In honor of breast cancer awareness month, and my father, here is the story of the moment that changed my life. Without it, I may never have lived to see my boys head off to college. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
She sits across from me, only a coffee table with Tarot cards between us. As she speaks, I sit motionless, afraid to interrupt her thoughts, answering only in the briefest of terms so as not to be leading in any way. Society has conditioned us to be skeptical of anything other than cold, hard fact. But I have a burning need to know what happened to me on that fateful day in the shower eight years ago. And why I -- someone who normally defers to logic to explain the unexplainable and is more skeptical than mystical -- would not only seek an answer from science, but in this quest, also travel thousands of miles to meet with a British clairvoyant in L.A.
The clairvoyant tells me a presence has come into the room with me -- and the presence is that of my father. "You have this emotional tug on your left-hand side around your heart area," she says, "as if you were let down emotionally. I don't know if you discovered something on a Tuesday or it was a Tuesday morning when you had a vision. He's showing me he was the one who was helping you. He's the one who was trying to plant the seed in your head... I almost feel like you went into your body and discovered what had been going on." She asks if I had cancer on my left breast. I nod yes. My father, with whom I had a sometimes difficult relationship, has told her to let me know that he's my "guardian spirit" and feels he's been making up for lost time by being with me. Then she winks at me, saying my father wanted her to do this. I am, for once, speechless. He was famous for his exaggerated wink beneath a bushy eyebrow. He also had a limp, which she told me about, and brown eyes, which he told her matched mine. But there was more. My oldest son, she says, is reserved and a lefty. My youngest, emotional and creative. Then there are facts about my husband's job, details of my cancer, and the sense of aloneness I felt throughout it all. And she is right. About everything.
When I ask her if there is a logical explanation for intuitive events, she says, "I don't think it's necessary to find out how we got there. We just need to accept we got the answer and move on." Days earlier I had interviewed Dr. Jerome Groopman, professor of medicine at Harvard. Towards the end of the interview, I told him, albeit hesitantly, about my experience -- about how one night, I was in the shower when the room suddenly grew cold and a distinctly familiar voice in my head directed me to a small, hard, immovable lump on my left breast. "There are two ways you can read this," he said. "The scientific rationalist approach -- you either had felt it or had subconsciously intuited it and it was repressed in some way... and it burst to the surface... Then there is the belief for the religious person who would say that God was speaking to you -- or some kind of other dimension directed you to it for your own benefit." As to which one is right? "The argument is fruitless," he says. "People do have unusual experiences that focus them. Some people see it as the hand of the deity and others see it as the complexity of the way the human mind works. In the end," he says, "there is only an upside to paying attention."
Postscript. Back at home, I search through my journals. And there it is, plain as ink. The day in the shower when something or someone guided me to my cancer -- the moment that changed my life -- was a Tuesday.
Join me next week for another installment of The Pre-Empt Chronicles, as I transition from full house to empty nest. Visit me at: sisterhoodofmothers.com.