I recently went to a fundraiser for someone with breast cancer. It felt a little strange; especially since I didn’t know the woman, and also because I have breast cancer myself. But I went with my friend, Joy, to a concert and silent auction benefit for a woman named Lupe. This is her second battle with breast cancer; she was originally diagnosed in 2013 with Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer, and went into remission after a double mastectomy, chemo and radiation. In May of this year, the cancer returned, identified by lesions in her upper arm and spine.
Lupe was there, walking around the benefit, seeming quite normal in knee-length boots and a pretty shawl, the tell-tale short hair style perhaps the only hint of a chemo past. After her remission in 2013, she became a massage therapist so she could help other cancer patients. I could imagine her small but strong hands bringing relief to someone’s achy muscles.
There were so many performers who came to the benefit that they had to extend the concert by an hour to accommodate them all. An opening prayer was given by Grandfather Yellow Horse Man, a lecturer and spiritual counselor of native traditions. He spoke of raising the energy so that the Great Spirit could heal Lupe. He insisted that we humans can not heal people, but the energy we raise through music, chanting, or dancing, gets the attention of the Great Spirit who does have the ability to heal. He chanted (or sang) a prayer for Lupe, his quavering voice rising above the drum, the raising of energy beginning to manifest in the large room.
A 13-year-old award-winning native flute player, Gaby Nagel, played next. Her confidence was remarkable, even though some people seemingly fell asleep while she played. I wondered what it would have been like to have had her confidence when I was her age.
My favorite part of the concert was the next act, the Aztec dancers, Tlaltlacayolotl. A husband, wife, son, and daughter team, they were wonderful as they danced in their colorful native costumes, a wolf skull hanging over the father’s forehead, the son playing the drums while the other members of the family danced. Between the dances, the father would explain in Spanish (translated by his daughter as he spoke) the meaning of the dances that they performed, and the metaphors employed. He also spoke of raising energy for Lupe, saying that he had no money to give, but he could give her his dance and his energy. And he really did give a lot of energy as he danced, sometimes running up the aisle between the audience members to have space for his energy to expand. I sat next to the aisle, and I felt a special energy each time the father passed me, the long feathers flying, the shells around his ankles making their own music every time he moved.
Watching this family dancing and speaking as a team felt as if it were, in itself, a healing moment for me. Something magical happened as they gave of themselves in this most primal way. I wondered if Lupe felt this too.
There was another native flute player, Cristian Zamora, from South America, followed by Women of Heart, a Nammy Award-Winning drum group. I had been interested in seeing them play, but for whatever reason, their performance didn’t speak to me the way the dancers’ had. The best part of their act was when they invited Lupe up on stage to play with them, and seeing her play and learning that she played in her own drum circle. Again I could imagine the small-but-strong hands being put to use, either giving relief to a cancer patient’s muscle aches or drumming up energy.
They were followed by another Nammy Award-Winning flute player, which was scheduled to be followed by an intermission and six more group performances, but it was already getting late, and we decided to call it a night since I had to get up early to go to work the next day.
I didn’t win anything, neither a door prize, nor a silent auction item, but I didn’t regret going. I felt grateful to have been immersed in the energy raised by all the music, dancing, chanting, singing, and prayers being offered up to this woman with a grim prognosis ahead of her. I found myself hoping for a second remission for her so that she can continue to offer the world the gift of her hands for a very long time to come.
I hope I never have to know what’s it like to learn that my cancer has returned, that it has spread throughout my body. But if I do have to be given this news, I would like to think that there were enough people in the world who would care enough about me to do what they did for Lupe. Not necessarily a benefit concert, but just the idea of offering yourself up to the Great Spirit, or the Creator, or whatever face you want to put to the great unknown energy of the world. A gathering of souls to raise energy, to strike a drum, or lift a voice, in an attempt to heal a disease that medicine seemingly has been unable to cure. Who knows why cancer goes into remission for some and not others. Who knows why it sometimes disappears as quickly as it began. At this stage, I’m not discounting anything. If someone wants to offer up energy for me, I would gladly accept it, in whatever form it wants to take.