Imagine the one relationship in your life that causes you the most pain or frustration; anger, irritation, or sadness. Who is this person? A coworker? A sibling? A boss? A friend’s partner? A parent? Who is the one who has the ability to change your mood from equanimity to irritation by the mere thought of them? Who is the one who can walk into the room and you feel your guard go up, your mood go down, and you begin to strategize how you want the interaction to go.
These individuals have a tremendous amount of power over us. As long they have the ability to make us feel anything other than equanimity then they have power. They own a part of us if we give them any thought at all. It’s like we take one end of a rope, give them the other and play tug-of-war. We are tethered together in the struggle for who is right, who hurt whom, who was mean, unfair, gets undeserved attention, etc. Who will win?
How tired are we willing to get before we drop the rope and say, “What else is possible because this situation isn’t changing and I’m tired of feeling this way?”
Cancer is no different. Those of us who have been diagnosed with cancer have entered into a relationship, one we prefer we didn’t have to have, wish would disappear out of our life, watch as it does things to us we can’t stand, and get tired and frustrated when cancer seems to have an endless supply of energy on its end of the rope. In our society we fight it. We keep pulling on that rope hoping our stamina and medical advances outlast our foe. Cancer pulls back pretty hard. All the terminology around cancer speaks to this being the accepted way of being in relationship with it. We fight because the only other option appears to be death…two options - fight or die. For me, when Carissa Schumacher urged me to “find a way to love cancer,” (see previous post) a third option was revealed and has been the source of my tranquility throughout the vast terrain this odyssey has presented.
So, what does loving cancer look like? It has been an ever evolving process towards deepening levels of love. In the beginning it was easiest for me to love cancer for the gifts it gave me…most of which I have mentioned in previous posts.
- A deeper connection with Wes, as well as family and friends.
- A vehicle for healing long held traumas, beliefs, and ways of looking at the world that no longer serve me.
- The willingness to live fearlessly!
- A preciousness for being alive, appreciation for what’s really important in life, gratitude for the little things like walking and driving.
- A change in perspective so that any circumstance in which I find myself, I choose to say, “Where is the opportunity for love to reveal itself?” As an example, last year when my hair started falling out due to the chemo, I could have felt victimized, "Look what chemo is doing to me?" Instead, one of my fondest memories was the love fest I had with my closest friends as we held a Bald is Beautiful Party. Mike and Catherine (who deserve a blog post of their own) along with Wes agreed to shave their heads in support of me. My friend Jami is a hair stylist and did the honors. Leanne and Gigi lent their moral support and filled in as assistant stylist and photographer. Music, laughter, joy, and love all filled the room as the hair fell to the floor.
Sometime in the last few months I sensed there was more. I began to realize the inadequacy of this kind of love - the kind where I’m grateful for the gifts cancer provided, but could easily do without the giver. It’s conditional. When I was young I was an achiever who caused very little, if any, anguish for my parents. That was the objective. The gifts I provided by my “achieving” got me love, or at least, made my parents happy. But I never tested the waters to see if I, the giver, could be loved unconditionally, without the “achieving.” I didn’t like how that kind of love felt so why would I be content with loving cancer in the exact same way. Could I love cancer unconditionally, no matter what it might do to me? And why would I?
I began to see the cancer cells in the same way I do my kids. No matter what my kids do I will always love them. I may not like what they do, but I will always love them; they are a part of me. To love cancer, everyone of those pesky cells, is to also love every part of me. If I can’t love all of me then how do I expect someone else to love me. If I can love cancer, something that might be the cause of my death, then there is no thing in this world that is beyond my love. And, when you love cancer, it no longer has any power over you! I am untethered. It cannot hurt me because the one thing this odyssey has given me is a very deep knowing of the eternal nature of my being. That is what loving cancer unconditionally has given me - freedom and a life worth living.
I go forth in this odyssey with a very powerful will to live; I have big things I still want to do but I no longer fight cancer in the process of doing those things. I dropped the rope of the tug-of-war I was playing and in doing so, I’ve had a chance to see what else is possible. I see myself as healthy (with some unruly cells playing around in there), I live everyday from a place of love, make choices in my care as to what is in the highest good for my body; not from the space of fear, and the outcome of all that will be known…later. All we only really have is now and my every moment is an incredibly precious moment.