It was a windy day at the hospital today, as I had one final scan before my surgery at 10:30 tomorrow.

I take the words of this dedication seriously, and pray for such wisdom, courage, grace, and compassion in this journey.

After a big process of discernment, I’m having a lumpectomy + radiation, and I feel really good about that decision. Having chosen it (as something I “get” to do, not something I “have” to do) I’m feeling open to receiving all the good things this choice offers me.

Early on, I realized that the tumor is not the cancer. The cancer is a process that’s happening in my body, and the tumor is where that process has become visible. That’s why the prognoses for a lumpectomy + radiation, and a mastectomy, are the same. Removing my breast does not address the cancer process in the rest of my body any better than removing the tumor and radiating the remaining tissue does.

I need to remove/disable those confused and misbehaving cells, but I also need to change the systemic pattern that allowed those cells grow in the first place. For me, that pattern can—and does—live at every level of my being: physical, emotional, energetic spiritual, interpersonal, ancestral, ecological, and probably many more. I’ve been working at all those levels to try and help my system come back into healthy homeostasis.

Part of my journey has been learning how to be in right relationship with cancer. I see it not an aggressor or invader, but as a part of me trying to communicate to the whole of me that something’s not right. I’m thankful to be getting the message, and I’m confident that the medical treatment and the other work I’ve been doing will bring my system back into health.

The poet Gary Snyder talks about “the sacred enemy” and that language has really helped me. Cancer is a worthy adversary, a wise teacher helping me find my way back onto a healthy path. It’s also my enemy. Left unchecked, it would likely kill me.

What does it mean to see my enemy as sacred? How can I be both respectful and fierce? How can I be unwavering in protecting my life from what is threatening it, but also continue to meet that threatening force with respect and curiosity for what it has to teach me?

In some ways, this project is not so different from being in relationship with someone whose values or behavior I deeply disagree with. How do I stay in open-hearted relationship with someone who is saying or doing things that I feel are destructive and dangerous? How do I maintain respect and curiosity for what they have to teach me, while also staying true to what I believe sustains and supports life?

It all comes back to right relationship. And to staying in relationship, even (and especially) with things or experiences or people that I don’t “like.” That’s my commitment in this process: not to judge, or deny, or disrespect, or “otherize” cancer, while also not allowing it to cause me harm.

As they wheel me into surgery tomorrow, and as I continue my healing journey after that, I’m holding cancer as my sacred enemy. I’m keeping my heart open to what it has to teach me, while not wavering in my commitment to protecting and preserving my life against its threat.