Category Archives: breast cancer

The New Year’s Resolution that Silenced the Room

It was a small and informal gathering on New Years Eve at the home of a friend we’ll call Teri as that’s her name. Teri is an uncommon person, filled to the brim with inner peace. In the hope that some of it might spill over, I always try to sit next to her.

We dined on roasted turkey and grilled salmon with a blackberry and ginger sauce. We wined and clicked champagne glasses a few times. Three dogs played around the room. Most of us were all of an age where our children have grown and gone. Dogs stick around.

Teri looked stunning. One guest presented her with a scarf which she tied on and wore with aplomb. Next she came out with a beautifully proportioned chocolate hazelnut torte atop a vintage glass cake stand. I noted how much more exquisite baked goods look with a little elevation. Something that bakeries have known for ages, and we have only just now adopted.

With a couple hours still to go to midnight, our hostess was trying to keep the party going. She suggested we share our resolutions for the new year, and since no one spoke up, Teri began. Glasses were filled once again, and we were all seated around the living room and around the storyteller.

She began. Her story climbed like a trek with windings, switches, and sidetracks, and then unfolded, articulating a new years resolution that brought silence to the room. Her story was of elephants and I will do my best to retell.

Many years ago Teri felt the urge to go to Nepal, alone, and signed up for an eco tour. The group would study the Gangetic river dolphin in the remote western region of Nepal. Requiring deep pools of water, the dolphin were endangered by plans to build a dam. But before departing on the expedition, Teri discovered a lump in her breast.

“Medical professionals kept assuring me that in 90% of the cases, the lump meant nothing,” she recalls. “But in test after test, I kept falling into that 10%.”

Suddenly it was time to operate.

The Nepal trip was only two weeks out, and Teri held onto it. In the process, “I became known as the woman going to Nepal, rather than a woman with breast cancer.” She readied herself with packing, got all the required immunizations, and put everything in order in hope that she could go. Most remarkably, she determined that anyone signed up for an eco tour such as this would be either a naturalist or a biologist, and in all likelihood she would find someone to help administer her follow up care. Indeed, her tent mate in Nepal turned out to be an oncology nurse.

From camp, they rode elephants into the jungle. Passengers sat facing out, two riders per elephant, with one driver behind the elephant’s head directing him with a stick. There was no road, no path, just into the jungle they stepped.

“And every time he hit the giant beast,” Teri recalled, “the elephant would reach up with his trunk and pull down massive branches, demonstrating incredible power and strength. It was terrifying.”

But then one of the passengers dropped a lens cover, and by giving a different type of poke the guide  somehow communicated the problem to the elephant. As gentle as can be, the elephant fished around the ground with his trunk, found the lens cap, picked it up and handed it the guide. From that moment on, Teri had a new respect for the massive beast.

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Out of the jungle and down by the river, the elephants demonstrated a playful, gentle, side. The trek continued peacefully following a path alongside the river. At night in the camp while sleeping in her hut, Teri drew comfort from the sound of elephants trumpeting in the distance.

Such was her elephant experience, then came her recent dream.

“In my dream, my husband and I had moved from our house into a smaller apartment. It wasn’t adequate,” she noted, “but I kept insisting everything was alright, it would only be for one year. That’s what I kept saying.”

However everything was not alright.

“I went back to our house to check on my elephants, and they were gone. ‘Where are they?’ I cried.”

“I had to send them off to the butcher,” was the reply.” The butcher!

Teri shuddered and explained her dream as if just awakening, right there on her living room sofa on New Years Eve.

“I believe that the dream was telling me we cannot justify wasting our time, in this case a year. And that I need to think big. I had made my world too small, and elephants don’t breed in captivity.”

“Elephants are all about fragility and gentleness, as well as strength and power. I know what I have to do,” our hostess smiled, “I have to tend to my elephants.”

Then she asked if anyone else would care to share their resolution, and the room was silent. We all knew what we had to do: tend to our elephants too.

Teri Clifford has a Masters Degree in Developmental Psychology. She holds principal’s, administrator’s and special education certificates. Teri is a Reiki Master, a hypnotist, as well as a minister in the Universal Life Church. She advocates for children and their families towards success in life as well as educational settings. Teri also has a healing practice. She lives in Seattle, Washington and can be reached at tericlifford@comcast.net

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