It’s been a week of waiting and preparation. Radiation and Chemotherapy will start October 31st, with a last dry run Friday the 28th. It’s been a two week period of getting ready – a quick trip to Dana Farber in Boston to get a radiation mask made, time at home getting things together for the seven weeks away from home.
Friends ask about getting together before I go and it feels like some sort of farewell event, as if I am never coming back. And of course, given the chance to be anxious about what is indeed coming I wonder, “what do they know that I don’t?” Is it farewell? So it has been couple of weeks of mild anxiety. How is this all going to go? Am I worthy of what is about to happen? How will I be in battle? All that stuff….
I remember Arjuna’s injunction to Krishna on the battlefield, “not farewell, but fare forward voyagers.” It isn’t farewell, but fare forward.
While I have been imaging the upcoming cancer caper as a “walk” in a strange land or sometimes as a battlefield experience, the medical establishment has pushed me to also consider another image:
Last week a very helpful medical administrator in the Dana Farber system spelled out the “truth in lending” provisions of the contract for treatment. There were three columns of information: things most likely to happen, things that could happen, and things that once in a long while happen. It was similar to the TV ads for new medicines. The disclaimers are tacked on to the miracle drug being touted and suddenly you think, “why on earth would I ever take that?” You know, “use of Zstrain has been known to sometimes make you dizzy, occasionally make you act out your shadow self, and rarely has been known to turn you into a Zombie killer.”
Well, as near as I remember, the truth in lending package that comes with radiation goes something like this: “radiation has been known to make it hard to swallow, occasionally it makes it impossible to do so, making it necessary to put in a temporary feeding tube, and rarely has turned your whole lower face to mush.” This of course makes anxiety a near neighbor.
I’ve been trying to recast the truth in lending in more optimistic terms. In all likelihood I will have some discomfort and then rebound. I have some hope to be among the most fortunate and least traumatized. But the whisper is there… this could be a real mess.
Last week at church, after communion I joined those who went to the side chapel for the laying on of hands for healing. When my turn came, I asked to be worthy of the days ahead. I was surprised by this request coming from my mouth, and have been thinking about it all week. I think what has made me anxious is my concern that I might not be up to the task. Certainly I have been concerned that I might not have sufficient courage for the time at hand. But beyond that my sense is that this particular journey is an opportunity to grow more deeply willing to be present with myself and more, to be less ego (self) centered and more centered on the great self, the being that is the all in all, of which we are all parts. So the question is, will I be worthy of the battle to endure for some greater end than my own comfort or even my own life?
Then too, perhaps I’m a drama queen. Perhaps this is all just an ordinary walk in a very different part of town and I am just nervous. Maybe all this talk of farewell and fare forward is just talk. Perhaps I think too much. (Sigh.)
I do know this: the “truth in lending” list, the waiting, the little twinges that tell me the cancer is present and working its way, the wonder about if I can do this, are all a bit like the anxiety prior to a great struggle, a battle, or (using an image from my own world) a really tough exam.
The only solution for all this is for things to get underway. I am ready to do this. Now. But it will take another week to get there. Meanwhile I am blessed with Kathryn, Matthew and Kellee, Ema, and the love of brothers, friends, communards and voices from the past and present… you know, the great cloud of witnesses. The Saints go marching in.