For several months I’ve felt a lump under my right arm. It lit up on a PET scan in late February. I had a needle biopsy last week and heard once again, “it’s breast cancer.” I don’t have the full pathology report yet, so don’t have treatment recommendations.

My first reaction was the usual “Oh shit!” I’ve gone through this so many times that I quit counting. More than 10 times in the last 23 years. Each time it seems like I go through some of the same questions, and some new ones come up. Am I responsible for this in some way? What have I done wrong? I wish there was an answer to this because it seems to follow that if I have done something to cause it, I can do something to eliminate it. It all comes down to wanting some control. And bottom line is that I’m not in control of whether I have cancer or not.

I have two opposing points of view. One is that if I have no control anyway, I should just do whatever I want. Eat whatever appeals to me. Have fun. Don’t worry. Be happy.

The other option is that I become more self-disciplined than ever; maintain a rigorous exercise program; eat only the “right” food; make sure I get enough sleep; do guided imagery regularly; meditate; go to more cancer conferences; study the research; take supplements; this list could go on and on. My guess is that I will again choose something in between these opposites.

My therapist suggests that everything “given” to us has a purpose of helping us to learn to know and trust ourselves more. She says to go inside, be quiet, and trust my intuition. I know there will be benefits to doing that no matter what. If this leads me on a path of trusting myself more, that’s a good thing. In making decisions about treatment (or no treatment), she believes that the method of getting there is more important than what the decision is.

I’m grateful that this cancer is again under my arm, close to the surface, and not in a vital organ. It has my attention, but isn’t an immediate threat to my life.