I’m back.

Hello, beloved friends and followers,

I have been remiss in writing of late. Writing for me means looking deeply, and I just haven’t wanted to look at much of anything head-on. Doing so means becoming more intimate with this thing called cancer when I’d rather see it to the door in no uncertain terms. But alas, it seems we must coexist for a while, if not in my body then at least in my mind.

There is no way to know if the medicinal steps I’ve taken have actually crushed the disease; only time will tell me that. For now, I live every day with the threat that the cancer will reappear, perhaps stronger and more menacing, or in some other part of my body. This fear is exacerbated by the results of my Oncotype DX test, which showed a high risk of distant recurrence, and a more recent blood test that shows “activity” related to either cancer or a virus. (I will learn more about the blood test tomorrow when I meet with my holistic doctor.)

What a contrast to a year ago when this journey began. Then, I was convinced I could triumph over the disease with healthy habits and determination. Now I am humbled by a tiny tumor, one-third of an inch in size, and hold deep respect for the damage it can cause. I can only remain vigilant and hopeful that any new developments are checked by my treatments and wholesome habits, but there are no guarantees.

I recently read a study stating that even before a tumor has the opportunity to form, one or a few cancerous cells can move undetected into the bloodstream or lymph system, take up lodging somewhere and multiply, wreaking havoc two or five or 10 years down the road. Medicine does its best to eradicate all traces of cancer from the body, but even the toxic onslaught of radiation (which I just completed) and chemotherapy (which is not currently in my treatment plan) can offer no assurance of success.

One of my doctors remarked with amazement about the strong drive to survive. On the part of cancer or the body? I asked. Both, he said. The immune system is a mighty foe against anything that would do the body harm, and does a miraculous job of fighting both internal and external threats to the body’s health. But cancer wants to survive, too, and has devious ways of hiding from the immune system so that it can spread undeterred.

Every living thing on this earth wants to survive.

I want to survive, too. Or, perhaps more realistically I should I say that I want to live a long life. I want the privilege of becoming a senior, of growing wise and wizened, and welcoming my time to depart this earth because of advanced age, not because some disease has taken me down before my time.

Cancer is forcing me to confront the reality of my own impermanence. I met this same reality a year and a half ago when my father died. It is not comfortable, but nor is it terrible. In Buddhist thought, impermanence is considered to be a core characteristic of existence. We don’t need to look far to realize that everything without exception rises and passes away. Invariably, we too will die. This is a truth to be contemplated—and a potential source of liberation.

It’s funny, because I remember telling my Buddhist meditation group a few years ago that our study of impermanence wasn’t registering with me in a personal way. Some deeply embedded mechanism of denial was probably preventing me from accepting the horror of my someday demise at that time. Now I can no longer avoid that truth, and by letting it into my heart and mind—even in the small doses I’m able to manage—life becomes eminently more precious and meaningful. We don’t take anything for granted. Every moment becomes a gift.

This is my opportunity now—the flip side of the fear and uncertainty that is endemic for all women with breast cancer. “There’s gold in them thar hills,” the leader of a seminar I once attended said, if only we have the fortitude to mine the depths of our experience. I’ve made a lifelong practice of doing exactly that; now is not the time to quit. Now is the time to up the ante.

So I’m back. I’m writing here again, and I’ve resumed daily meditation after a one-month hiatus. I know that for me, there’s no way around this terrible disease but through. Who knows, maybe I’ll come out on the other side unscathed and wiser. May it be so.

To be continued. 🙂

20 thoughts on “I’m back.

  1. Thinking of you with love and respect as I have for decades now. I remember the image of you that arose early on – a compact golden armored woman warrior, Boadicea – and I see you that way still, in peaceful combat for enlightenment and union with all that is.
    Love,
    Toni

  2. Thank you for this post. Cancer land is filled with opportunities for insight, and releasing attachment.
    I see that our bodies have will to live, and the will to serve as well. True for all of our cells, both healthy and cancering. I have made it a practice to think of my cancering cells not as other, not as sneaky and malevolent, but as broken while trying desperately to continue serving the whole. This helped me immeasurably during my treatments. The fear of recurrence definitely comes up for me. My initial diagnosis was quite grim, and my response to treatments so surprising that the surgeon presented a paper on my case. If I can give myself the time to focus on compassion towards all of my cells, especially any cancering cells that are tucked away somewhere, my fear is significantly lessened. A process which has been much helped by having had the opportunity to contemplate impermanence through various life events. (Lots of close deaths.). Warm regards on your way through the tangled path. Thank you for being a light for others stumbling through too.

      1. Both of you have embraced such an evolved path through this greatest of difficulties. To express, without rancor, such a deeply felt awareness of how we live is truly an inspiration.

  3. May it be so, dear Kathy. What a courageous lesson for all of us, to become more intimate with ourselves, no matter the experience. May the returning light brought by the solstice, shine brightly on your healing path. Love

  4. As always Kath, I’m rooting for you. A small grove of young trees is rooting for you !! Some of what you write about makes me think of what a mutual friend of ours would say during years of challenges. She’d say, when am I getting my life back ? Then she realized, THIS is my life. May this portion of your life open up to many happy, healthy years of you !

  5. Kathy, thank you for sharing yourpoignant, heart-felt experiences, insights, and musings. You are a precious gift. Your insights will help me live more fully; with increased gratitude for each day. May the New Year bring more Light from numerous sources…..
    Love and laughter,
    Barb

  6. it’s great to see you back, Kathy! you’ve been cooking a rich soup these past months, dear one. a bow to you.
    this compassion you speak of melts my heart, brings in the secrets, the passway through. a bow to you.
    years ago, on the suggestion of a friend, I wrote a letter to my cancer. It began with the question, “why do you come? never invited, always unwanted…” and that was apparently enough for tears of compassion to come for the rejected thing trying to live.
    Whatever comes to each of us is how we find our way… for me the healing was in the compassion. may it be for you too. a bow to you. and love. Terry

  7. I am humbled and moved by your writing, by your vulnerability and open heart, by your lessons of truth for us all – living with cancer or simply living this impermanent life. Here is the gift of another day, a new day. Wishing you peace and love. – Angela

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