I find myself in unfamiliar territory these past couple weeks. I feel a bit sorry for myself for a variety of reasons. Each could be its own blog post. Where to even start.
My cancer marker went up. My doctor is not worried at all, says I’m doing great, and that it's not uncommon for this to happen with the type of chemotherapy I'm on. it can go up before it goes down. Same thing happened when I started this process last August. Funny how a number can have such power - power to make me happy and power to make me not so happy. Some vertical, horizontal, and curved scratches placed in specific ways form a symbol to which I then attach meaning, and allow this meaning to make me feel a certain way. Why do I let it? It’s just a number, and if anything, it really only represents the past, a point in time indicating something that is no longer true in this moment, today. If I can let some scratch marks control me, it makes me wonder what else does.
A friend died last week. She had been living with cancer for twenty years, of which thirteen were with metastatic breast cancer. She was a “drip buddy”. I learned that term through her; a term for those of us who spend a day a week together getting to know one another over various chemicals dripping through our systems. I didn’t know her well, or for very long. but she was the kindest, most courageous person I have ever met. Light radiated from her being, and she represented possibility, miracles, and hope. I always thought she would be there…she was part of Thursdays as much as Dr. Chue and his staff. If Julie is gone it makes me wonder about possibilities, miracles, and hope.
My hair is falling out…again. I should be used to this by now but I’m not. It seems like such a long time since I’ve had hair that I got to keep - two years. In about a week I’ll be bald, have adjusted to it, and wonder what the fuss was about. I’ll startle myself looking in the mirror, seeing my brother stare back. I’ll put on more make-up, a wig or hat, my brother will disappear and life goes on. I remind myself that this IS LIFE, this is not a temporary detour within my life. If losing my hair for the third time STILL brings me down it makes me wonder how many more times I’ll be brought down going through this process.
After eight weeks of this round I’m tired. No sleep on Thursdays, energy of a landscape architect on Fridays, recover on Saturdays and climb back up until Thursday comes back around again. I’m tired of the lack of sleep, flu-like symptoms of the immune boosting drug, headaches, wanting to nap because of the low red blood cell count, extra weight because of the steroid and lack of exercise, blah, blah, blah. Tired. In August it will be a year. I tell people that Dr. Chue’s protocol is like the tortoise in the story of the tortoise and the hare. Right now, I feel more like the hare who wants to sleep by the side of the road. It makes me wonder if I have the required constitution of the tortoise, a necessity for success with Dr. Chue’s protocol.
I hadn’t been wanting to meditate which is a sure sign I should. It usually means something is wanting to be released that my ego would prefer to keep. This morning I sat in my usual spot and forced myself. Three dogs quietly sat with me - our two plus our best friends’, whom we are dog sitting. I meditated and I wrote. I let the unwanted feelings rise to the surface which became the content for the above few paragraphs. As the feelings rose to the surface, they were accompanied by a word; a word that permeated every one of those unwanted feelings. I underlined it, which means I have usually gotten to the root of the issue - Doubt. For the first time in a long time Doubt had reentered my being.
Doubt as to whether I would heal from this when I saw my number go up. For eight years, on some level, I have known I would heal from this. I would have learned what I was supposed to learn and share it with others. I think that’s what we are all here to do through our experiences. The past couple weeks Doubt’s voice says, “Maybe you’re full of shit!”
Doubt about the possibility for healing with Julie’s passing. I usually don’t give a lot of credence to the surety of scientific “facts”. No miracle ever happened in that arena. I choose to see the world through Quantum Mechanics/Epigenetics/Spirituality and know the power of my beliefs on “reality”. And yet, when Julie passed, I paused. I believed she would always be here.
Doubt about my stamina and whether I have what it takes to go the distance with this process.
One of the things you learn in personal coaching is to always be aware of everything going on in and around the conversation you are having with a client - this includes the sudden intrusion of seemingly unrelated noises - like a siren passing by or dogs barking. As I was contemplating how Doubt had permeated more aspects of my being than I realized, all three dogs, who had been quietly sleeping, simultaneously elevated from their spots, dashed out of the room, loudly and frantically barking. Perhaps you heard them? I couldn’t help but wonder at the timing.
“What does Doubt have to do with dogs barking?” I wrote in my journal.
Both represent a lot of noise occupying and irritating the space in which you find yourself. Both come from a place of protection. The dogs were barking at the neighbor's dogs. They thought they were protecting our house; their territory. Isn’t that the role we give Doubt, too? Protection from disappointment and unwanted future possibilities? And like dogs, if I allow Doubt to think it is actually protecting me it will continue barking. I got up from my chair and removed the dogs from the room in which they could see the neighbor's dogs. The barking stopped immediately.
"How do I get Doubt to stop its barking? I came across this writing by Osho:
“The whole work of meditation is to make you aware of all that is “mind” (like doubt) and misidentify yourself from it. That very separation is the greatest revolution that can happen to man…..But this is possible only if the master is awake. Right now the master is asleep. And the mind, the servant, is playing the role of master…There is no blissfulness more precious than freedom, than being a master of your own destiny.”
I have seen dog owners who seem to be at the mercy of their dogs. I have experienced being at the mercy of my mind with it’s endless, unhelpful thoughts controlling how I feel; doubt being the latest version. After reading that passage, I realized I had been asleep and my mind had been my master. I don’t stop the doubt from barking, I merely put it in a room and close the door. It can bark all it wants, but I’m not impacted. I don’t need doubt to go away to feel better, I just need to make sure the door stays shut. I remind myself that just because I “thought” something doesn’t make it true, important, valuable, or helpful. It’s just a thought not my master.
I finish this post mostly back in familiar territory, back to who I am. The dogs are quiet again, and periodically, I check the door to the room where doubt resides. Fortunately, it is still shut.