November 1st 2008: It’s been a wonderfully wet day with thrashing showers and a dark light that intensifies the colors in the park across from my apartment. A day of reflection and balancing—let’s see, what needs attention? I believe that healing comes from many directions. But when I thought of myself as healthy, my maintenance regimens were much more low key; three days a week at the gym; healthy food, lots of opera and ballet, voila! Health! It’s a complex project to manage a cancer diagnosis. There has been a huge amount to learn about self-care in the past few weeks. Change of diet has been a big shift, and I’m happy to say that I’ve found that most fresh food is tasty on my palate. But what’s a good diet that supports the rigors of chemo? Need to ask a nutritionist. And what about body work? My friend Terry Conner has been visiting twice a week and doing powerful, insight-full Reiki sessions. But is this enough? It’s been hard to stay in my body. I assume this is basic terror management. Cancer diagnosis? Leave the body and don’t come back until it’s over. Well, that really misses the point.
There are so many parts of the self that need attention and deserve attention. Under all of these care systems are the deeper questions. Am I bringing my full self to this effort? How do I gather my energies? Also, it’s taken a while for me to get close to the core issues: do I want to live or die? If live, why? What do I hold with such passion that I am willing to fight to live for it? And how is this time different than the last time I confronted death some sixty years ago? Briefly, here’s that story….
A month after I was born in 1946, my older sister was diagnosed with acute leukemia and she died very shortly afterward. My parents were devastated, really flattened. After many months of living with two inconsolable adults, my loneliness reached such a pitch that I devised a plan. I would get really ill and if my parents rallied, then their attention and love would make it worthwhile to live. If not, then I would die and, having recently come from the other side, that held no fears. I had to do something to break the cycle of neglect that was literally killing me. The next thing I knew, I had a serious and ugly growth on my forehead. My parents freaked, immediately found medical care and from that time on, I felt like we had the connections of a family. All of this memory came forth effortlessly late one morning a some years ago when a Swiss body worker gently cupped his hand under the back of my knee. That, apparently, is where the memory resided. And when he touched that place, the whole story returned intact and complete.
Well, not exactly complete, because here I am sixty years later with cancer. I’m not perishing from loneliness. But something, clearly, has gone out of balance, and I believe the cancer is a way of expressing my disunity, my dis-ease. I have to say, I have no interest in the question, “Why me?” The answer to that is, “Because.” But I am very interested in the question, “Why?” Why do I have cancer now? Why have I been growing this tumor without knowing it for the past two years, at least? What’s that about and what can I do to re-balance myself into health?