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About 2 1/2 weeks after surgery, I received a very special gift from a client & dear friend, Shelby. It was a small plant with a green gem-looking stone hanging over it. She had said that she searched all over for it and thought it was perfect for what I was going through. When I got it, I thought the green stone had some type of healing property ~ I set it on my kitchen island.
I was just starting to feel so much better – physically, mentally, emotionally. Pain was being managed really well (I still claim Midol as the drug that changed everything!) and I was starting to move and exercise my arms again. I noticed that the left side (where I had the armpit surgery) was more restricted & painful than the right. I could feel this thick tendon-like thing in my armpit and down my arm. I showed the plastic surgeon and he said to stretch more. And although it was painful, I continued to gently stretch and move my arms the best that I could. It hurt. But ok, trusting the process.
The next morning, I walked into the kitchen and froze. The green stone on the plant was now a huge, gorgeous monarch butterfly. Just chilling in the middle of my kitchen. My entire being lit up in excitement! Oh my God, what is this? Where did it come from? Turns out the green “stone” was a butterfly cocoon!
Shelby didn’t know this, but butterflies are kind of my thing. I have always loved them and felt a special connection with them. I wrote a poem in 8th grade titled, “I think of myself as a butterfly” and drew a picture of a woman with butterfly wings ~ it made the cover of a booklet distributed at school. I re-wrote the poem when I quit my corporate advertising job and moved to Spain.
For my wedding, we had a butterfly release. We lived at the retreat property where we were married for 4 years and created/ran the business ~ on our last day, we were down by the lake and a butterfly crawled onto our hands.
As I approached surgery, I made the decision that if it were my time to leave this earth as a Bethany, I would return as a butterfly. And I would definitely play adorable butterfly tricks on people and mess with them. In an effort not to freak anyone out before my surgery, I decided to keep this reincarnation plan to myself.
I brought the butterfly gift outside to my balcony and sat in meditation. Before I closed my eyes, I noticed a dragonfly had landed on the railing to my right. This sent “holy shit this is so meant to be” chills down my spine. You see, Shelby has also been deeply affected by cancer ~ she has been a caregiver for 3 of her family members’ journeys with cancer. Her son passed away at the age of 6. Her stories of his courage and wisdom through the process astonished me. She shared with me that there was a point when she was feeling torn about his treatment plan and Clayton said, “Don’t worry Mommy, don’t you know the light is in the doctors too? The light is in everyone.” This brilliant little 6-year old opened my eyes and heart to a new way of looking at surgery and it completely soothed any remaining nerves. Shelby and her family created a foundation – The Clayton Dabney Foundation – to support children with cancer. She said that after he died, dragonflies began appearing in the oddest places. They knew in their hearts, it was Clayton.
Remembering this brought tears. I closed my eyes and breathed. I could feel the warmth of the sun on my face. The sound of the wind whistling through the trees. A swell of gratitude overcame me. Look what I’ve done. Look what I’ve been through. And I’m ok! I’m here. Really here. I began to gently move my arms ~ opening and closing them like wings. When I opened my eyes, the butterfly was doing the same. Stretching her wings for the very first time. The dragonfly continued to watch. More tears fell from my eyes. This is my rebirth. I again remembered a deep purpose-filled connection to this journey and to myself.
I texted Shelby in crazy excitement to share my story along with a photo of Clayton the dragonfly. She said that she had no doubt in her mind that Clayton was with me. I then went for a nature walk with an extra pep in my step. When I returned, the butterfly and the dragonfly were gone.
Later that afternoon, I had a post-op meeting with my breast surgeon and I learned that the arm band thing had a name: Axillary Web Syndrome. An extremely rare complication that can occur after surgery and could last a few months or forever.
Can my butterfly come back?
Coming up….”When Complications become Blessings”