I don’t want to sound like a weirdo, but…

A few months before finding my lump, I didn’t feel like myself. I sensed something was wrong but couldn’t figure it out. It’s not like I felt sick or anything. I didn’t experience any symptoms of any kind. Plus my blood work had been excellent according to my doctor.

Then, I experienced a series of strange situations that led me to suspect something was def. wrong.

In the summer of 2010, a few months before finding my lump, I felt emotionally down. I would cry for no particular reason. I experienced heart palpitations a lot too. I thought maybe I was experiencing some level of depression but I was unclear as to what the cause of it was. I allowed myself to just be, without consulting anyone about it.

Then, that fall, a few weeks before finding the lump in my right breast, I was on the train. A young bald woman was sitting across from me. Of course, cancer was the first thing that popped into my head when I noticed her. Perhaps she was undergoing some type of chemo treatment, I thought. I was trying to be cautious so as not to seem like I was staring. Her train stop eventually came before mine. As she was leaving the train she suddenly made a full stop, and turned and stared at me.  Her look lasted long enough to freak me out so I quickly turned my face away. I felt nervous.

Then, I started having some strange dreams. One involved a cemetery I am now very familiar with. I’ve never actually visited this cemetery in real life, but I’ve found myself visiting this place in my dreams, repeatedly, at different stages of my life.

The cemetery is located in this colorful little town surrounded by different shaped houses made out of inconsistent looking bricks, and very colorful. There’s a lot of nature surrounding the houses — plants and beautiful yellow flowers.  It’s always sunny and warm. The streets often seem isolated though.

I’ve been dreaming about this cemetery since I was a teen.  I’ve become so familiar with it that I’ve figured out shortcuts for how to get there. The many times I’ve visited this place I am unclear as to why I am even there. It’s not like I am visiting anyone in particular. I seem to know this place very well too. Usually there are people visiting their loved ones. The place looks beautiful with many lights and colorful flowers. I am always on my way in rather than my way out.

On this occasion, in the dream, as I enter the gate, I see many people leaving, but they don’t notice me going in. It is after dusk and it looks like the place is getting ready to close. I continue walking through the graveyard, as I usually do, with no destination in mind. It never feels like a nightmare when I am here. In fact, I feel peaceful, with a sense of comfort. I like this place.

As I continue with my walk, I come across one particular stone. I stop. My full name is engraved on it. I don’t recall noticing a date engraved in the stone. I rest my body on what seemed to be my grave, and closed my eyes.

Then, I woke up in the middle of the night, in a sweat, with my heart beating very fast. But I didn’t think much about it, until I had another dream the following week. This one involved my grandma.

I was in my grandmother’s house (back in Barahona, the town where I grew up, where she raised me). I saw a very bright light shining from the roof, which blinded me. As my eyes were halfway closed, I noticed my grandmother’s reflection floating. She was trying to reach out to me, but something did not allow us to interact. All I heard was a struggling voice which echoed repetitively. Then I woke up.

At this point, I began wondering if these dreams were a way for my body to unconsciously tell me something was wrong.

In December, days after having these dreams, I was sitting in a rocking chair at my fiancé’s apt. He had bought it for me because he knew it reminded me of my grandma. He was trying to talk to me but I was completely absent from reality. My folded arms were positioned in a way that allowed my hands to touch my breasts. I felt something. At that exact moment I knew. I ran to my guy asking him to feel my lump. He felt it too. He asked for me to call my doctor immediately, which I did. I received a response the following day and was in my doctor’s office the next day. After the examination, she recommended a sonogram. She suspected it was a fibroadenoma. I felt it was cancer.

Eventually I had the sonogram. I turned to see the monitor. I saw the dark hole. I knew. Even if the technician didn’t tell me, I still knew. A doctor comes into the room to look at the images and recommends a biopsy. I never shook in my life the way I did on that examination table.

The day before my biopsy, I had another dream about my grandma.

I was back in my grandma’s house. She was standing in the livingroom, staring at the floor. The only light was the one coming from the windows. I approached her and said, “hey mama, I am having a breast biopsy”. She doesn’t respond and continues looking down. “Have you ever had a breast biopsy before?” I ask. “Never,” she says, still looking down. “Well, I am having one” I repeat. “I know,” she replies as she slowing raises her head to look at me. There are tears rolling down her face. She walks towards me and hugs me. I hug her back, confused, and tell her that I am OK. Then I woke up.

I had my biopsy the next day and received the results the following day. I had breast cancer.

Of course all these events I experienced before my diagnosis were coincidences, but I do believe sometimes our bodies have a way to tell us when something is wrong. If this happens to you, please listen to your body and take action immediately. It is scary but it’s better to know than to ignore. And because cancer doesn’t warn you a lot of times, all you can do is be diligent with your health and continue with those regular checkups.

My dreams haven’t taken me back to that cemetery since that year. I don’t know how I’ll feel if my dreams take me there again. As for my grandma? I still have dreams of her, but there are no tears from her. But I am back to crying for no reason. It’s probably the Tamoxifen.

About thesmallc

I'm Rebeca. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32. But there's more to my story: I am an animal lover. I love to cook. I have a wonderful fiancé who doesn't mind walking my rocky path with me. We currently live in New York. ---------------------------------------- “Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” ― Viktor E. Frankl
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25 Responses to I don’t want to sound like a weirdo, but…

  1. illlive says:

    I suddenly got really depressed this afternoon. I have a CT scan tomorrow. I’m not anticipating any bad news, but I am also sad for no reason. Little setbacks seem huge for me right now.

    This too shall pass. But take comfort that your mind and your body are in such beautiful sync with each other – even while you are sleeping.

    • thesmallc says:

      Sending positive thoughts your way. I hope you get the results your heart desires. It’s always nerve-wrecking to get these follow scans, and it’s not easy to control how we feel. I’ll be thinking of you and waiting for an update when you can. Hang in there! xo

  2. Wow, Rebecca. Such vivid dreams. I agree that our bodies have a way of communicating with us. About three months before I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I felt something was wrong. It’s hard to explain why, but I felt something was off in my body. In fact, I remember being in the car with a friend and saying to him, “There’s something’s wrong. I don’t know why but I feel like something’s wrong.”

    • thesmallc says:

      Eileen, I remember having the same conversations with people. I felt as if something bad was about to happen, but couldn’t figure out what it was. It’s interesting how our bodies communicate.Those were some dark days! Although we are not completely done with cancer, I hope we never have to deal with another diagnosis again.

    • The Accidental Amazon says:

      Yes, me, too, Eileen. Like both of you, I felt that something was off for months before I was diagnosed. My energy just kept decreasing. But nothing showed up in my annual physical so I had no idea what was wrong. And I never had a lump. Then I had my annual screening mammogram …

      I think these experiences are not unusual. xo, Kathi

      • thesmallc says:

        Kathi, this is more common than I thought. Feels so good to know I am not alone. Wish our feelings would have been wrong, but glad we came out of this mess OK (not the same way we were, but OK). I hope we all stay well.

      • The Accidental Amazon says:

        Me, too! Hugs.

  3. Marian McQuinn says:

    Hi Rebeca,
    first time I had cancer 15 years ago I had terrible dreams about crocodiles in murky water coming for me and my family, they were very frightening. Fast foward to this diagnosis I was also having dreams but it was sharks this time coming for me. Both creatures are prehistoric, attack you with their sharp teeth. I was also having dreams about being in hospital and asking if I would be ok and being told it was too late as I had not had my check ups etc in time.
    I was seeing my oncologist once a year for a blood test which was always ok. I had Non Hodgkins Lymphoma and surgery and 6 months of really tough chemo 15 years ago so was reasonably confident I would be ok. My mammogram was due and as we had been on a holiday overseas and recently moved house I had put it off. When the reminder letter arrived I decided to go and make my appointment and get it out of the way. I had had a mammogram two years previously at 50 which was ok.
    I was recalled and I was not really worried as I have a large scar on my right breast from my previous port and assumed it was scar tissue and they needed another look. It turned out I had Ductal Carcinoma Intermediate grade which was hormone positive. No lumps or bumps visible but hiding in my right breast. Very grateful that I did not put off mammogram any longer as after my sentinel node biopsy it was found that it had moved in to some lymph nodes. I have had a breast conserving wide excison and a clearance under my arm of lymph nodes. I have finished my chemo (16 )and in a few weeks will begin 25 sessions of radiotherapy. I will still have Herceptin but for now it has been stopped as I had some side effects to my heart and the doctor is just waiting a while. I will possibly have Tamaxifen as well later. After my surgeries my scan were all clear so I am hopeful the surgeon has got it all and if not the chem and radiation will be getting anything that may be left over.
    After my experience before I knew to look forward life and all the wonderful things to come after treatment. I also had the bad things come back, the fear and shock. I did not really have any symptoms other that some tiredness which comes and goes as a result of my previous experience plus I am getting older.
    I think our body knows and I have heard other stories like yours from lots of people. When I was having the shark dreams I was wondering if it was a warning as well. Lucky for me I have had it found and have a great team of doctors and resources available to me for supoport. It is still a lonely place to be though as you know. I am patient with myself on the down days and they come and they go. It is really nice to read your blog and see other comments and to know there is folk who you dont have to hold back from and you can voice your feelings. Hugs Marian 🙂

    • thesmallc says:

      Thank you for taking the time to respond to this post and for sharing your story. I’m sorry you’ve dealt with two cancers (as if one wasn’t enough?!). It’s incredible how our minds and bodies work together. It’s always concerning how sometimes cancer doesn’t show any symptoms at all. I’ve heard of many cases of patients who had been treated for lymphoma and eventually were diagnosed with BC. These treatments can cause so many secondary issues for us, but what choice do we have but to go with them, if we want to live? I wish the treatments weren’t so harsh to our bodies. Radiation was relatively easy for me (much easier than the chemo). The burns annoyed me and I was unable to wear a bra for a while. I was also tired a lot of the times. I believe you will do well. I’ve heard of other patients who have received Herceptin too, and they found it to be a relatively easier chemo to take than the other BC-related treatments. I hope your experience is the same. I am glad you have a great medical team and a good support system. I wish you good luck with your upcoming treatments. I appreciate you stopping by to comment. And yes, it feels amazing to be able to express my truth to people who can relate and understand, including you. Stay well. xo

  4. scottx5 says:

    It might be that our unconscious mind is a more sensitive monitor of our bodies than we are. Before my first heart failure, the sickness was a mystery. Where was it coming from? What was causing it? Even had a minor heart attack and didn’t associate it with my heart. And the echocardiogram I’d had months before where the technician showed me where my aortic valve was shredded didn’t register. There was something that felt really dumb about me in the time between what turned out to be the doctor’s receptionist losing the message from my cardiologist to see her immediately and my showing up for a check-up 3 months later.

    I don’t think my mind ever did really process that first surgery, the week before and the weeks after. From walking in for a “check-up” to being told I had a few months to live a few minutes later the lights just went down and I hid behind my body and watched. The whole thing was frightening and happening without me and could it be the dreams and odd feelings are warnings that others get but not me?

    My second heart surgery was a mental circus in a crashing airplane and continues on. It was even more abrupt and traumatic. Strangely though, my cancer was such a battle with my “care givers” all I get is dreams of things being incomplete and messed up.

    Rebecca, do you think your dreams before diagnosis were a way for your mind to make sense of something bad that hadn’t happened yet? Like your body “knew” it needed to prepare itself for an interruption in the health you expected to go on forever? We all expect health, sickness is just nonsense but it could be our bodies and presence of our predecessors within us know better.

    For crying, I recommend this song just because you feel like it:
    Eva Cassidy – Over The Rainbow

    • thesmallc says:

      Scott, I am sorry about all the serious health issues you’ve dealt with. I am so glad you continue to do well. I think everyone’s intuition is different. Our bodies don’t always warn us about things. Also, there are too many distractions in everyday life. We often don’t pay attention to every event or situation, especially people who don’t think much of such experiences (unlike the superstitious kinds, for example). You’re probably not the paranoid type. I am paranoid so I pay too much attention to things. I tend to react strongly and immediately to everything. Perhaps these same characteristics about me project themselves in different ways. I hope I am making sense.

      I am looking forward to reading an update about how you’re doing. And thank you for the beautiful and calming song.

  5. nancyspoint says:

    Hi Rebecca,
    Dreams are so fascinating. I rarely remember mine. Since you read my memoir (thank you), you already know I thought I was having a heart attack and then lo and behold, it was cancer. Was my body trying to tell me something? I guess so. And once things got rolling, I “knew” it was cancer. Intuition or something, but I knew. Amazing read. Thank you.

    • thesmallc says:

      Nancy, I clearly remember what happened to you. Feeling like having a heart attack must be pretty scary. Getting heart palpitations makes me nervous. I don’t get them as often anymore, but I used to before (when I had the heart murmur). We all possess some level of intuition. Glad you had your symptom checked out but sorry it turned out to be the ‘uninvited visitor’, as you call it..

  6. Carrie says:

    I don’t think I sensed anything was wrong before I found my lump but I do project a sense of foreboding onto my memory of that time. But I do not think it actually existed. It’s interesting.
    Your dreams are so powerful and vibrant. You have a strong connection to your body through your subconscious. It’s amazing the ways our bodies try to alert us when something is amiss.

    • thesmallc says:

      Carrie, yes, the connection between the body and the mind is incredible. Somehow your body finds a way to warn you when something is wrong. Glad it did that for the two of us (sometimes there are no lumps) although I would rather it had never happened. I dream a lot and remember them clearly. Some don’t make any sense but I am aware a lot happens in our minds.

  7. I felt “off” the whole summer before DX. Not really sick, but not well either, for weeks on end. but the idea it would be cancer just didn’t cross my mind. After DX, I was like, ohhh, this might have been my problem. I’ve never felt like that since.

    • thesmallc says:

      Yup, sounds familiar. Now I recall a dry cough that wouldn’t go away but doctors said it was probably allergies. When I googled about it, BC came up a lot. But like you, I had no idea I could have BC. My lungs were clear when they checked for mets. Eventually they said it was a dead nerve in my vocal cords which didn’t allow my cords to open correctly. Weird.

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  9. tric says:

    My sister (who is ten years all clear) said to me two years after treatment finished that she couldn’t believe how well she felt, because for at least a year before diagnosis she was ‘off.’
    Breast cancer is very strong within our family and three first cousins are all recovering well also.
    The first time I had a lump (all have been cysts) I woke from a deep sleep and a nagging voice kept at me to check my breasts. It was the middle of the night and there it was. Thankfully nothing to worry about but that voice was very loud indeed.

    • thesmallc says:

      I am sorry BC runs in your family. We have the same situation with my family too. Glad everyone is doing well, including your cousins. Your sister’s story is encouraging. I def. believe we all have instincts but not everyone pays attention to those instincts. I am glad I listened to mine and that you keep track of your health too. I hope we all continue to do well.

  10. bethgainer says:

    Hi Rebecca,

    No, I don’t think you are a weirdo. I strongly believe our bodies try to tell us things. This is a powerful post and a testament that dreams are significant. Like you, I knew that I had cancer. When I saw that slight dimple on my breast, I knew. When I saw my surgeon’s eyes when he said “We don’t know what it is yet,” I could tell he knew. And when the technician — on order from the radiologist — took a zillion shots of my right breast, I shivered because I knew all along.

    • thesmallc says:

      Beth, I am still traumatized by those non-stop clicks from the sonogram. I remember the technician taking so many pictures of that dark hole. And she asked a lot of questions too. Everyone knew but they weren’t allowed to tell me. Those were such dark days. For all of us. And yes, our bodies have a way of warning us, even when it comes to other people. I am sorry you went through this nightmare but I am glad we are still here, together.

  11. Iridacea says:

    I started reading about cancer a year prior to my DX, because I had collapsed from exhaustion and was not improving after more than a year. I had a dream 6 months prior in which my friend, who is actually a doctor, was telling me I had cancer. I spent the whole summer coming to terms with it, before finally going in to be checked in November. They say that it can take 10 years for a tumor to be visible – so when did my whole thing really start? As it turned out a new drug got FDA approval just a few weeks prior to my Dx, which likely contributed to my better than expected outcome from my treatments. Ironically I think for me that waiting was the best option, because I was able to receive the new neoadjuvant drug with my chemo. I am now out two years from surgery, when my original diagnosis of 3c ER+PR+ HER2+ was restaged to zero. Another friend, who was DX a year prior to me with a similar Dx (triple positive 3A for her) did not receive the drug, and had an early recurrence to stage 4.
    I think that the most important thing is to listen to your body’s wisdom- which I do believe can come to us through the language of dreams.

    • thesmallc says:

      Interesting story. Good timing for the FDA-approved treatment. I am sorry you still went through all this nightmare, but glad you made a full recovery. We have so little control over our health, and sometimes all we can do is pay attention to the signs. Glad we both listened to our instincts. Thank you for sharing your story. xx

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