October 15th and 16th, 2008: I started my morning at 1600 Divisadero for the second day in a row. This time, I checked in to the hospital side of the building to get ready for my open biopsy. I hadn’t been in a hospital for five and a half weeks! But once back, I swung into the routine pretty quickly: fill out forms, get ID banded, answer questions about drug tolerances, etc. Then, the routine was fractured in a totally unexpected way. The admitting nurse started to insert my IV, and for the first time, it was so astonishingly painful that I screamed out loud. Tears sprang out of my eyes, and the other staff in the room rushed to the bed, one nurse urging me to be quiet, the other encouraging me to let it out. I let it out. After weeks of not reaching my resistance, I was suddenly weeping uncontrollably. I didn’t want to be in a hospital bed. I didn’t want to have a biopsy. I didn’t want to have cancer. I didn’t want any of my reality, and I didn’t know how to make it go away. I cried all the way down the hallway to the operating room and into the oblivion of anesthesia.
My friend Ruthann Duncan had sent me two books about the soul’s reaction to illness. It sometimes seems to me that at least half of my friends are therapists, and this has guaranteed many fine conversations about behavior and motivation as well as some great reading. I took Ruth Shinoda Bolen’s book: Close to the Bone to the hospital with me. As I started reading after the biopsy, I felt hungry for a perspective that focused on my deeper self. The doctors and hospital staff would help take care of my body, but it’s my communion with myself, my friends and my psychic study group that takes care of my soul. Bolen told the stories of Innana and Persephone to trace the journey into the underworld of the body’s knowledge where reason and logic are useless and feelings and intuition reign. When a life-threatening illness elbows itself into a person’s life, the shock is tremendous. The call to heal starts to ripple through the psyche. What isn’t working? What’s out of alignment? What has drained energy for too long? What has been ignored at the expense of health and well-being? All of these questions start to constellate around the illness. The answers to these questions become a core part of the healing. Or, there’s always the option to leave the questions unanswered. I read avidly until leaving the hospital in the early afternoon of the next day. Once at home, I pulled the covers over my head and slept to distance myself from 30 hours in the hospital.