i have finally become a cancer patient. up until now, i imagined that i was just going through cancer treatment. i thought that i would eventually pop out on the other side and go back to whatever i was doing before. but the months of disfigurement and poisoning have unraveled who i once thought i was. and now i don’t know who i am becoming.
it’s still fairly clear who i used to be. i was physically active, able to hike ten miles or ski 30k with joy and energy. i used to walk 4 miles on my lunch hour, take the steps two at a time. now i am just laying in bed wondering why it would be my kneecaps that hurt today.
i was an efficient and willing worker, fully engaged in the community. i loved my job and the people i worked with. now i have resigned from my job. there will be no high-output 11 hour work days for me, now or in the future, if i am going to protect my health. i am on The Dole—surviving on Disability and Medical Assistance.
i still have 2 months of chemo, another surgery, and many months of recovery ahead of me. i don’t know when i will be able to work again, or at what. my brains are scrambled. i can’t recall basic words. i can’t do two things at once without forgetting one of them. i never stop being tired. (i realized that i don’t actually have any leaks coming through the roof of my house. i’ve just never spent so many hours laying around, staring blankly at the ceiling, to notice how many irregularities there are in it!).
even my spiritual life, which was so vibrant and immediate, is less-connected. i find i have to practice being present moment to moment, because otherwise i just drift along in a detached state. my Teachers have never left me, however, and they gave me four skills to work on. here is what they said:
Humility: You often think of humility as placing yourself in a lower position. You are used to reducing your power to deflect attention. What you really want to be doing is maintaining your power and using it to place yourself in context. You want to broaden your context to include yourself and everyone else. Do not shrink to avoid, but expand to include. The whole world is your family.
Triumph: according to the dictionary, Triumph is “a highly successful example of something”—it’s about celebrating success. It doesn’t have to be all about you. You can celebrate the success of something that you helped create. You can celebrate with others. You can be happy for any success. There is always the possibility that things wouldn’t have worked out so well. There is always something to be grateful for.
Acceptance: You will need to accept the environment of not knowing. Not knowing what or when something is going to happen. Not knowing everything about what went into it or how it proceeds. Not knowing the actual outcome. Accepting the loose ends as part of the process. Experiencing Space—there will not be a linear finish to this.
And, as always, laughter whenever possible.
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