Healing the Heroine
I was 27 when I found out.
I was living in Tassie, working in a natural medicine clinic helping people understand their health and find herbal and nutritional support.
It came as a pretty big shock when I found out I was sick.
If I'm honest, something hadn't been right for a while and i'd avoided it as long as i could.
Being just a couple years out of Uni, I distracted myself with self-diagnoses.
Over a number of months I told myself I had everything from gluten intolerance to SIBO.
I wanted to believe the persistent bloating and large mass in my abdomen was due to a food allergy.
When I found out is was my ovary - everything changed.
At the Gynecologist office we looked over my scans.
A cyst the size of a small melon had grown in my pelvis.
She talked to me about cancer and I felt my world spin upside down.
Within a few weeks I had an emergency cystectomy via laparotomy.
They had to make a big incision across my pelvis to get the cyst out.
At home, recovering from the surgery, I remember thinking: how the hell do people recover from cesarean birth while learning to breast feed and care for a new born!?
I was relieved to find out the cyst was benign, but there were no answers as to how I'd grown it for so long and not known.
How could I have a degree in holistic health and miss this?
I started looking for answers, but none of the usual research databases or clinical text books turned up anything conclusive.
"A rogue cyst" the Doc had said, and shrugged "it happens".
It was either right before, or right after the operation - I don't remember which, that an article by a Wirradjuri elder named Min Mia came into my hands.
60,000 years of wisdom handed down to her.
In it she talked about the traditional Women's Lore of her people and life stages of growing up.
I tracked down her book and sat glued to it's pages - I really can't think of a better way to describe that feeling, those days than dumbstruck.
Some combination of shock, relief and deep knowing.
Mins words allowed me to fully accept that my body was more than just the physical - it was a home for my spirit.
My emotions and my intuition were here to help me walk in the right direction.
And I had been ignoring both.
That's when I decided to leave Tasmania.
To leave my work and my long-term love and so many amazing friends and community.
And it was the hardest choice i'd ever made.
In the weeks before I left, I felt like i was losing my mind.
I would drive to the beach and walk back and forth in the ocean spray, talking and singing to myself.
Those days felt so painful and raw and empty. I was scared.
As if a great void had been excavated and I longed to reclaim some forgotten piece, without knowing what I was looking for.
The years that followed that decision have involved a great amount of travel and shedding, learning and unlearning, walking alone and being guided.
Stumbling, fumbling, tumbling my way along.
For a while I left health-care work altogether, not able to support others while I was navigating my own healing.
I worked solely with the plants, tending seedlings and designing gardens and saving so I could travel and listen and learn.
I listened to the stories from cultures other than my own.
I travelled deep into the heart of "Australias outback" onto the traditional homelands of the Yolngü people who taught me about grief, loss and community as much as they taught me to weave baskets.
I got ill and well again in the mountains of Peru and at the lakes of Bolivia.
I found friendship and healing in the company of other travelers and kindness in the hearts of so many people.
My plans became scrambled and the plants called me north.
And when I stood in the Dakotas chanting "Mni wiconi, water is life" I realised that the womens medicine, wisdom and stories I'd been longing to hear are held in the earth itself - and how much the earth needs healing too.
So I grieved.
For my own teaching stories and linage and ancestors.
For all the wisdom that has been lost, about our bodies and ways of living with the earth.
For the taking of lands and subjugation of peoples - that continues to this day.
That sea of tears brought me here, to Wabanaki territory, mid-coast Maine.
Where I fell in love.
With Eagles and Birches and Poplar trees that applaud in the Fall.
With a rocky coastline full of roses and seals in the bay.
And with a special person who asked if I would stay.
It's been just shy of seven years that I found out I had an ovarian cyst.
And I started doing the deep-deep-down work of unlearning, dreaming, remembering and healing.
Now I know what i didn't know then.
That the work of healing our bodies, our communities and our stories - is the work of a lifetime.
And I've only just begun.
This summer I'm offering an in-person class series to help you heal your menstrual cycle.
The course will dive deep, unpacking inherited cultural shame about our bodies and help you reconnect with your intuition, creativity and femininity.
You'll build a materia medica of medicinal plant allies and foods that support breast, ovarian and pms health.
You'll connect with and share your process with others in a supportive, outdoor space.
There's just 13 places, so if you'd like to know more, hop on over here and feel free to reach out with any questions.
Sliding scale pricing and payment plans are available.
10% of all proceeds will go toward supporting the Wabanaki community.
With gratitude and respect to elders, wisdom holders, story tellers and keepers of traditional lore both past and present.
Your work, wisdom and words remind us that another way is possible.