F*ck… it may be a tumor after all

My honey and I are now in beautiful British Columbia. We landed in Canada 16 weeks ago, and these weeks passed with many graces, as well as the red tape hurdles posed by our return. With most of them behind us, we were starting to feel settled into our new (albeit temporary) home and looking ahead to building our new life.

Settled—until today.

The grief with my left eye began just over ten months ago. Four ophthalmologists, two of whom were ocular oncologists, had told me it was likely metastatic breast cancer. My medical oncologist believed, and a full PET-CT scan showed, that there was no longer a primary cancer site; so that was ruled out.

The concluding diagnosis was a detached retina. It seems like that may have been an error.

I had three reasons for not pursuing immediate treatment. The first was that we were divesting ourselves of the possessions we had accumulated over three decades to prepare for our transpacific move; and I was reluctant to take a break from that. The second was that the treatment proposed for a detached retina would require me to stay in bed face down for a week and not fly for at least six weeks, interfering with our imminent travel plans.

The third, and most important reason, was that deep down, I was not fully confident in the diagnosis, even as I had accepted the thinking and wished it to be true.

Thinking something does not make it true. Wanting something does not make it real.

― Michelle Hodkin

It took me (like all new residents) three months to get BC medical insurance. Another ten days to find a family doctor willing to take on new patients to get a referral (got turned away from three so-called walk-in clinics). And then, miraculously, only five days to get an appointment with a highly recommended retina specialist.

I went to his eye clinic today. It had good energy, with friendly staff and technicians. The receptionist told me to expect to be there an hour, but it was closer to three.

Not long after my appointed time, a Filipina nurse adeptly onboarded me by recording my history and conducting basic eye tests. A technician then captured digital images of my eyeball with equipment I hadn’t seen in the Philippines, one of which could capture the back of my eye where the problem is, much like a sonogram, but clearer.

I waited another hour before seeing the doctor. It passed quickly, chatting with another kind patient who had been seeing this doctor for six years and highly praised him. That increased my confidence in seeing him.

All my data was laid out for the doctor to review on two large computer screens. I had brought my earlier diagnostic results, but he said he didn’t need to see anything else other than what was in front of him.

And what did he see? A tumor. Not a detached retina.

As any doctor can tell you, the most crucial step toward healing is having the right diagnosis. If the disease is precisely identified, a good resolution is far more likely. Conversely, a bad diagnosis usually means a bad outcome, no matter how skilled the physician.

― Andrew Weil

Like my doctors in Manila, his demeanor was matter-of-fact but not lacking empathy. He worked fast, but answered my questions to my satisfaction.

With this news, I felt, once again, surprisingly calm. I did not detect panic anywhere in my body. But I did take a few deeper breaths and softly said, “f*ck.”

He did not flinch and only said, “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I have to tell you the truth.”

“Of course. And I can take it.”

That session didn’t take more than 15 minutes.

But then it took another hour for him and his staff to get me an appointment for more tests tomorrow and an appointment with my next ocular oncologist early next week. I was grateful, especially since I’d so often heard about long waiting times to get specialist appointments in BC.

As I sat there waiting in the clinic, letting the unexpected news of a tumor sink in, it was as if a veil was being lifted. I thought of Carl Jung’s concept of the “shadow,” the hidden and often challenging aspects of our psyche that we prefer to avoid. In some ways, my journey with this medical diagnosis felt like a journey into my own shadow self.

No doubt I had resisted believing the diagnoses of the ophthalmologists. And then I resisted the idea of immediate treatment, rationalizing it as a desire to continue with our plans and dismissing the possible gravity of the situation. It was as if my conscious self was at odds with the shadow, which held the nasty truth I wasn’t willing to face. Isn’t it a common human tendency to deny or delay confronting what lies beneath the surface?

However, when the truth was laid bare before me, when the word “tumor” hung in the air, I realized it was time to acknowledge the shadow—what I had suspected was a real possibility all along. I can now embrace the truth calmly, no matter how challenging the road ahead might be.

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.

― Carl G Jung

So, here I go again, embracing my shadow as I navigate the uncertain path ahead. The future may still be murky, but I choose to face it with courage. And isn’t that an essential part of my heroine’s journey to becoming a whole and self-aware person?

The doctor’s last words were, “Bring a lunch to your appointment; this could take quite a few hours.” I appreciated the thoughtfulness.

I took the bus home, admiring the blue sky, and the reds, oranges, and yellows of autumn trees along the way. That helped ground me in the present.

That, and the loving embrace from my honey when I stepped into our cozy apartment and shared the bad news. We will get through whatever comes next together.

Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up, I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue making mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but to embrace it.

― Kevyn Aucoin

Have you ever faced your shadow?


  • WELL.

    And now here comes the next adventure, ‘Cisca. I am here with you to help in any way that I can.

    – Jennie

  • We’ve been out of touch, however often and fondly I think of you. I’m grateful for this update, to reconnect, and reciprocate by offering my support.

    My perspective is we don’t live Life…Life lives us! I applaud your choice to trust your inner knowing and (once again) embrace uncertainty with courage and elegance as Life lives you.

    Sending you Hugs and Lots Of Vital Energy (LOVE).

  • My Doctor said there is good news and bad news. The bad is your eye is f*ct. The good is you only need one eye to drive. You are so strong and loved by everyone, Fran. You will overcome and, with the help of your Honny, Be stronger than before. Lots of love and a Dikke Kuss

  • You are a brave and beautiful soul Cisca ❤️ thank you for sharing your journey – the beauty, the fears and all. Sending you love, light and prayers from Manila.

  • Well, F*CK Indeed!! I can only respond “Heroine indeed!!” Thank you for boldly sharing out of such vulnerability. This event may affect your vision but it only makes your voice more powerful. Your writing emerges from deep shadows and will light the path for many. May you continue to find good medical care, comfort in the arms of your Honey, and the sure and certain knowledge that all the people you have touched will weave threads of love to hold you safely as you continue on your journey.

  • Dearest Francisca,
    Reading your gracious acceptance and report of this diagnosis brings forth my awareness of your profound willingness to live your life fully and honestly.
    While it brings up a spectrum of feelings for me as a witness and friend, I feel your capacity to move gracefully and bravely forward with your skills of personal wisdom and brilliant intellect.
    I offer my encouragement, willingness to assist, and Tender Thoughts to you and Lordson.
    With Light, Love, and Faith in your process, Patti

  • Francisca, I am so sorry, so very upset, to read this. I know you are a strong and resilient person, with a supportive partner and lots of loving family and friends, of whom I am one.
    I’ll be thinking of you lots and wondering what I can possibly do to help you. Sending such hugs and love ,

  • You’ve already received my first reaction in the DM’s. But this piece feels like I am right there in your brain (maybe I can move over and kick that darned intr-umor out of your eye!). I love how you think – ever thinking philosophically – and it feels like we share genetics somewhere somehow.

    You have a lot of loving warrior friends along this journey. And thank goodness for dear L.

  • I echo your expletive. So sorry you are again faced with this.
    Yes, I have to listen more closely to my shadow, tho’ often I confuse shadow with fear.
    Hugs galore

  • The emotional strength it takes to face this news with such elegant self reflection…

    Let’s speak in person soon, sending our love (& selfishly enjoying that I’m sending it over the Howe Sound and not the entire Pacific Ocean this time…)


  • F*ck…that c word. I’d so hoped the c word would be celebration. I’m so glad you are where you are. The triage in our medical system can be cruel in its efficacy and thankfully, efficiency for you. I’m struck as always by how your heroine self has you looking at the sky, the love the future…the moment in the way we all should. You inform and inspire with these blogs…and your every moment as a woman, friend and partner. ❤️

  • Francisca, I’m so sorry for the bad news. I’m encouraged by your brave choice of embracing your situation and being grounded in reality. Knowing and accepting truth carry’s with it the thud that knocks you over and an extended hand that holds yours through it. May strength visit and revisit as you face this tumor. I’m glad you have your honey there with you. We’ll written article as usual. You are so gifted. Thank you for sharing.

  • Oh no! So sorry to hear that. I wish you the best of luck battling again. You are incredibly strong!

    • Thanks much, Ihor. 🌸🙏🌸 No battle here… just going with the flow, staying in the present, and savouring all the goodness I can.

  • You truly are a good writer, can be a professional one! I do not know what to say about the diagnosis, only that i salute your courage.

  • What the F!! Francisca!! This is a challenge to take this news with equanimity.
    No words.
    Tell me how I can be of support.

    Much love and respect for your attitude of grace,

By Francisca

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