I have spent the day trying to connect with the things I want to do during the summer holidays. I was having a browse through some of the things that I have downloaded over a period of time and decided to start one particular course of study that will really help me.
One of the thoughts that came to mind during the day was 'how can you actually be healed when you have cancer'? I have to say that in many ways having incurable cancer has healed my life in many ways though I appreciate that this may sound like a contradiction in terms. How can something that is potentially killing you also be healing you?
I guess this comes down to what exactly I mean by 'healing'. Healing has become something that has so many levels, and so many ways of working in my favour and I can't honestly claim to have succeeded on every level, but the journey has been fascinating. Odd as it may sound, cancer has been something that has really given me hope for the present and the rather undefinable thing that is my future. I haven't really put that very well, but I don't think that the future as something that has clear boundaries or a time scale; it's just there. Cancer has made me own the present moment in a way that I didn't BC (Before Cancer) because it changed everything almost beyond recognition. This change was not a blinding flash of inspiration, nor a conversion on the road to Damascus, but something that has come about after peeling off several layers of the emotions that such a diagnosis brings to the surface of your being.
I honestly don't see how anyone can go through the diagnosis of cancer and emerge as the same person; certainly not metastatic cancer. When I was first, and wrongly as it turned out, diagnosed with primary cancer I was quite calm about the whole thing. At the pre-op assessment a nurse actually mentioned how calm I was about the planned mastectomy, and I answered that this was because my mother had breast cancer and died 15 years later of something completely unconnected; and that when there was something to really worry about I would. I knew what I would look like physically post-op so that was also not a concern for me. My diagnosis with secondary cancer was not as easy as the primary diagnosis, mainly because I wasn't told directly that the cancer had spread until after the reality had dawned on me.
Sitting in the oncologist's consulting room looking at the x-ray of my right hip as she made an excuse to leave the room, as it turned out to arrange for more x-rays and to admit me straight to orthopaedics, I knew something was very wrong. I could see that the femur was marbled and the thought that the cancer had spread kept popping into my mind. I was told that there was a problem with my hip, hence my admission to the hospital, but no one actually said it was cancer. The used terms like lession, and as I didn't have a medical background I was wondering if this meant something bad, or something really bad. Over the next couple of days before having a total hip replacement I came to realise that it was 'something really bad'.
Somehow when you are faced with something like that and you are on a public ward in a General Hospital where there are things going on all the time it doesn't really sink in as it does in the wee small hours of the morning when you are home alone and unable to sleep. I felt so isolated, and unable to express how I felt, partly because of the good old British Stiff Upper Lip, but also because I didn't want to worry others, nor publicly admit that this was something that I couldn't take on the chin and smile reassuringly about. After all no one likes people who whinge all the time. For a few months I raged against this when I was alone, until I realised that I was wasting my time and energy; and if anything I was giving the cancer more energy to tap into. Also how exactly do you explain this to someone who isn't Stage IV?
Eventually I had to find a way of coming to terms with this, and with finding a way to challenge the cancer because I wasn't going to just sit in a corner, curl up, and die. That I was not offered chemo made me feel as though they didn't think I was worth the expense of the drugs, and that it wouldn't work anyway. Now I am glad that they didn't because it made me go out and find some way of helping myself, and relying on myself rather than just conventional Western Medicine. It made me start to work on the healing of my whole being while coming to recognising that there were many levels on which I needed to heal myself.
I do feel as though I have healed myself on many levels which are far more important that just the tumour level. In many ways the cancer has become irrelevant to this healing process because that isn't what I ultimately need to be healed. The healing that I needed was to accept what was happening, to come to realise that it is this very moment that I need to be present in, and that I could no longer hold on to the pain of the past because it wasn't allowing me to experience the present, let alone any future that I may have. I had to let go of the anger, resentment and sorrow at the loss of my life, but that loss was not due to cancer, but to the fact that I had been unable to enjoy life. It had been something to be endured rather than enjoyed. The cancer may get me in the end, but many other parts of my life have, and are in the process of being, healed. This is why cancer has given more to my life than it is ever going to take.