Monday, 30 April 2012

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean -
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down -
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver (1990)

Monday, 23 April 2012

The Searchlight of Inadequacy

There's no hiding place with cancer. It shines an intense, unyielding light - onto and into you.

This light marks you out from those who do not have it (see post of 17 April). And this light exposes you.

There's no hiding place for your inadequacies. They slump there, awkward and blinking. Despite your best efforts, you can't seem to avoid tripping over them.

And when you're under real threat, there doesn't seem much point in kidding yourself (or others) about them anymore.

All survivors talk about the great change that cancer brings to themselves and their lives. Especially how they became able to think and do things that previously were impossible for them - from saying sorry, to winning the Tour de France.

Owning up to inadequacies that you've hidden for many years is a very big step.

A big step towards release.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

A Stranger in Your Own Life

You didn't book the trip and you didn't pay the ferryman, but you were taken across anyway. On the other side you found everything you knew. Your house, your family, your friends and acquaintances, your everyday activities. You recognised them all. The light was stark and piercing.

But it all seemed different. More mundane than you remembered, somewhat shabby and trivial. You smiled and played the good soldier. But things you previously enjoyed were now peculiar, even troublesome. You were full of questions and doubts.

You smiled again and tried harder. After all, you were doing your best to be normal and do normal things. But this remained unsatisfying and oddly out of reach.

You put it down to the illness. And the rehabilitation from the ordeal of treatment.

You were right. But it wasn't just a phase you were going through. You had crossed a real divide. You couldn't go back to the life you had lived before. The stranger was you.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Learning to Live with the Big C

There is something inside me that produced (or produces) cancer. It turned up as Kidney Cancer last year. Now my question and my fear is - will it show up as something else soon?

I don’t know. No one knows. You can tell me I’ll be fine, but you don’t know.

It’s so good to talk with other cancer survivors or fighters. There are things we understand that the rest of you don’t, can’t or won’t until you too have a doctor put a big “C” on your head.

We used to be men who feared little. Any fear was managed or covered up. Now our fear is pervasive and unmanageable. It shows up as insecurity and worry. This fear has become obvious to those who love us most. It makes us look weaker than we like to think of ourselves. Our changed outlook brings tears and depression.

Fear and paranoia are always knocking at the door of our minds trying to gain access. A persistent pain whispers in our ears that the cancer has spread, when it fact it’s just ageing or too much exercise or something ordinary that feels extraordinary. The wait for the next scan feels interminable.

Cancer has been described as something you learn to live with or around. That cohabitation doesn’t end with remission or 'cure'. Learning to live, knowing that little enemy may still be inside, is our reality now.

Adapted with thanks from Rick Dancer (2011)