Sunday, July 21, 2013

How Do You Spell Relief?

"Give up the feeling of responsibility, let go your hold, resign the care of your destiny to higher powers, be genuinely indifferent as to what becomes of it all and you will find not only that you gain a perfect inward relief, but often also, in addition, the particular goods you sincerely thought you were renouncing." -Williams James
In a word, "Whew". My scan came back negative, and I'm positively out of my mind with joy. It's next to impossible to explain the sense of relief that comes from getting this good news, but I'm going to try anyway.  It’s like being back in Elementary school and the biggest of all bullies tells you, with a menacing look, to meet him on the playground at recess and when you get there, rather than giving you an atomic wedgie, he hands you an ice cream cone, tells you to have a great day, and that he's "got your back" for the rest of the school year. It's like that, only better.

However, in the yin and yang of our world, even this news comes with a reminder that a life lived with humility, gratitude, and even a touch of indifference, makes more sense than living as a conquering warrior.

While sending out the requests for energy, prayers, and good vibes to my army of faithful supporters as I headed for the CT machine, I learned that one of them had recently been diagnosed with cancer. He was just starting down that road of uncertainty that cancer survivors know all too well. I immediately felt the pull toward the reflexive, "Damn this disease," response. My hands were being drawn to type out some Patton-like encouragement. Instead, I was able to corral my fingers and coordinate them to write a more empathetic reply. This particular friend is a kindred spirit, a pacifist of the highest order, and my ranting about his need to “fight the good fight” would be meaningless.

Knowing full well that there was nothing I could say that would make it all better, I chose the response that seemed to work the best for me in the early days of my illness. I told him that he already has within him all the resources he will need to meet this challenge and to know that when he needs extra those of us who care for him will lend him ours.

I then silently offered him the Pacifist’s Prayer:

Letting go, I am care free
In surrender, I am cared for
In the hands of Life I bear its grief
With an open heart I find relief

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Grace Under Pressure

Ernest Hemingway wrote that “Courage is grace under pressure.” As a pacifist in the war on cancer, I often find myself lacking in both, but somehow I still manage to do the brave thing. This is particularly true now that I’m only three days away from my yearly CT scan to see if my cancer has returned. (Gulp!)

This will be my sixth time entering into the Star Trek-like capsule and I have to confess that I normally go in less like the brave Captain Kirk and more like Major Weenie. “Boldly go where no man has gone before?” I think not.

Unpredictability is par for the course when it comes to a life-altering illness, however, I have adopted a very reliable pattern when it comes to preparing for these scans. It goes as follows:
1. One year out. Receive the news that my last scan was negative, schedule the follow-up scan, and rest easy thinking, "365 days away, that’s a long time."
3. Six months out. The date for the scan has Freudian-slipped my mind, and it still feels a long way off.
4. Three months out. I start thinking I should probably find my appointment card that has the date on it and put it on my calendar. I convert months to days as ninety feels better than three of anything.
5. One month out. The appointment is officially on my work calendar and I’m careful not to schedule anything too mentally draining that day. Previous experience tells me I will only be ¼ present that day.
6. Two weeks out. Every bump, every body ache is surely my cancer returning, I can feel it growing even as I sleep. What's that large lump? Wait, it's the dog.
7. Three days out. I can barely feel my fingers as I ttryyy tooo typppe!
If history repeats, I will gracefully keep my appointment this Friday. I will think of all of those other survivors who have bravely returned and felt the strange sense of déjà vu, all over again. I will probably make an awkward attempt at humor to the technician who is going to give me the iodine dye push that, ironically, makes me feel like I have wet myself. (Or was it the iodine?) I will put on my best brave face and when it’s all over walk out as if waiting for the results is just another thing on my "to do" list. No one will be buying it, but that’s what I’ll be selling.

Between now and then, I will rest easier knowing that my beautiful wife, Kathy, will be sending positive energy vibes my way (these have proven to be even more powerful than radiation) and that other family members and friends will be there in spirit. I will think over what Hemingway said about courage and come to the realization that I have no idea what he really meant. I will then call to mind the words of the "Duke," John Wayne, who said "Courage is being scared to death...and saddling up anyway." Now that I get. Giddy up!