Every December I go to the city to see my oncologist and to get scans done. It is a gruesome process as my cells seem to remember other times when I was not as healthy, or times when I did not have as much faith in my body as I do now. Yet, the whole process makes me feel unhealthy, and most important it shakes my faith. Every December is like opening the door to face my own monster in the closet; the one I thought I would eventually stop fearing when I grew up.
I’m not sure if it’s the memories of being there in that medical center, the smells, the too well-known routine. Or if it’s the whole industry, the forms you have to fill out with the same information again and again. Or the blood work. Or the discourse about diagnosis: “By the way, you have cancer, you still have cancer, and you will always have cancer even if you do not have cancer in this precise moment.” That makes me sick to my stomach. Oh gee, thanks for the reminder, I have honestly forgotten!
In 2011, I was diagnosed with metastasized breast cancer, which immediately put me at “stage four.” That was after 10 years of being blissfully in what the establishment calls remission, since my very first diagnosis was in 2001 and I was just “stage one” then. (Was it really blissful?)
Now, I have been tumor free for several years, though as my oncologist likes to remind me, the fact that the scans can’t detect any tumor doesn’t mean cancer cells are not swirling all over the body. Because, according to her, they are. Great! My stage four cancer has become a systemic disease. Her words not mine. And one that I should be treating (with poisonous medications) forever and ever, and ever. Whatever that means.
How do you respond to such a categorical statement? Well, let me remind you, whoever YOU are, that there are cancer cells swirling around our bodies all the time anyhow. And the fact that in my past I had creatively activated them does not mean that it is in my future. That is the faith part. And I have grown to know my body to realize she likes to be healthy, and has always guided me to what is best for us. And this is a fact.
We live in constant fear. We live in a society that is driven by fear, and profits from it. No wonder our liver, our digestive system, and our kidneys are out of sorts. We constantly make decisions based on the unlikely probabilities of the worst. From the insurance we purchase to the medications we take – and I am not only talking about health insurance or Tylenol. I am talking about life, house, and car, and trip insurance, just in case, because we just don’t know. And even the three-year extended guarantee that we purchase for that electronic toy we will give our kids this Christmas. She will eventually break it, so I better get my money’s worth. We assume the worst, we expect the worst, and then we are flabbergasted when we get the worst.
What if we say NO? What if we start to believe that the best is going to happen. What if we believe that everything happens for a reason, and we can make reason of whatever happens for good. What if we start looking at the body as the best part of ourselves, our protector, the perfect organism that it is, and listen to her, and take care of her, and love her, and stop judging her, and treat her respectfully. What if we do not wait until we are in our sixties to start saying “no.” No to the energy-sucking parties of the season. No to the super costly seasonal family trips. No to the consumerism that promises happiness yet delivers misery and bankruptcy. No to the stress of the merry jolly Christmas, or happy Hanukah, or whatever it is that you inherited as celebration. What if we say no and mean it.
What if I keep my faith in my beautiful body, and rest, and smile instead of crying, trust instead of doubting, sleep instead of worrying, relax instead of making lists of unwanted things to do? What if, like nature, I save my energy during winter and darkness, and become strong and flexible like wood, and powerful and malleable like water? What if I keep healing myself and my self, and do not pay attention to the same drag-me-down-kill-me-now discourse my lovely doctor has to tell me? Because it is what she does, and she has to be responsible and follow protocol, yet it is the same words for everybody: despite age, race, religion, creed, conditions, situation, glucose levels, plasma levels, cholesterol, etc., etc….
What if I open the closet door and hug my monster, and love her, and wish her well, and let her go, this time for good?