’t need chemo, and that we most likely found it early enough. Still, no one actually said it was cancer, but they kind of said everything else around it. The biopsy was scheduled, it took place, & we waited for results. Thankfully it was the best Friday afternoon phone call to receive. I’m very aware that not everyone gets a great phone call after a biopsy, so while I was thrilled, it wasn’t lost on me that this is not everyone’s outcome. I feel so deeply for anyone who gets the news we all pray we don’t get. This experience has brought a new level of empathy and compassion to me I didn’t know existed. If this has been your experience, know that you’re now part of my thoughts, daily.
I want to share this with you because while I spent two weeks mentally in a not-so-great-place, I moved through it with my most amazing husband by my side, using techniques that are simple and effective. I taught my usual classes, made dinners for the family, and acted like a normal human who wasn’t freaking out on the inside…here are my takeaways that I hope will help you too, if you are faced with something similar.
And above all else? Go for your mammograms. Don’t put it off, worried of what they might tell you. If you have women in your life, suggest to them that they go. Ask them when they go next. Don’t let them slip through a crack. Finding something early is key, and you’re doing yourself a favor being vigilant about your health-if not for you? Then for your family, and your kids who are watching ever so closely how you take care of yourself-or don’t.
Jenn is a 200 E-RYT yoga and meditation teacher, reiki master, and crystal alchemy sound bath facilitator. She offers Reiki sessions both in-person and remotely. Jenn also performs reiki attunements for those seeking to become practitioners themselves and accessible yoga classes for students of all ages and physical abilities. In these sessions, she uses the healing power of sound through pure quartz crystal singing bowls to take students on a journey of self-discovery, self-healing, and self-love. You can find Jenn on her website jenniferboileau.com, on social media @flowwithjenn, or teaching classes locally.