Using SoulCollageĀ® with a Diagnosis of Breast Cancer

My Personal Story

December 2001. Breast cancer was the furthest thing from my mind. I was busy. A husband, a home, three stepchildren, a good job. Then…

A routine, suspicious mammogram. A phone call. Mammogram #2. A stereotactic core biopsy.

Diagnosis: breast cancer, stage 2, infiltrating, ductal, HER2.

All of the above happened within the fearful, anxious, unbelievable time span of 7 days. Bing. Bam. Boom.

And my life has never been the same.

The next nine months held a most strange quality of disbelief and exhaustion. It also held two surgeries, four chemotherapy treatments spaced three weeks apart, and 47 radiation treatments (spaced daily, over the course of 9 weeks).

Itā€™s been three years since my life was turned upside down and inside outā€¦. Three years. My prognosis is very good. I hear this every three months depending on which doctor my appointment is with: breast surgeon, medical oncologist, or radiation oncologist.

Three years have passed. I look good. I feel good. And yet nothing has been able to quiet the storms of fear that threaten to overwhelm me from time to time. The insidious fear that the breast cancer might return. The intimidating fear of another fateful diagnosis.

I have meditated and prayed about this. I have talked about it with my wonderful therapist and with other breast cancer survivors. I have tried guided imagery, journaling, and art journaling. These have all tempered the fear to some extent, but only for a very short while.

Then I began practicing SoulCollageĀ® and my inner dynamics began to change. At first I made quite a few Committee cards. The teacher. The good parent. The happy inner child. The writer. The artist. Then I made some darker Committee cards. The angry one. The lonely one. The rebellious child.

Breast Cancer SoulCollageĀ® Card #1

After a few months of this, I was looking through my huge pile of images and noticed the central figure in the card to the right. She seemed to be a patient sitting on one of those cold metal examining tables, and the expression on her face spoke to me of anxiety and subtle fear. The tigers were also in my pile. They had first appeared to me when I was doing a guided imagery session about fear with my therapist. I added the other figures to this one and before I knew it, I had my ā€œI am the one who fears the return of breast cancerā€ card.

Here is the written exercise I did with this card:

Who are you?
I am the one who fears that the cancer will come back, that it will take up space in another part of my body.

I am the one who fears this every day.

I am the one who has to live with this fear.

I am the one who sees tigers gnashing their teeth at me in the dark, roaring and racing towards me on a desolate beach. They are ready to destroy my body again. They are waiting for the right moment to leap at me and take my beautiful life from me.

I am the one who returns again and again to her doctors, her heart pounding as she nervously awaits the results of the latest mammogram, the most recent blood work.

I am the one who fears that the cancer will return and consume me, who fears that the cancer will find me after hunting me down, and will tear my beautiful life to shreds, smash it to smithereens on that desolate beach.

I am the one who feeds the tigers with my fear, who sits passively and waits for bad news instead of standing fierce and tall and proud, my spear and arrows poised for fighting back.

I am the one who grows weak in the face of my fear, who has no options save to give in to it.

I am the one who fears that the tigers are real.

What do you want from me?
I want you to watch, to be on the lookout, to do things now to protect yourself.

I want you to stand up straight and tall and not believe in weakness.

I want you to know how strong and fierce and courageous you really are.

What do you have to give me?
I give you the knowledge that you can do some things to protect yourself.

I give you an inner core of steel to stand up to the tigers of fear.

Breast Cancer SoulCollageĀ® Card #2

I had been wanting to create a card to express how I felt about the disfigurement that two lumpectomies had done to my body.Ā  When I found the main image in this card, I knew I was ready to make it.

Who are you?I am the one whose left breast was disfigured.

I am the one who covers her breast with her hand in order to protect it, even now that it is too late.

I am the one who looks in the mirror with dread and disgust at my mismatched breasts.

I am the one who survived the lightning which destroyed my left breast.

I am the one who grieves the loss of my perfect, full breasts.

What do you want from me?
I want you to remember that destruction does not necessarily mean ugliness, that sometimes beauty comes with the destruction.

I want you to grieve fully, but I also want you to breathe in the peace of the bird I am cradling to my chest and the butterflies that attach themselves to my clothing.

What do you have to give me?
I give you wings to fly, and power to protect yourself from negativity and self-loathing.

I give you bright light, even in the midst of ruin.

How will I remember?
Lightning will remind you of these truths.

You will also be reminded of the light and the wings and the beauty when you look into a mirror at your naked body.

Breast Cancer SoulCollageĀ® Card #3

A few weeks later, I came across the beautiful snow angel that you see in the card below. It lay on my art table for several days before it came to me that whoever had created that angel in the snow had gotten up and walked away. And then I added the other images which speak to me of my breast cancer surgeries/treatments, and did the following writing exercise with it:

Who are you?
I am the one who survived breast cancer. I am the one who underwent two surgeries, 12 weeks of chemo, and 47 radiation treatments.

I am the one who saw the chemo dripping into my own veins, who allowed the fatigue to consume me until I was lying down and sleeping most of the time.

I am the one who continued to grow and blossom even while all of that was happening, even when my body was so weak and unfamiliar to me.

I am the one whose inner strength, wisdom, and courage was like that of the core seed of a white flower blossoming in the dark.

I am the one who survived nine months of breast cancer surgeries and treatments.

I am the one who was held in the arms of a beautiful angel while enduring those harsh, cold treatments.

I am the one who got up and stood on my own two feet and walked away from cancer when the treatments were over.

If you ever doubt me, the footsteps are right there.

See? I am the one who walked away from cancer after being held in the arms of a beautiful angel.

What do you want from me?
I want you to know, to believe, that you could do it all over again if you had to.

What do you have to give me?

I give you the memories of those nine months.

I give you pride in knowing that you are a breast cancer survivor.

I give you continued courage and inner strength.

SoulCollageĀ® & Breast Cancer

So there you have my three SoulCollageĀ® cards which have helped me to put some closure on my breast cancer experience. Making these cards, writing about them, and dialoguing with them has given me a centered base of courage that could have accessed in no other way.

If you are dealing (or have dealt) with a similar diagnosis of breast cancer, or if you are a breast cancer survivor wanting to integrate your experience into your spiritual life, here are some suggestions for creating SoulCollageĀ® cards that will help you do just that:

  • Decide what aspects of your breast cancer experience you want to process and/or honor.
  • Give yourself time to gather images that speak to what you are experiencing.
  • Try to visualize what you are feeling. If you are feeling fear, pretend it is a movie character, or an animal or cartoon character. What does it look like, sound like, smell like? If you are feeling relief, do the same.
  • How about exhaustion? Can you make a card to depict the part of you that is/was so tired during treatments?
  • Don’t forget anger. It was many months into my own breast cancer treatments before I realized how angry I was at what was happening to me. What does your anger feel like? If it was a color, a food, a smell, a taste, an animal…what would it be?
  • If you live in New England, consider a trip to The Healing Garden, which is an alternative treatment center for women with breast cancer. The staff at The Healing Garden work hand in hand with your medical team, and provide the following services to breast cancer patients/survivors with no worries about cost: massage, acupuncture, therapy, workshops, guided imagery, facials…and more!

My Cancer Story- Part 2

Standing Up to Cancer Again



In July of 2011, I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called secondary angiosarcoma of the breast. This developed as a direct result of the radiation treatments that I experienced in 2002, and is found in only about 1 of 1000 women who go through this kind of radiation.

My journey of healing from cancer continues on this page.