Part 29. Hospital Happenings with Scott

I swear sometimes my brain’s sole purpose is to drive me crazy, while my heart’s purpose is to bring me comfort. How those two organs reside in the same body is beyond my comprehension. In a way, this post is about letting go of the former for the latter. This happened somewhere during the worst migraine I have ever experienced, and the subsequent kidney biopsy the Friday of my hospital stay.

That Friday did not go as planned. A biopsy first thing in the morning turned into a late afternoon affair, because I needed more platelets and a lower blood pressure reading before they could do the procedure. This may not seem to be a big deal, but it meant no food or water for close to 24 hours. I don’t do well without food. Instead, I received a bag of platelets in the morning, which looked amazingly similar to chicken bone broth, and was fed an abundance of blood pressure medicine and diuretics throughout the day. By the time I went in for the biopsy, my head felt like it wanted to explode. The migraine continued well past the biopsy which is where the story of Scott and my heart began to take shape.

 Canon Beach March 2017

Canon Beach March 2017

Scott, my son, spent every waking hour with Wes and me in the hospital. He walked the halls with us, played sixty-seven games of Rummy with us, retrieved needed items when I realized I was out. Unfortunately, he also got to witness his mother being wheeled into an operating room, experiencing  excruciating migraine pain, and vomiting because of said pain. Back in my room, post biopsy, he gently encouraged me to try eating. He cut up an apple; opened some crackers; held the cup so I could drink. He was doing whatever he could to bring me comfort. Quiet and subdued, I knew he was sad and worried and had been all week.

I had been fortunate enough to be without a roommate since Mary Ellen left me Thursday morning, but Friday night, feeling vulnerable after the biopsy, I didn't want to be alone. I wanted Wes or Scott to stay with me, and before Wes could say, “I’ll stay,” Scott volunteered. I could see Wes struggling with this, wanting to be the good father and the good husband who stays with the wife when she is in need. When Scott briefly left the room, I gently said to Wes, “Let him be the one who stays. He wants to do this for you as much as me. He wants to be able to give you a break.” Wes let that settle in and Scott became my roommate, sleeping in the recliner next to me all night.

shutterstock_416655673.jpg

The following morning, my headache much improved, breakfast eaten, Scott and I waited for Wes to arrive. He sat at the foot of my bed, one hand rubbing my feet, the other arm resting on the end of the bed propping up his head.  “Do you know what I do to deal with my sadness?” he said.

My heart began to break. “No, what?”

“I spend hours on the internet researching alternative ways to treat cancer.” My heart broke open some more. “Would you be interested in what I found,” he continued, “I could send you the links?”

“Sure.” I said. “What did you find?”

He shared the various therapies. Some I had known, others I didn’t. As I listened, I realized, or rather some higher force was making me realize, how important this moment was. It was just Scott and me. My son was choosing to share his pain about me and how he tries to manage it. Part of me wanted to rush in and make him feel better and, honestly, make me feel better. That’s what moms do. Another part kept telling me to just listen. He has a right to his pain and to deny him his pain was to deny him as a person. I was getting an opportunity to see what happens when you just hold a space for someone else to share what needs to be shared. I allowed my heart to break open fully and it was difficult letting that physical pain be there. We kept quietly chatting, he kept rubbing my feet, and all the while I was aware of the help I was receiving to keep the space open for him to be who he needed to be in that moment.

32127-1_n.jpg

Later, when I reflected on that morning I realized that a broken open heart is where our humanity lies, where true intimacy happens, as the space created invites connection and compassion. When our heart breaks we often close it back up with positive platitudes like, “Oh. I’ll be ok.” or “Don’t worry!” Heartbreak physically hurts, but sometimes those statements inadvertently send the message that your feelings don’t matter, or, your pain is too hard to witness and for me to feel, which is like closing a door to intimacy. 

I took from that day a mantra going forward.

Let me be able to just listen and BE with another while his/her feelings are being shared. Let me hold a space for them so they know it is safe to be with me and safe to have these feelings. Let humanity exist within us to be shared and held with reverence and love.

Some days I do better than others. Some days I realize the one who needs me to listen to me is me; particularly when my brain is shouting louder than my heart. But that Friday in the hospital my heart won and gave me one of the most profound life lessons and one of the most cherished moments I’ve ever had with my son. Another moment of gratitude for my hospital stay.

 

 

Part 28. Hospital Happenings with Mary Ellen

Never for a moment think staying in the hospital means you’ll get much rest. Casinos and hospitals are the two environments that never sleep. Lights are on, people are talking, machines are beeping, buzzing, and ringing - and they both take your money!

ro_hospital_record.jpg

My room number at the hospital was 715D; the “D” is for door. 715W was my room, too; the “W” is for window; I had a roommate. Having a roommate made sleeping even more problematic. Two sets of doctors, nurses, and aides poking and prodding you for information. My second day in the hospital, the day with Dr. Evil, my roommate got discharged and I was left with most of the day having the room to myself (with Wes of course). I went to sleep that night so sure I was going to get more rest because I was by myself.

At 2:15 in the morning the door opened, light streamed in, and three caregivers talking in normal voices, wheeled in my next roommate. She was apparently very sensitive to being poked and prodded. Her name was Mary. I became fully awake with a scream, “OW, OW, OW! YOU’RE HURTING ME!!” as they tried to access her veins to put in an IV. She was not happy; and now, nor was I. “Are you kidding me??” I thought to myself, “Can’t they all try to be a little quieter? Can’t they see someone might be trying to sleep?” I was angry and feeling put upon. Because of the curtain between the beds I could not see anyone.

“What is your name?” I heard them ask her, apparently wanting to understand her mental capacity.

“WHAT?” I heard her respond loudly. “I DON’T HAVE MY HEARING AIDS IN.”

"OMG!" I thought to myself. "She is hard of hearing, too!?"

Another voice, whom I found out later belonged to her grandson, Chris, said to the caregivers, “She is hard of hearing,’” and to his grandmother, “THEY WANT TO KNOW YOUR NAME.”

“Oh" then, "ELLEN”, she responded. Understandably, there was a quiet pause from the caregivers because the white board at the end of her bed said Mary. Her grandson rescued them, “Her name is Mary Ellen, but she goes by Ellen.” I imagined a nod of their head and a look of relief.

“What is your birthday?”

“WHAT?’ she asked. 

“WHAT IS YOUR BIRTHDAY?” They said more loudly, getting into the rhythm of what was going to be required to communicate with her.

“JULY 3RD, 1919,”  She responded matter-of-factly. At that moment I found myself going from anger to intrigue as I did the math. "98 years old! Wow!"

“DO YOU KNOW WHO THE PRESIDENT IS?”  

“YEAH,” After a long pause, “BUT I CAN’T REMEMBER HIS NAME,” she said dismissively. I smiled.

“WHAT MONTH IS IT?” 

She quickly responded, “DECEMBER!!” as if to say, “Dumb Ass.” My smile got wider. Sometime later, the caregivers left, leaving her and her grandson alone.

‘WHY AM I HERE?” I  would hear her ask.

“YOU PASSED OUT AT DINNER LAST NIGHT GRANDMA,” he would say loudly, but lovingly.

“OH.” she responded. “I  DON’T REMEMBER THAT.” Then, “YOU SHOULD GO HOME AND GET SOME SLEEP, I’LL BE OK.”

“THAT'S OK GRANDMA, I’M GOING TO BE HERE ALL NIGHT.”

“OH….ALRIGHT THEN.”…”BUT IT CAN’T BE COMFORTABLE.”

“I’M GOOD GRANDMA.”

A few hours later the same exchange would take place. ‘WHY AM I HERE?” “YOU FAINTED AT DINNER GRANDMA.” “OH”…I lay in my bed smiling, soaking up her grandson’s kindness, and the love I could feel between the two of them.

In the morning the doctor came by to chat with Ellen and her grandson.

He said, “Good morning! Your test results indicate your heart is beating too slowly and…”

“WHAT? I CAN’T HEAR YOU. I DON’T HAVE MY HEARING AIDS IN?”

He tried again, “YOUR TEST RESULTS INDICATE YOUR HEART IS BEATING TOO SLOWLY CAUSING YOU TO FAINT. WE THINK YOU SHOULD HAVE A PACE MAKER PUT IN.” He then preceded to explain what the pacemaker would do and how the procedure worked ending with the gory details of wires threading down into her heart.

Ellen responded, “I DON’T THINK I WANT THAT.”

Her grandson, Chris, tried to clarify, “GRANDMA, A PACE MAKER WILL HELP.  THIS TIME YOU HAPPENED TO BE AT A TABLE. WE ARE CONCERNED THAT NEXT TIME YOU COULD FALL IF YOU ARE STANDING UP.”

“THAT’S WHY I HAVE A WALKER!” she confidently and proudly responded.

“YOUR HEART IS BEATING TOO SLOWLY GRANDMA; THAT'S WHY YOU FAINTED AT DINNER; AND THAT'S WHY THEY WANT TO PUT THE PACEMAKER IN.” He, too, reiterated what a pacemaker does.

“OH, I DON’T WANT THAT… BUT YOU WANT ME TO HAVE IT DON’T YOU?”

I heard him sigh, as if to gather his thoughts so he could most lovingly yet accurately share his honest feelings. “WE’RE CONCERNED ABOUT YOU FALLING AND THIS WOULD HELP GRANDMA, BUT I JUST WANT TO SUPPORT YOU IN WHAT YOU THINK IS BEST.” There was a pause as if she were giving it some more thought.

“NO, I DON’T WANT THAT. MAYBE NEXT TIME...IF I FALL.”

Her grandson eventually, and maybe a bit reluctantly, supported her in her decision. The doctor left to write up the discharge papers and it was the first moment I had with just the three of us. I said to myself. “Renee, say something now or you never will.”

“Chris, I just want to say what an amazing man you are in how you are with your grandma.” He emerged from behind the curtain.

Well, thanks,” he said with some hesitation, “I just wish I were more patient with her sometimes.”

“You were SO patient with her, and what I got to witness, the love between the two of you,  was a real gift for me, so thank you.” We chatted a bit longer while Ellen got dressed and he told me her story. When she was six years old her mother died and her father’s new wife didn’t like her causing Ellen to move in with an aunt. Ellen married at sixteen to a man she later called, “A drinker and a stinker!” Sometime in the 1940s, rid of him, through divorce or death I don’t know, she ended up marrying Chris’s grandfather. They never had children but her new husband had a son which was Chris’s father. She now lives with Chris and his wife,  and as he said, “It took us three years to convince her to move in and we had to make her believe it was her idea. She’s fiercely independent and strong!” 

 Mary Ellen

Mary Ellen

At that moment Ellen emerged from behind the curtain with her walker. She was clad in her gray, stretch, baggy elastic waist pants, a white turtle neck and her red felt Christmas vest with the green felt Christmas tree on the front - all 4’8” of her. She was probably taller at one point, but she’s a bit hunched over the walker now. Her head rests on her shoulders. Somewhere in those 98 years her neck got swallowed up. She has a head of white hair on her that, had a granddaughter been with her rather than a grandson , it might not have been sticking out in so many directions. Her nose and ears have had 98 years to continue to grow and they have taken advantage of everyone of them. She was beautiful! As she walked past the end of my bed she paused, turned her head slightly and said, “I HOPE YOU FEEL BETTER,” in a voice that might indicate she had smoked for a few decades. I smiled and thanked her. She turned her head forward again, and confidently, but slowly walked her way out the door and out of my life. 

Had I chosen to stay self-absorbed the night Ellen began her short stay as my roommate, I would have missed out on the love, the extraordinary beauty, that was being played out a few feet away from me. I feel so fortunate to have been able to experience the two of them together and still think of them today. A smile always comes to my face. At the time, I was able to see the gift that they were. Later in the week, I would come to see a far larger role they were to play in my life. But that’s another story. 

Yes, as I reflect on that night it is obvious I was in the hospital…but it became obvious I must have been in a casino, too, because I feel like the luckiest person in the world to have hit the jackpot when Mary Ellen briefly became my roommate. Abundance and love take many forms.

ResizedImageWzYwMCwyNThd-progressive-jackpots2.jpg

 

 

Part 27. Hospital Happenings with Dr. Evil

My nephrologist (kidney doctor) called me the morning of Tuesday, December 12th. Ten minutes later Wes and I packed up to head to the hospital. Apparently, the ultrasound on my abdomen the day before gave her enough concern to schedule a chest X-ray, another ultrasound on my legs, and an echocardiogram. She wanted to determine what was causing the edema and shortness of breath - heart, kidneys or blood clots. As we were getting ready to leave, standing in the kitchen, I looked at my surroundings where nineteen years of memories with my family had occurred. I felt the love permeate the air. I soaked it all in. The Christmas decorations were at the beginning of their seasonal stay, fresh with the smell of pine, waiting for my sons and their girlfriends to be with us over the holidays. I thought to myself, then voiced to Wes, “What if this is the last time I get to be here?” I envisioned entering a hospital never to leave again. I think he wondered, too. Would this be my last Christmas? I wiped the tears from my eyes, we walked down to the garage, got in the car, and drove to the hospital.

The first day in the hospital consisted of tests. The ultrasound and chest X-ray ruled out blood clots and an echocardiogram looked to be fairly normal. I got settled into my room and the nephrologist came by to explain that the next step would be a kidney biopsy, most likely to occur on Friday. But it's Tuesday?? She explained that my blood pressure needed to be below 140 and my platelet count above 100. Given their current state, I understood why I was going to need three days to get there. All was well until the following morning.

1_ZYpBSAe0dC4_ha-3GhcO9Q.jpg

Around 9 AM the hospital internist came into my room and introduced himself. Trying to exude an aura of expertise and authority, donned in khaki pants, shirt, tie and white coat, he glanced at me for about 5 seconds, handed me his business card and said, “Hi, my name is Dr. Evil.” Dr. Evil is not his real name. I can’t remember his real name. He reminded me of someone right out of school who wanted you to see him a certain way because, if you did, he might be able to believe it, too. Without looking at me again he continued, “I’ve looked at the echocardiogram and it looks like you have some heart damage. Normally you could be a candidate for a surgical option whereby we would replace the valve, but considering what you have going on we would probably just manage it with diuretics. And your blood work shows that your kidney function looks much improved so I don’t see why you need to have the kidney biopsy on Friday. What I am going to do is have an oncologist come down this afternoon and talk to you about what might be going on.”

“What could be going on?” I asked sort of stunned.

“Maybe leukemia.” he said. And just as fast, he left my room. I’m making it worse than it really was. He was there for about 5 minutes, yet I made it sound like it was 30 seconds because that’s how his callousness and abruptness felt. He clearly had not learned compassion yet. I was flabbergasted! A second cancer?

Fifteen minutes later Wes walked in. Freshly showered, freshly shaved, a big smile on his face, and Wednesday’s bag of goodies from home in his arms he beamed, “Hi Sweetheart!” and leaned down to kiss me. I waited until he straightened back up and shared what Dr. Evil told me.

“The doctor just came in and thinks I could have leukemia.”

People often say to themselves, “Well, it can’t get any worse.” But my world, our world had just gotten worse. I lay in my bed, tears in my eyes, Wes holding my hand. There is something extraordinary that can happen in those moments of facing an unimaginable reality. Everything that does not matter falls away. Every resentment I ever had towards Wes, every quirk that used to bug me, every thing I wished were different about him fell away. I looked at this man, my rock, who had found a way to accept every choice I have made, every feeling I have shared, every thought I have expressed and never once tried to talk me out of it or brought his own fears into it. All I saw and felt was a profound love. I implored the Universe, “Come on! Let me be around longer so I can live with this kind of love in my life!”

That day we walked the halls. 260 feet/lap. It took about 20 laps to walk a mile. We strolled hand in hand, sometimes with tears in our eyes, other times we found something to laugh about, still other times we stopped and hugged each other. I told him, if it was leukemia, I didn’t want to go through treatment for it. I told him that I didn’t want to be resuscitated should something happen while I was in the hospital. I told him I would rather be me than him because, I imagined how helpless it must feel to watch this happen to your loved one knowing there is nothing you can do. He accepted it all.

Wes and I had settled into this state of devastation and peace, a surreal combination, by the time the nephrologist came by late that afternoon. I shared what Dr. Evil had said. She could see our devastation. “No, no, no” she said. “You don't have heart damage, and leukemia is not what we think is going on!” She pulled out her phone which had the results of the echocardiogram on it, and shared it with us. She reassured us that she thought my kidneys had been damaged by the chemotherapy, that the kidney biopsy was still going to happen and she was going to have a talk with Dr. Evil. I chuckle today realizing that we felt profound relief in that moment. I only had to deal with one cancer and kidney damage, not two!

Yin-and-Yang-symbol.jpg

Needless to say Dr. Evil's demeanor the next day was different - more like a relayer of information rather than an expert. I obviously was able to leave the hospital and I had one of the most memorable Christmas holidays I can remember. In the darkness there is always a speck of light. In one of my darkest moments of my hospital stay I got to realize a profound love that has stayed with me. It may not be as heightened as it was then, but enough has infused me to have changed me, and, for that, I will always have a place of gratitude for Dr. Evil.

 

 

Part 26. The Season From Hell

I spent five days in the hospital in December. But that’s another story…

It began a few months prior. September. I normally love the Fall. There is a crispness in the air that wakes you up the moment you step outside and take your first breath. Young families walk to school again with brand new back packs, some as big as the kindergartners wearing them, new coats and new sneakers. Mist hugs the ground early mornings in the valley close to us which can be both serene and eerie at the same time. Leaves begin their gorgeous transition of color before falling to the ground, leaving us forever. Not this year, none of that for me this year.

IMG_0668.JPG

When the leaves started to change colors in the fall I started to feel a change in my body. I wasn’t “coming back” from the weekly, low dose chemotherapy like I used to. Perhaps we, the leaves and I, were on the same trajectory.

Tired and unwell, I would spend all day everyday, sitting on the couch in our family room. My blood counts were dropping to the point that blood transfusions became necessary. I would feel better for a week or so and then a round of chemotherapy would floor me again. My body was filling up with fluids to the point that I could no longer sleep lying down because it felt like the fluid would settle in my lungs. The place I sat on the couch everyday also became the place I slept at night, sitting up. The edema added 25 pounds to my body and the extra weight to my stomach put pressure on my diaphragm making breathing difficult. And, it wasn’t just the added weight. It felt like the fluid I was holding onto was toxic, as if, the chemotherapy didn’t quite have a way out of my body. “The chemo is killing me,” I found myself saying one day. I wanted to stop but I still had four more weeks before this round of chemo was done. “I can do four more weeks,” I told myself, "but no more." Dr. Chue's protocol consists of twelve weeks of a particular chemotherapy drug and then it switches to a new one. Ideally, this is done until one's scans and cancer marker are normal. I had been through three of these rounds.

My last week of chemotherapy was the beginning of November and I told Dr. Chue I needed a break (maybe forever). The latest CT scan showed good news in that my body showed no signs of cancer. However, my cancer marker was still high which implied there was still cancer in my body. Some patients have cancer marker numbers that never get within the normal range yet they continue to thrive. Was I one of them or was I one who still had cancer? Who knows? The art of Dr. Chue’s protocol is when do you stop chemotherapy? He prefers to stop if and when the normal range is reached. Regardless, I knew if I continued with the chemotherapy it was going to kill me first. To give me the break I wanted, he recommended a recently approved FDA drug in combination with anti-estrogen and I found myself relieved.

 I was excited at having at least three months off and I was looking forward to getting my body back, my vitality back! The thing is…it didn’t happen. All the symptoms I experienced during chemotherapy were still present even though I was done. My blood work showed that, not only was I not getting better, it appeared I was getting worse. The diuretics were not working, my blood pressure was getting to a serious stage, and I continued to retain fluid. There was also a quality to my state of unwellness I had never experienced. I would get these waves pass through me I can only describe as “decay” or “toxic”. Something was wrong. 

It became apparent that my kidneys weren’t working properly. The question was, what was the problem? I was referred to a nephrologist, aka a kidney doctor. An appointment with her, more blood work, an ultrasound on my abdomen, and a phone call from her resulted in my five day stay in the hospital. We needed to find out if it was damage to my heart, or damage to my kidneys that was causing all the edema. She was confident the chemotherapy was the cause, having injured my kidneys, but wanted to rule out heart issues. There was also a remote possibility that the chemotherapy had triggered a very rare disease within me. It would have been something I carried from birth only to be activated by something like chemotherapy. The symptoms were the same, the treatment different; the later being a far more serious issue with which to deal. I was going to need a kidney biopsy among other tests and December 12th I entered the hospital. 

Here are the three things I take away from my experience the Fall of 2017 aka "The Season From Hell".

1. Follow your intuition, always. I didn’t. I knew something was wrong at least a month before I stopped chemotherapy. My body was trying to tell me something. Instead, the part of me that knows how to do “strong” and “I can endure” won out. I thought I was done with that persona. When I listen within the quietness of my being the answers always come to me. Unfortunately, I had no energy to go to that quiet place and I just did what I was told.

2. Pay attention and ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable. Rule of thumb - if not asking the question keeps you in fear, then ask it! Fear does not help us heal! I had gotten lazy. Because I had decided that whatever a doctor proposed I was going to do, I quit asking questions. Maybe I didn’t want to know? “I signed up for this so what choice do I have.” is what I told myself. In the medical field EVERY drug we take has side effects which, in my opinion, are down played. The chemotherapy I was on can have a deleterious effect on the kidneys. The new, FDA approved drug I had started can have deleterious effects on the kidneys. The contrast dye in a CT scan can have deleterious effects on the kidneys. Diuretics can have deleterious effects on the kidneys. Each by itself might be manageable by the body. All combined might just destroy it. The question still remains as to how much my kidneys were hurt. At the height of the problem my nephrologist said they were working at less than 30% capacity. 

3.  Make a fuss. We have to be our own advocate. I know my body and I know when something feels different. I got insistent when things weren’t improving. Doctors see the same symptoms within many patients and can write those symptoms off as the usual side effects of the treatment they are employing which is logical. Yet, sometimes what appears to be the “usual” might just be something needing a bit more attention and it is up to us to see if that is the case. I certainly experienced this first hand.

IMG_4644.jpg

 

The leaves are long gone; the trees are bare, dormant, gathering themselves to produce new blossoms, new leaves, new life this Spring. I smile as I write this because, I’m still here, and I find myself doing the same; going within, gathering all the energy the Universe provides, blossoming into a new version of me, again.

As for the hospital stay…it might be the most challenging thing I have ever been through emotionally, but also, the most life changing. But that’s another story…

 

 

 

Part 25. The Ice Chewer

I went to see Wonder Woman last weekend. Although I enjoyed the movie, I still can’t figure out how women fight in skimpy, leather, strapless, cheerleading outfits and their boobs don’t fall out, but that’s another commentary; I mean story! My story starts with the upgraded AMC theaters near us. I was excited to be able to pick my seat rather than hope good ones were still available by the time I arrived; excited to have a reclining seat; and excited to have my own arm rest. Essentially, I had a smile on my face as the movie began. So excited was I at the experience I was about to have, watching a movie I wanted to see with my good friend Leanne, who was sitting to my right.

About fifteen minutes into the movie I noticed something on my left. Have you ever been so focused on one thing that you sort of forgot about everything else in existence? It’s just you and that thing which is consuming your concentration. Then, something pulls you out of it. A noise, maybe. First you don’t hear it, then it seems far in the distance and undecipherable. But, if you turn any of your attention towards the noise, you're never going to be able to un-notice it, if you decide it is has the potential to ruin your experience. That was me watching Wonder Woman and the noise came from the guy sitting directly to my left…the Ice Chewer. So excited was he to drink his soda so he could get to the ice. He’s probably the only person in existence who asks for extra ice when he orders his $8.00 soda. Part way through the movie he got a refill. Ice, not soda. 

He didn’t chew it continuously for the two hours, but it was regularly enough that, if you weren’t careful, you might be on alert waiting for the cup to be raised, followed by a slight shaking of it to dislodge the ice. Then, gravity would take over, causing the ice to tumble over itself, as if, each piece was racing to be free of the confines of the cup only to find themselves landing on his back molars to be crushed into nonexistence. But I didn’t go there. And what could this experience possibly have to do with cancer? 

Nothing and everything. 

Nothing, in that, while it seems everything in existence can cause cancer if you believe what you read, I have yet to hear chewing ice causes cancer. It may indicate anemia if you believe what you read, or give you a brain freeze, but not cancer. 

Everything, in that the Ice Chewer didn’t ruin my experience, and its because of cancer, or more appropriately, everything it has taught me about myself. When I realized he was chewing ice, a habitual response began to happen - a bit of indignation. I mean, who chews ice in a theater? If there was a reason to be irritated not many people would disagree with this one! But the indignation stopped, because I realized I was at choice. I didn’t have to be irritated. Within my body (most of the time) I feel peaceful and relaxed. In that moment I thought, “Renee, you can choose to be irritated by him and that choice changes your internal state from peaceful to irritation. Is that how you want to feel? Irritated? And then be distracted from watching the movie and become more irritated, blaming him all the more?”  And my answer was, “No, I choose peace.” I heard him throughout the movie but its as if the sound went through me rather then sticking, if that makes sense.

 Irritation by Sasuka

Irritation by Sasuka

I contemplated how I arrived at seeing this as a choice rather than an automatic response of irritation as it would have done PC (pre-cancer). In the past, I lived with low level irritation/ impatience as part of my being. If that is the state I occupied, and someone chewed ice next to me in a theater, there was no way I could have been at choice! I would have reveled in righteous indignation! I mean, really, who chews ice in a theater? The rest of us look for loud, on-screen situations to open a wrapper for God’s sake! This guy shakes the ice into his mouth and loudly chews it while Wonder Woman contemplates saving the world! Seriously, come on! I would have debated whether to give him a dirty look, say something sarcastic (“Would you like my ice when you’re done with yours?”), accidentally bump his ice on his lap, or any number of other scenarios all created while the movie played on. 

When I walked the world with irritation, and encountered experiences that could be considered irritating, the habitual response was to run with it. I think our beings want to bleed off the yucky feelings we carry inside hoping for a bit of peace. For a brief moment in time, having a place to put the irritation made me felt better. Telling all my friends, who then sympathized, made the good feeling last longer. But the irritation inside still remained seeking out other experiences to direct its energy and falsely blame for its existence.

It took cancer for me to get to a place of peace, to realize that no thing outside of me, including cancer, let alone an Ice Chewer, is responsible for how I feel. It took cancer for me to realize that our natural state is one of love, equanimity, and peace and to get to that place is a matter of letting go of all that is false - our limiting beliefs, all of which came from someone else. We were born with none.

If you see the Ice Chewer, thank him for me. I got to be reminded of all that and I got to be reminded that I am always at choice in how I respond to situations. I got to be grateful for the peace I feel, and I got to enjoy watching Wonder Woman! (Why do women action heroes wear virtually nothing and men action heroes are covered head to toe? But that’s another commentary. I mean story!)

It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love. Only love will save the world.
— Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman