Journey Interrupted: A Chapter In The Life Of A Breast Cancer Survivor

Posted By Anne Marie Bennett
October 26, 2009

anne_bennett-50.jpgIf I were writing my autobiography, the chapter detailing my life in 2001/2002 would be titled “Journey: Interrupted.”

I was 45 years old and had been going about my business, living a normal life, working full time, helping my husband raise teenaged children from his first marriage, enjoying our home, time with friends, and my new hobby of rubber stamping and collage art. 

Then came the startling news: Stage II Infiltrating Ductal Breast Cancer.

I began this Journey: Interrupted like one begins any lengthy journey that ventures into the medical world- with fear, trepidation… and lots of resistance.  I was about to go through through 3 surgeries, 12 weeks of chemotherapy, and 42 radiation treatments.  Who wouldn’t resist that?

But I soon realized all of that resistance was exhausting me instead of helping me to heal...
A few weeks after my diagnosis, I experienced this thought:  Breast cancer isn’t going to kill me.  It’s just going to be one more interesting thing about me.

That was the turning point for me.
I consciously chose to think about my cancer in this new way, and it made a huge difference on my healing journey.

I chose to take my breast cancer journey one little step at a time.  I just did the next thing that needed to be done.  I stayed focused on what was happening to me right then, instead of projecting my fears into the future.  I chose to focus on gratitude instead of fear.  I created some healing and uplifted affirmations, recorded them, and listened to them daily.

I allowed myself to be taken care of and loved, instead of insisting I could do everything myself.  I gave myself permission to feel whatever I was feeling.  I gave myself time to create more art and to keep up my journaling practice- both of which fed and nourished me spiritually. 

It was not an easy journey. The physical changes in me were continuous.

I lost my hair, my eyebrows, my energy, and my libido.  Most days during my treatments I was fatigued beyond my capability to imagine.  My once beautiful left breast is now disfigured and I have an ugly scar under my armpit from my lymph node dissection.

But in the midst of that challenging and harrowing journey, I learned a lot of lessons about being in the moment.  I learned some precious things about courage, patience, and the blessed power of community.  

It is not a journey I would volunteer for again.  I wouldn’t want anyone I love to go through this journey.  And yet I can honestly say that the gifts I received from my journey with breast cancer far outweigh the traumas.

frontcover.jpgOne gift was the love and support I received from the people in my life.  Another gift was a closer connection with Spirit.  The best gift of all was a re-routing of my life, a re-direction, a re-ordering of priorities. 

After taking several months off for my cancer treatments, I went back to my non-creative job part time, and focused more energy on my creative work of writing and art. I also wrote a book, Bright Side of the Road, about my journey interrupted.

When I discovered SoulCollage® in 2005, I left my part time job, became a SoulCollage® Facilitator, and haven’t looked back!  (SoulCollage® is an intuitive art making process that uses imagery to deepen self-knowledge and self-appreciation.  It was created by Jungian Therapist, Seena B. Frost in the late 1990s.)

Now, seven years later, I look back with amazement at that “Journey: Interrupted” chapter of my life.  I am a published author, artist, teacher, website creator, and SoulCollage® Facilitator.  I love reading, journaling, taking walks with our new dog Suzy, and sitting by the ocean for long stretches of time.  I enjoy Indian food and I bake the best scones this side of the Atlantic.

And yes, I’m a breast cancer survivor as well.

Anne Marie Bennett is the author of Bright Side of the Road, a self-taught collage artist, website goddess, cancer survivor and SoulCollage® Facilitator.  She received a BS degree in Education from Southern Connecticut State University and has taught people of all ages throughout the East Coast.  She has also worked as a bookseller, sheet presser, library assistant, computer consultant, and in theatre management.

Bennett lives in eastern Massachusetts with her middle-aged husband, two elderly cats and an adolescent dog who keeps all of them young at heart. She is happiest when she is reading, writing, breathing salt air, dancing, and hugging her beautiful grandchildren.

Visit Bennett's inspirational blog here.