Slithering pancreatic serpent. #griefprocess

In November 2007, Dr. Ebrahim sat knee to knee with my mother.  I was on the other side of the little examination room.  I recall it was a sunny day.  I think it was.  Grouse Mountain shone in the background.  I think it did.  The room seemed turquoise.  Friendly.  

We found a mass in your pancreas.  

My immediate thought went to Michael Landon.  For some reason when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died shortly after in 1991, it stuck with me.  I knew pancreatic was the worst word to hear when associated with cancer.

“The pancreas represents your ability to digest the ‘sweetness of life’. It reflects your feelings and behaviour in relation to responsibility, particularly how you feel about taking responsibility for your own happiness and that of others. Therefore, the state of the pancreas reveals how well you flourish in life, how successful you feel and how joyful you are in your life experience.” source

We found a mass in your pancreas.

I took notes, we scheduled an ultrasound… but I don’t recall having a heart to heart with mom about the possibilities.  I just recall starting a binder.  Creating an action plan.

There is so much to write about mom, but for now it suffices to say that we entered what would be our final year together, renewed, wide-eyed, love in our hearts.

It was a year of appointments, insulin shots, chemo, spending precious time with family, laughing in waiting rooms, shopping, cooking even though she couldn’t eat… her final thanksgiving, just a few weeks before she passed- she put on makeup, did her hair, celebrated- a very frail little bird.  Fiercely alive.


The Pancreas is the main organic structure that processes the emotion of fear because its function is to maintain the stability of the organism and any threat at the emotional or physical level can cause a structural imbalance entire system. Because the Pancreas is intimately connected with the physiology of the Soul through the fields of emotion and primary feelings, and indirectly to the nervous system, any violent emotion or attack received by the organism will immediately paralyze the digestion, consequently affecting the production of insulin and the liver. It is at the Pancreas level that occurs an evaluation and separation of what elements, emotions, and circumstances are proper for the being, and how the changes may have to be made for the continual survival of the organism. – source

Last night I could not sleep.  Processing so much change of late.  Positive change, sad change, epic change, all kinds of change.

The clock ticked— midnight, 1 AM, 2 AM, 3 AM, 3:30 AM. 3:40 AM— I got up and peed, drank water, drank orange juice.   Wandered.  Wrestled with blankets.  In some weird stupor of processing.  My heart didn’t feel heavy or anxious- just weird, unsettled- thoughts swirling about my mother, about pancreatic cancer, about what I should have done, could have done, should have said.

I must have been in a twilight state as I kept envisioning an eel-like serpent swirling around my heart…

To see a sea serpent in your dream represents an emotional transformation. – source

Placenta series, 1995

Sleep eluded me, so I finally turned on my reading light and pulled out a book from my current reading pile:

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (a gift from Patti Henderson).


The bookmark lay at p. 100— I began to read where I left off.  Strangely there it was again, pancreatic…

All day today that image of the serpent swirling has stayed with me.

That slithering pancreatic serpent.

Placenta series, 1995

Historically, serpents and snakes represent fertility or a creative life force. As snakes shed their skin through sloughing, they are symbols of rebirth, transformation, immortality, and healing.source


The five-year pancreatic cancer survival rate has increased to 9 percent, according to a report released today by the American Cancer Society:


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