Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Bow Named God

"You're too strong to let cancer beat you."

Oh, God love him. Words from a young man this past weekend who I hadn't seen in a long while. His face was so full of light and I hated to bring him back down to earth. But I did. I told him that many 'strong' people have died of cancer. In fact I was headed to a funeral later that day for a woman who would have loved to have not had cancer 'beat her.' She was a lovely, strong, vibrant woman who died too soon. His face fell a little bit at my reply. In fact he asked me to repeat it because he wasn't sure he'd heard me right.

It's not fun being the party pooper, speaking up for those who have been forever silenced. If positive thinking, being strong (I wonder what that means), fighting the good fight and all the rah-rah you can muster would make the difference between life and death there'd be a lot less dead people. I wonder if I'll always be touchy about believing that.

I'm waiting for my oncologist to call me. It's our last time of touching base before he writes up my discharge plan - the plan for follow up tests and check ups and the like for the next five years. There is already a CT scan and an MRI in the works over the next few months. I haven't yet made my peace with how to live in the tension of not knowing what the future holds but I want to and am inching towards it. (this is where some dumb ass tells me we know Who holds the future so don't worry, be happy. I bet they haven't had cancer.)

I wish there was a time and place for patients to tell doctors things that might help them deal more effectively with the next patient they see.

I'd tell my oncologist that he and the other medical professionals, who so readily wanted me to take medication to cope with the grieving process of losing my breast, needed to honour the time and space it took to go through it. All the way through it. I wish they had been able to do that instead of wanting me to short circuit the path of feeling the grief so deeply, as if something was wrong with me for being human. I can think I am being bad - a lovely remnant of my screwed up childhood - just because someone else thinks I am. Make it someone in authority and it can happen in a nano second.

The powers that be often said they knew I wouldn't get stuck yet when I showed deep feelings they whipped out their prescription pads. Six different times I was offered a pill to mask my feelings. I wish doctors were taught that patients need their doctor's support of a non medicated way through the natural grieving process of having had a serious illness.

I am all for medication when it is needed including for people coping with a serious illness. I have seen it bring incredible relief to people I love. But I knew in my gut that I didn't need it. My path was to be present to the whole she-bang of emotions.  I wish  a medical professional would've cheered me on for moving through the process and acknowledged the sheer courage it took to do that.

Had it not been for mental health professionals I might still be doubting that my instinct to wade through the deep was the right choice to make. It has been hard to trust that what often looked like being stuck was really just part of going through. I had to remind myself over and over again of that in order to have the courage to feel the feelings. The counsellors I've seen have been great at affirming the journey as it has unfolded.

I feel like I am coming out of the other side of it now. Not fully out but emerging nonetheless. I am both surprised and relieved. Life has colour again. I am delighting in the tiny things, mostly.

There is a part of me that I am hoping isn't here to stay; the return of my cynical self. A cynicism that rises when I hear people wrap up life's small and big things with a bow named God. When it rolls off their tongue with a flippancy that seems devoid of reality I feel an acute sadness. Being sure of how and when God works has disappeared from my belief system. I've been waiting for it to return and the other day it occurred to me that it might never be mine again. I told my spiritual director last week that it was a bleak place to be. Beyond believing that God is with me there is a deep void where I know nothing.

Funny the things one wants. I want to have a light/bright countenance like my young friend has. A few months ago I met several elderly women whose faces shone with inner wisdom. I want that, too.


Grace-WorkinProgress said...

There is comfort in being sure of something like the belief in an all loving God. When something happens that shakes that certainty then what? Nobody wants to join you in your uncertainty and they certainly don't want you to burst their bubble the belief that it all works out. As you said not for everyone.

My mother died when I was ll and I knew God was to blame. I was cynical. Sure as my dad said she was better off but what about us? A lifetime shaped by absence.

I eventuall found that being cynical took a lot of energy so I moved on. Life just happens and few people get through it without some kind of pain and loss.

I think you should feel how you want to feel for as long as it takes and even longer. Your honesty is refreshing.

annie said...

I don't know what to say, Hope, other than that I feel like I have been privileged to watch a sacred journey unfold.

Bravo to you for trusting your instincts on what you needed to do to help yourself. That is wisdom, I believe.

Mary Christine said...

I always bristle when people talk about battles with cancer - to win or to "lose." I think it is crazy. If my mother could have willed cancer away, she surely would have.

I don't understand people who think they know the mind of God, and if he loves you there will be sunshine, rainbows and unicorns in your life. Reading the lives of the saints has brought me to a better understanding of the kind of love my God has for me. It isn't often pretty. That probably wouldn't bring a great deal of consolation to many people, but it does to me.

Hope said...

Reading the lives of the saints - thank you for that reminder MC. It is a comfort to me.

Daisy said...

You made me think about a time when I had burned a finger on the element of the stove. It burned like a son-of-B so I grabbed a piece of ice thinking that it would be more effective than simply running my finger under a bit of cold water.

After a few minutes I took the ice off and that's when the real burning started. In fact, it hurt so badly that I quickly slapped the ice back onto it. Then, every time I removed the ice, the same thing happened. The pain was crazy sharp.

Eventually, I figured that the numbing effect of the ice was too much of a contrast to the pain of the burn and made the latter feel even more painful. I had no choice but to remove the ice and suffer through the miserable pain; the process made longer than if I'd just faced the initial pain.