Catastrophic illnesses like cancer terrify us. You could argue, given their frequency, they should—although I have never found anxiety or worry to be particularly helpful in solving anything.
Every year, 250,000 women in the US learn they have breast cancer, and 1 in 9 women will be diagnosed in her lifetime. Each year, a staggering 12.7 million people worldwide receive a cancer diagnosis. Everyone will be affected by cancer at some point, either themselves or through caring for a loved one. So it wasn’t really a shock when the yellow crusting on my nipple turned out to be a malignancy that had taken up residency in my breast.
Even so, initially I was devastated. My life was about being up north in the woods, picking growing things out of the garden. It was about teaching and traveling to the ocean, about exploring faraway countries with my husband and family, about learning and giving to others. My life was not about breast cancer.
Author William Bridges developed a model of change and transition that has helped me negotiate everything life brings. In his model, change is often external, instantaneous, and whether wanted or unwanted, it brings endings, loss: marriage, divorce, retirement, or…