Cancer Scare & the Northern White Rhino

Essay, unfinished

I thought I had cancer, given my family history.

Three other risk factors also came into play.

It’s always something,” said comic Gilda Radner,

who died of ovarian-cancer. A cancer scare was past tense.


Ten days ago, when the cancer doc released the test results of

the day surgery, a D & C procedure, as “benign endometrium,”

I was flabbergasted. Several weeks before, it was “thickened endometrium.”

Was my biopsy swatch mixed up with another

77-year old, childless, pleasingly plumb, voluptuous curvy,  silver hottie? 

Must be a mistake. “Benign.” In a matter of hours,

the UCHEALTH in Colorado Cancer Center wrote

“recovery two weeks, and we’ll see you on October 1.” 

I don’t have time for cancer.


When was I going to finish my new teen book on the 83 environmental rollbacks.

 Tentatively, called Silver Linings and one Dark Cloud? 

Cancer was not on my agenda. I had things to do.

Cramping and spotting from the procedure were predicted, as I tried to

process living or dying with cancer.  My family cancer had been fatal. I knew

few survivors. I felt alone, within the family network. Within the senior community,

I walked a lot to show and tell I was still alive. Yet, how confused I was. I said, ” I am

dealing with a new health issue.” “Keep praying” said the wise women on the senior

shopper bus. I did. No longer with a partner (my two husbands had died), I sought out

support groups. Things were not rational. Well, Did I have Cancer? When I tried to

speak the low “c” cancer, it wouldn’t come out, even the high “C” Cancer.

One transportation company said to me if you have cancer,

we can offer you a free ride. But no cancer, no ride.  And this was a cancer society.

My situation was becoming more urgent, after a pelvic ultra-sound was performed.


My three female ancestors appeared as my better angels before me, living bravely,

and I fell in love with my ancestors again: : my genealogist (not gynecologist) 

said to me outside of class, imagine what your ancestors went through, compared to 

today’s modern, high-tech surgeries, treatments like laparoscopic hysterectomy, even

robotical surgery.  I dug out old photos of my female relatives and thought

and thought. I cried often, but not for long — I had to keep moving. I re-read Maya

Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman poem to the background of nude Gauguin paintings.


I turned to a unique survivors spiritual ministry at a local new thought church

and their healing affirmations. These gentle and powerful affirmations online

addressed the wholeness, organic healing my body was undergoing.  No matter what.

I was moving forth on a new healing path.  I pasted stickees on the bath mirrors.

In limbo. I was nowhere. United with the Divine Presence. The one affirmation from the

minister in charge, I cut out and re-read for days, carrying it around, such words of

comfort, of someone who knew, who knew how positive I could think during these

process. Surely, it was too easy to think of cancer as a death sentence, a ‘silent killer”:

this healing ministry embraced the whole body, mind, and spirit. I participated in

the Healing Light service online.


I also found I needed to know more of the medical science. My own body! 

There were all kinds of cancer!  I thought we had a cure. More research and clinical

studies I discovered. During this time, I had my annual mammogram, 3-D, and the

results were urgently presented to me that same day: by then I knew of the gene BRCA

1 & 2. I turned  on the Search Engines and Medical websites to find out the science,

anatomy,  and how cancer cells mutate, change, grow. Lot of knowledge for screenings,

but no cure. Was there a metaphysics of cancer?  The minister was offering in the fall a

three week workshop on Quantum Healing. Those who knew cancer– reached out to

us. How grateful. I wasn’t a freak. I had so much to learn. The moments 

however were bitter and sweet. Cancer today may not be a death sentence as it had

been with my mother, aunt,grandmother from Java.  I just had to accept my condition,

not cancer, and no cancer — and this proved to be more difficult than you might expect.

I wanted my mother! Yet, it wasn’t fair (my mother’s fate)– that maybe I had a lucky

gene for this condition. Genetic testing and counseling was more popular than ever.


On the October issue of the National Geographic, the headline cover story

on the extinction of the northern white rhino. I had met rhinos on an East

African safari in 1971. This was part of my new book. Environmental rollbacks.

Life goes on, in terrible ways. As my introspection and awareness continued, I asked —

Why was I spared? Did I carry the Lynch syndrome, the BRCA1 & ?  I never had genetic

testing as I wanted. Perhaps, in the wonder and wilderness of blue skies, my womb

held unique cells, non-cancerous cells. Perhaps. I knew from my endometrium ultra-

sounds since menopause, my ovaries had shrunken, become medically “invisible.”

So then, my book, my life, my daily habits filled with anxiety, photos, ENSURE bottles,

–yet affirmations soothed with a neighborly kind word. In addition, I was nauseous

and sick to my stomach prior to the D & C.


My mother, born in the Bronx, New York died quickly of ovarian cancer at age 64 .

My aunt, born in New Jersey (leukemia) died in her 80s, and my grandmother,

Francoise Charlotte, born in Semarang, Java ( a Dutch-Indonesian Njonja matron), died

at age 49 in California (death certificate found via my genealogy class). What risk

factors did they have?  Were they smokers, I was asked.


To continue, in this metaphorical Waiting Room, I wait. Maybe the anesthesia, maybe

the medical event itself, I am not myself, anymore. I am not myself and do not know

what has changed, except my life has fully changed. I know I am more sensitive to the

experiences of cancer in others. Very grateful, for a healing ministry in my life. How the

inspirations from my ancestors affect me deeply and I grieve. This grief and loss is so

personal. I bought a little bracelet with the saying, “the love between a mother and a

daughter is forever.” How bittersweet.


Today, I am waiting, for my next oncology appointment, and another in November.

What treatment will I need?  Hormones, hysterectomy? Do nothing. In between, is my

birthday. Nothing feels — yet — like a celebration.

Mother collage 2019


nancy vorkink machin, M.A., RPCV

author, Mosaic70 books

Denver Colorado 80247

September 26, 2019 ed.

(c) 2019 nancy vorkink machin

[Please read only; permission will be granted for copies once asked. blog]