Have I survived yet? Part I

This is not a cancer blog; it’s a blog about my life. My life is about flowers and lace and words and languages. It is also about having only one breast and limited use of one arm, about periodically going to a place where they inject deadly poisons into my veins. Remember “We had to destroy the village in order to save it”? (See Ben Tre if you are too young to remember or old enough to have forgotten.) They had to mutilate my body in order to save it. They have to poison me in order to heal me.

Once again, my life is about mysteries and contradictions, about thread wrapped around air.

The vocabulary of cancer treatment is often very violent. We fight the disease, we kill the wildly proliferating cells, we destroy the tumor, we wipe it out. I hate that approach. It is completely foreign to my core values, to how I try to live.  I try not to use those words. I prefer to say that I am living with cancer. When I want to be French and Franciscan and whimsical, I even talk about frère cancer, borrowing a page from Francis of Assisi who wrote about “our sister bodily death” in the Canticle of the Sun.

I don’t use the vocabulary of war in talking about cancer because war has a winner and a loser and no one knows which side is which until the dust clears. I prefer the language of coexistence: living with. The cancer and I share space. That doesn’t mean I don’t treat the disease, and I’d have infinitely preferred not to have to share, but it does mean that I do not invest my mental, emotional and spiritual energy in battle and thoughts of destruction.

Our words inform our thoughts, and our thoughts shape our experience of reality.

Living with doesn’t always mean “liking” or even “getting along”. Successfully living with a spouse or a roommate or in a family means respecting each other’s personal space, not impinging on their rights, not imposing our own will on the other one without their consent. Sometimes it means speaking up, protecting our space and our rights because the other one doesn’t respect them. I didn’t invite cancer into my life, but in it came. Cancer is not good at sharing space, does not play well with others. Okay, then. That’s a reality I have to deal with. Cancer and I are living in the same body now, so how can we do that successfully?

(I would like to thank Dr. Elaine Schattner, @medicallessonsauthor of http://www.medicallessons.net/ for the inspiration for this post.)

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15 thoughts on “Have I survived yet? Part I

  1. As you know, i had cancer of the Endometrium, (lining of the Uterus) last fall – cured at thanksgiving, which was a great reason to give thanks. (Cured being the word the Docs. used – i use “in remission” myself) it’s a scary thing.

    But it has proved to have redemptive value in that a sister in recovery and in spirituality who, having been an RN and having spiritual gifts that are quite powerful, helped me through all of that. Now she has the same precise diagnosis herself. She is, well, i’ve been asked by her to be what most folks would call a mentor or a “sponsor”. She is choosing to try to address her condition with all natural/spiritual means – and it seems to be working for her so far – although she has not ruled out surgery, chemo, radiation, etc. if need be, ultimately.

    She has so much courage – it takes my breath away. As does her faith in that how she has used her spiritual gifts and Earth-Centered wisdom to help others, she can also use it to help herself.

    WE ARE AMAZING WE SISTERS ON THIS PATH, LIVING WITH THIS DISEASE- any malignant cells that specifically effect us as women, breast, ovary, uterine, etc. We are a miracle in progress!

    Each of us making decisions about our treatment and living bravely with the consequences- for there are always consequences of every choice.

    For my part, i did not have a hysterectomy either – the normal treatment for endometrial cancer at any stage. i had a newer, at the site only, form of radiation therapy called Brachys Treatment – and so far it has worked for me.

    Thank you for posting this – and i love the Canticle of the Sun, ever since in High School or Junior High i saw the amazing movie Brother Sun, Sister Moon about the life of Francis. I love it – and i still sing the song from it based on that canticle.

    And “our sister death” is so appropriate in this season of All Saints Days and all Soul’s Day for those of a background in the various Christian Churches – and as All Hallow’s Eve or Samhain, as the Celts called it, for those of us practising Matrifocal or Feminine-Oriented, Earth-based spiritual path. Being an odd ball, i choose to use both!

    Thank you for sharing and for you and all fighting this disease, including my own sister-in-law and oldest step-daughter who have had breast cancer – and who inspired me to have a mammogram, along with you, this last week, since i hadn’t had one in like 6 years.

    i know that whether we appear to live or we appear to die of anything, ultimately we are all healed in my opinion – but it certainly isn’t always in the way we would choose. (i came to that opinion when i saw my Dad die of Stage 4 large oat cell lung cancer – the same thing Peter Jennings of ABC news in the USA had, many years later!)

    ((((((((((GREAT BIG MOMMA BEAR HUGS))))))))
    to you and all of us who are dealing with this type of challenge – esp. those with female cancers and dealing with a “modern” form of medicine that has traditionally been mostly dominated by males – and even now still seems to be dominated by the linear thinking of the half of the brain that controls that!
    “Granny” Matrika/Rolling Buffalo Woman!

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