My Cancer Meditation

· Long Read Healing & Meditation

Excerpts from Rajyo Allen’s recently published memoir, Fumbling Towards Freedom: Initiations on the Path of Awakening.

breasts on statue

I lay there frozen on the table and watched in horror as the doctor stuck a long, cold surgical needle into several places in my breast, including straight into my nipple. The pain seared through my body like a hot iron. I left her office howling like a wild animal with a bullet wound. The prescribed painkillers did nothing to ease my agony. This huge, 9.5-centimeter tumor was silently stalking me, and it had my number.

I felt sick to my stomach. “This is my death sentence,” I thought. All I could do was try to stay in the present moment, because thinking about what might happen was just too scary. I had to keep my feet on the ground and my attention in the Now. But my fear was palpable, visceral, unrelenting. It was the fear of the child who has lost her mom and doesn’t know what is going to happen to her. Where would I be without my physical health?

Of course, I should have known. The lump in my breast had been growing steadily. After many months of working with my thermographer she had, at last, been forced to admit that it was more than an ordinary lumpy breast and that I really should go for a second opinion. I had put off doing that for a while, not wishing to hear the dreaded “C” word. Back home in England, the free National Health Service would have covered me, but in America, without health insurance, I envisioned myself homeless and alone with this disease ravaging my body. In spite of a strong fear of doctors and western medicine, I made it to the doctor’s office. I hoped and prayed this medical expert would find nothing.

Finding Out

The doctor addressed me without emotion. I remember wondering how she could be so cool when she had my life in her hands. I felt dirty and disgusting, the mark of death upon me. She smeared cool sticky gel over my inflamed breast and the sensor of the sonogram rolled easily over the area. She was silent about the large lump in my left breast. I breathed a sigh of relief when she said,

“I don’t see anything abnormal here.”

I was about to get up and go, but something in me pulled me back.

“I need to know,” I blurted out. “Aren’t there other ways of testing?”

“We can do a biopsy,” she said in a detached manner.

She turned away, returning a few minutes later with a fine needle. I squirmed at the thought of that cold, sharp needle going into my tender bosom. The reality was far worse than I had imagined.

Three endless days later, when I got the call to come to the doctor’s office, my legs were so weak they could barely carry me. Armed once again with my support team – Ray and Britta – I entered the doctor’s office.

She pronounced the words I dreaded hearing: “You have ductal carcinoma in situ. It needs to be dealt with quickly; it’s already grown to very large proportions.”

“What do I need to do?” I asked, not wanting to hear the answer.

“You will need to have intensive chemotherapy to try to shrink the mass. Then they will need to operate and hope they get clear margins. We will not know if they can save your breast, or if they will need to perform a full mastectomy.”

Tough Choices

I stood somewhere outside my body watching this whole interaction. The only thing holding me in place was the intense pain lingering in my breast from the needle. If I did not die of the cancer, then surely the chemotherapy and other aggressive treatments would kill me. The next days, weeks, and months were marked by intensive research into all western and alternative methods of treatment. I needed to find a way to treat this disease that was kind to my body and my frayed nervous system. I began to explore holistic options, knowing the life I had thus far taken for granted could soon be over. I had to trust the way would be shown to me.

I went to several oncologists and was not happy with their responses. The first oncologist was an older man without any bedside manner that respected me, my life, and my feelings.

“You will need to do chemotherapy immediately. We need to treat this aggressively, otherwise you will be dead within a year.” He looked piercingly at me after writing his notes. I was shaking but I held his gaze. How could he say that with such certainty? Some willful streak arose in me, and I vowed to prove him wrong. I walked out of his office and swore I would never have him as my doctor.

On My Own

Now I was on my own, but a new resolve was arising in me: to find my way before the cancer took over my whole body. It was such a strange feeling, to not be at home in my own body. This once trusted friend had now become a betrayer that could abandon me at any moment.

I began to ask deeper questions, “Who am I really? If this body is what I have taken myself to be, who will I be without it? Will I still “Be” without it?”

Cancer is a unique journey for each person. As I was to find out, everyone must find their own way with what feels right. It is a journey not only of curing cancer, but of healing the body, mind, and soul along the way. Some people make it, some don’t, no matter what method they choose. Until you are faced with such a life-threatening disease, it is impossible to know how it will impact you.

I opted for the alternative method and went all out to try to heal myself. I wanted to understand what had caused my cells to turn cancerous, so I began intense therapy. What were the physiological, emotional, and spiritual causes of my illness? Had it begun long ago in childhood, with the early shock of losing my mother? Or was it the constant stress and anxiety I had been living with these past ten years? Was it the volatile and unstable relationship I found myself in with Ray? Was it the abortion I’d had recently that had disrupted my hormones?

Or was it the soul’s journey, at a crossroads, pointing me in another direction, giving me no choice but to listen to the whispering – now screaming – cry of my inner being? I left no stone unturned in my psyche to get to the roots.

I did everything I could to heal my body. I spent a fortune on supplements, and I positively rattled from all the various vitamins I was taking. These changed every week as my naturopath determined what needed detoxing and what needed tonifying inside. I changed my diet to raw meat, eggs, cream, milk, and fresh vegetable juice, as advised by one member of my health care team who’d analyzed my blood. I managed to add thirty pounds to the 100 pounds I already weighed when I had been diagnosed. No one believed I was sick, I looked so plump and healthy.

From Alternative to Allopathy

Four long years passed while I did everything I could possibly think of to heal myself, and spent many thousands of dollars, which miraculously kept coming to me through fundraisers and the generous support of my beloved community, far and wide. Yet still my life was hanging in the balance between life and death. I could feel death stalking me, and I felt my will to live slipping away. I would lay in bed at night and think of my loved ones, my friends and family, and my two year old god-daughter, Sierra who was living with us at the time, and what it would be like to not be around then anymore, and how they would feel if I were gone. I thought of my darling brother, who has struggled with such pain from his condition all his life, and yet has gone on to become such a force of good in the world, speaking out against social injustice with his creativity, creating a whole genre with his music, travelling all over with his band, and the power that comes through him to overcome his pain with his passion. Where was my passion? I had to find it within me somehow.

Radical and Fast

Finally, I awoke early one morning and took a long hard look at myself in the bathroom mirror. My tumor had not shrunk, in fact it had now taken over the whole of my left breast. It was the size of a grapefruit. Not only that, but there was also a golf ball-sized tumor under my left armpit. It was spreading to my lymph system. I needed to do something radical, and fast.

Suddenly, it became very clear that I needed to find a western doctor to help me. I had to put aside my mistrust of western medicine and change course if I was to live to tell the tale. If I didn’t to do something different, I was going to die. Looking in that mirror I made a decision: I did want to live. And I didn’t want to fight any longer against modern medicine. I went to see my next-door neighbor, Mark, who had just been diagnosed with liver cancer, and asked him how his treatment was going.

“Do you like your oncologist?” I asked eagerly.

“He is a great guy,” said Mark. “He is really available and very heartful.” I noticed I took a deep breath, perhaps the first in a long while. Life was showing me my next step. As Grace would have it, that meeting with my next-door neighbor guided me to meet the man who was going to be the main help in my healing process. The next day, I was sitting in the office of Dr. Ari Baron, whose gentle demeanor and kind brown eyes soothed my nervousness and made me feel cared for. He sat and listened intently as I told him the whole story of my cancer journey. It was as if he had absolutely nowhere else to go and absolutely nothing he would rather be doing than listening to me. I know he had a ward full of cancer patients waiting to see him but, in his presence, I felt like the most important person in the world. After a few moments reviewing my file, he turned towards me.

“We’re going to go for full recovery,” he said simply, and smiled in a way that melted my fear, like ice in the warm sun. I almost jumped out of my skin! I had expected him to say, “We’ll do what we can,” or “I am sorry, it’s too late.”


In that moment I breathed a deep sigh of relief. I felt I could lay my life in this man’s hands and together we would make it. That was four and a half years after I had been diagnosed and I had already outlived the first oncologist’s prognosis for me.

In January 2005, I walked into the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) hospital for my first round of chemo. I saw the people lying there, receiving the drug they hoped would save their lives. I prayed it would save mine. I was forty-four years old. I still had a lot of life in me. I lay down and let the nurses stick the needle into my veins to have the toxic chemical concoction pumped throughout my system. It was a relief to stop worrying whether I was doing the right thing. I was doing the only thing left.

The next four months were spent in regular rounds of chemo, going in every two weeks for the treatment, spending several days feeling like crap, then doing a series of acupuncture and alternative treatments to help me recover and prepare for the next round. If I had not spent the previous four years building up my health and putting on weight, I feel sure the chemo would have ravaged me. But it was not as bad as I had anticipated. Every time they pumped the poison into my veins, I told myself this was good medicine. When I saw the tumor shrinking after the first few treatments, I knew that it really was.

Saving My Life

The pharmaceutical companies I had so hated and feared were now saving my life. I let go of my angry stories about corporations exploiting people for profit and surrendered to the wonders of modern science. Weeks turned into months and as the tumor disappeared, so did my hair. It began to fall out in clumps, and I looked like a mangy orphan. My girlfriend finally came over and cut off all my locks. She donated the hair to “Wigs for Children” who were going through chemo. As for myself, I wasn’t into wearing a wig. I enjoyed having no hair to wash, dry, or style. It was just me in my nakedness. I felt bold and beautiful, even though the chemo was a rough ride. At the end of four months, I was amazed that the tumor had shrunk to nothing, and my breast appeared to be normal again. I was over the moon with joy.

But the work was far from over. Next came the surgery. My wonderful oncologist had a good team of fellow doctors and we decided to begin with a lumpectomy, not a full-blown mastectomy. But, alas, they did not get good margins and could not guarantee all cancerous cells had been removed. By that time, I was so tired I just said, “Do whatever you need to do to save my life. If you have to take off my breast, go ahead.”

I remember being asked if I wanted to go for a reconstruction, but when I thought of the implications, the further surgeries, transplanting fat (which I did not have) and muscle from other parts of my body, I said, “No, just take off my breast; I’m tired of my body being messed about.”

Normally I am a vain creature, but at this point I had no doubt it was better to live to tell the tale than to look good on my deathbed. Off to surgery I went. I remember the anesthetic going into my veins and then I was out cold, gone to a dreamy world where all was well.
Vaguely, as I drifted away, I remembered why I loved narcotics: the feeling of being far beyond the cares of this world is a blessed relief.

Imperfect Body

The next thing I knew was waking up without my left breast. Heavily bandaged, my chest was flat and raw. I was glad to be alive, that much I knew, and I was one step closer to being free from cancer. After this there was several months of radiation that I endured before I was through the treatments.

Now I had to get used to living minus one breast. I was healed from the operation and now had to heal as a woman. I found myself being more cautious about who was going to see my scarred and naked form, as they might wince or recoil. This was my lesson now: to love my perfectly imperfect body.

They say that after five years cancer is in remission, but it’s only ten to fifteen years later that you can actually say, “I’m fully on the other side of it.”

After the cancer operation, I vowed to live each day as totally as possible, and came to understand what Osho always said, “The people who are most afraid of death are the ones who have not fully lived.”

Goodbye to Ray

Another realization dawned on me. Going through menopause, surviving breast cancer, I knew it was time to end my relationship with Ray. Things had never been easy between us. We had loved each other intensely, and he had done his best to be supportive during my difficult cancer journey, but there was always a storm brewing between us that could erupt at any moment. Ray was a beautiful man with a deep soul, a photographer and poet, but he could also be very emotional and reactive. Somehow our combined chemistry proved highly combustible and, in both of us, fury and frustration could reach boiling point in seconds.

After the chemo and surgery, I knew that what my body and nervous system needed more than anything else was rest and quiet. Ray knew it, too, and sorrowfully we understood the situation and let each other go. I took myself off to a cottage in the countryside where I could be alone, in retreat from the world, and walk the hills of West Marin. I was entering a period of isolation, moving out on my own and spending a great deal of time in Nature, integrating all I had gone through. Who was I now? I had been humbled, I was less arrogant, less smart, less aggressive, somehow softer, more tender, and hopefully wiser.

It took me several years to learn how to be in relationship with myself again and become comfortable with my aloneness. I had encountered death, and I had been reborn.

Excerpts from Rajyo Allen’s memoir, Fumbling Towards Freedom: Initiations on the path of Awakening, from Chapter 31, 32 and Chapter 33Photo by Victoria Strukovskaya on Unsplash

Fumbling Towards Freedom: Initiations on the Path of AwakeningFumbling Towards Freedom:
Initiations on the Path of Awakening
by Rajyo Allen –
Manor House Publishing Inc –
Ancaster, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, 2022
240 pages
Available as Hardcover, Paperback or Kindle from – Amazon

Review on Osho News
Rajyo Allen

Rajyo Allen is a healer and therapist and founder of the Samasati Sanctuary in North Carolina.

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