Andrea Engel, RN, LMT, CPT

Aesthetic RN, Ashiatus massage therapist, health coach near Rhinelander, Wisconsin.


This Is The Tough Stuff

It’s easy to talk about health, nutrition, and fitness. This is the tough stuff…

2016 was a year of loss. My sister died from breast cancer at 37 years of age, and my sweet, green-eyed cat disappeared a few months later. Now, I think I’m ok with death. I mean, I work in hospice. I have a healthy attitude about the end of life and beginning of “what’s next”. Beyond. I hold a curiosity about it all and know it’s the one truth we all share. So, when my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer that had metastasized and was untreatable, I was hoping she would simply not suffer and cross over with ease.

Around this time last year, Becky had one foot in this world and one in the other. She was fading in and out. With cancer in her bones, she was on IV opioids to keep her pain under control. Becky was a triplegic since the age of 9 months old when she had a brain hemorrhage, subsequent coma and was “never going to amount to anything”. She never walked a step in her life. She had the mentality of a child. But she did have love. She loved this world so much it was hard to leave! And despite her physical state, in her last weeks she would want to know how I was doing (or anyone visiting her). She showed so much love and concern over others. She hung on into June, actually. At her birthday party in May, about 50 people came to visit this girl that would never amount to anything. She taught a lot of people a lot of things about what’s really important.

Bompo was my soul cat. He would join me for walks and even took a couple of trips around the lake in the kayak in his striped pajamas with his Q-tip paws. He was a lover and an accomplished hunter. He was 9 years old and I thought I would have several more good years with him. He went out hunting one night in October and never returned. I’ve never been so deeply attached to a cat.

My reaction to pain is to stuff it deep down inside. I am the strong one. I feel the tide rising and put a lid on it. I know it’s fear, really. Fear of falling deep into a well of tears and drowning, maybe. Fear of “losing it”. So, when my sister was buried and I heard my mother sobbing, I jammed my emotions down as hard as I could. I can still feel her pain. The day after the burial I woke up unable to stand without help. Apparently the little bear tick I had been bit by a few weeks prior had taken a hold of me and knocked me down, hard. I don’t remember much of the next few months. It took a long time to be able to walk a mile without limping.

I guess it should be no surprise that I’ve developed breast pain to the degree that I’m concerned. In my learning, I read a book that said they have not seen a case of breast cancer that wasn’t in some way connected to unshed tears. And I had to stop listening to the book to stuff my feelings. I keep overly busy in general so that I don’t have to address the hard stuff. But I couldn’t ignore the pain any longer.

Recently I met with a healer to have a couple of stones blessed. Or so I thought. He directed me to sit down, pulled his chair right in front of me and looked me in the eyes. I put on my Warrior face so I wouldn’t break down in front of a crowd of people. He said I have to address my heart. Whoa….

Today I had a mammogram. It hurt. I left feeling sick to my stomach from the pain. I decided to go visit the humane society and sit among the felines, but they were closed. So I cried. I drove the the forest, got down on the ground and cried. I heard Crow greeting me and leaves rustling in the wind and I just let it all go. I laid my face on the moss and let Mother Earth catch my tears.

And then I laughed at myself. Imagine that! I cried, and I was ok. It stopped when it was supposed to. I felt relaxed and lighter in a way. I thanked the Creatures of the forest for supporting me. I thanked Becky and Bompo for being part of my life and teaching me that love never dies. I carry them in my heart and always will.

While I await the mammogram results, I will continue to love and nourish my body on all levels. I will continue to relish my time here and my journey, grateful for those who are here as well as those beyond.

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