Collaging with Cancer: A SoulCollage® Journey
By Anne Marie Bennett | Posted 6/1/12 | Updated 9/10/20
As you can imagine, fear is one of the most heart-stopping feelings that accompanied each of my cancer diagnoses. The first time (2001) was when my surgeon gently told me “You have some cancerous cells in your left breast.” He was very encouraging. He repeated many times that “We’ve caught this cancer early and it is very, very treatable.” Even though I heard these words and processed them in my mind, I still felt fear. Huge, heaping amounts of fiery, throat-clenching fear. The word “cancer” can invoke surges of fear like no other word. Treatable or not, it’s still cancer, and that word holds many distressing connotations for most people, including myself.
The second time was when I was diagnosed (2011) after three invasive, painful procedures in a matter of ten days. This same surgeon said to me, “You have a rare kind of cancer called secondary angiosarcoma. It’s not breast cancer, but it is in your breast. I’m sorry, but the only treatment is a mastectomy.” There were no reassuring words about early detection this time around. The only reassuring thing to me right then was that this was the same doctor who had been with me since my first diagnosis. I liked him, trusted him implicitly, and was very grateful that I didn’t have to start all over with another surgeon.
When I went online to look up “angiosarcoma,” I found words like “fast-moving” and “aggressive.” Definitely not reassuring. My initial fear turned to terror and when I focused on it, it actually left me breathless, unable to sleep, and consumed by thoughts of and much resistance to dying young.
So I found some magazine images that gave image to my feelings of fear and terror. These feelings were growing inside of me and threatening to consume me to the point of shutting out helpful things like love and gratitude and paying attention to the present moment. When I journaled with this card, this is some of what it said to me:
I Am the One Who is stark raving fear. I Am the One Who is afraid that I am going to die. I Am the One Who fears a slow, lingering death. I Am the One Who doesn’t want to die this young. I Am the One Who prostrates myself in the shadowy light of my room and begs not to die now. I Am the One Who feels the cold chill of death knocking on my body’s door and I Am the One Who is saying NO to it right now.
I Am the One Who is afraid the cancer has already spread to other parts of my body. I Am the One Who is afraid that cancer cells are overtaking my body and squeezing the life out of me. I Am the One Who is terrified of cancer. I Am the One Who is afraid of what is going to happen to me next.
I am fear and I give you a catalyst for new power, new growth, new directions.
What I want from you is this: I want you to take note of what it is you are so afraid of. I want you to write about your fears and talk about your fears with someone who understands what you are going through. The only frightening thing about fear is keeping it inside of you and not expressing it in some way.
I want you to remember that the only antidote to fear is love, and also- being in the present moment. These are lessons you have learned in the past and I want to you tune into these knowings so that my fear-full energy doesn’t become who you are.
I want you to use me as a catalyst towards new directions, growth, and positive changes that need to be made in your life.
Creating this SoulCollage® card and dialoging with it in my journal gave me a way to express this fiery, choking fear that I was feeling. It helped me to take it from inside of my body where it was wreaking havoc, and place it outside of me where I could actually see it, talk to it, and learn something from it.
The act of collaging with images and then journaling with words, summoned up important lessons I had learned in the past about fear. Because of this, I was able to summon up a different kind of energy that calmed the fears. This enabled me to invoke gratitude for all the love surrounding me, and I was also able to tune into the present moment now and then instead of focusing on an unknown, dubious future.
In case you’re wondering, I’m not implying that after I made this card, I never felt fear again. On the contrary! As you read this, I am 15 months past the time of that second diagnosis, and I still feel waves of fear coming at me from time to time. They are like rousing white capped waves ebbing and flowing, crashing noisily on a sandy beach. I stand in the midst of these waves of fear, letting them rise and fall, ebb and flow around me. I can do this, stand there in the middle of my fears, because I know that as they come, so will they leave, for such is the ebb and flow of strong emotions. I know that they have no power to drown me, as long as I stand still and strong and upright, my feet in the sand, focusing on my deep connection to my own strong spirit within.
©2012 Anne Marie Bennett. All rights reserved.
Next: Chapter 4: Standing Up to Cancer
Anne Marie Bennett is a published author, self-taught artist, and SoulCollage® Facilitator. more
Goddess of Peace and Mindfulness
Learn more about the origins and techniques of SoulCollage® in the book Soulcollage: An Intuitive Collage Process for Individuals and Groups by Seena B. Frost