9 Weeks of Healing

It has been a while since I/we have posted. We have transitioned into a new phase of the healing process, and the last couple of weeks we have been introverted home bodies. Our preference is to do much less, stay home, and be with each other and the kids.

Both Brooke and I have been driven “doers” most of our adult lives, now we are both feeling much more interested in just “being” and much less concerned about the “doing”. I am sure, like most of this process, this is but another step in the journey, and that this too will change. Right now, doing less and keeping life as simple as possible just feels right.

Now that I am getting back into circulation I have had a lot of people ask me how I am doing. I appreciate the support and caring nature of the question. Often it is in a public setting or in passing, and my stock response is that I am doing well (true) and that I am grateful to be so fortunate (also true). The reality of the situation is a bit more complex. I feel as if everyday I am aware of a barrage of different emotions washing over me, some a passing thought or twinge of awareness, and others more deeply felt, and a few just plain disturbing. Since there is rarely time to explore this range of emotions in a casual conversation I thought I would capture some of the range of emotions here.

At times I find myself struggling with patience. I am through 80% of the healing process, and the last 20% is going to take time and focus. I need to make sure I focus on that 20%, if I let it go and settle for a new status quo, I am going to lose ground that I need not cede. And it is quite clear that it is going to take work to build back where I am stronger than I was before going into the surgery.

The following is a summary of my general state of being on any given day:

Changed perspective about daily life, not as concerned about sweating the details.

Relaxed and at ease.

Energized and creative.

Reflective and  meditative.

Full of love for Brooke, family, and friends.

Conscious of being present and feeling.

Open to new possibilities.

God and the presence of spirit.

Aware of gratitude for so many blessings.

And…

Weary, especially in the mornings.

Uncertainty about the future.

Random shortness of breath, usually when I am not doing anything.

One in three who relapse…

Questioning everything.

Lethargic, and at it’s worse, apathetic.

A sense of loss…

Often I find myself in the midst of one of life’s mundane tasks, such as driving, and I hear a voice in my head asking if this is all for real? Did I really have lung cancer? Am I really missing 15% of my lung? And of course the answer rings in my head…YES! And I am reminded that one of the gifts of this experience is to stay present with the reality of my own mortality. To not slip back into the trance that this life is infinite and old age assured. To appreciate the beauty and gift of every moment and every day. And when I have that awareness if often seems as if my daughter’s smile is just a little brighter, the sky a tinge bluer, and it is that much easier to take a deep breath and be relaxed and present in the moment, grateful for the beauty of the life and love all around.

If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you can not achieve.

– tao te ching

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contentment

Which is more vital

fame or health

which is more precious

health or riches

which is more harmful

loss or gain

the deeper the love

the higher the cost

the bigger the treasure

the greater the loss

who knows contentment

suffers no shame

who knows restraint

encounters no trouble

and thus lives long

– tao te ching (verse 44)

Step by step…

Coming home has been much more of a challenge that I had anticipated or planned for. The last 7 weeks have been a series of distinct phases.

  • The shock of the  diagnosis.
  • A frenzy of effort to get into MD Anderson and with the most experienced surgeon possible.
  • 3+ weeks of waiting and preparing for surgery and fighting one of my worst sinus infections in years.
  • Traveling back to Houston, pre-op and day of surgery.
  • Post op, 4 days in the hospital that felt like 8.
  • And then 4 more days in the hotel, a relative purgatory surrounded by comfort and yet never able to really get comfortable.

I had been so focused on preparing for the surgery, and then working hard to get released as early as possible, that I had not thought much of how it would feel to be home. You would think that it would be such a relief, to finally be in my own home, sleep in my own bed, etc. Yet it was deeply unsettling. All so familiar, yet everything had changed.

Struggling with conflicting emotions. Want to get out and engage. Tired and want to just sit. Want to visit and meet with people. Want to just be quiet and with family. Want to get out and “exercise”. Want to sleep and rest. Want to get back into the work flow. Want to go on retreat.

Feeling restless, and then go on a walk and realize how tired I am, how depleted my energy reserves are. I have often heard that it is common to feel some depression, and yet I don’t feel depressed. However, if you talk with Brooke, I think she would say that at times I certainly seem down and subdued. Sometimes without warning I feel cranky and irritable. I am sick of sitting in the house all day everyday, and yet I don’t really feel like doing much else.

I am not the best patient. Ready to be done with all this “cancer” crap. And yet settling in that I am never going to be fully done with it. I have been researching 5 year survival rates for lung cancer, more on that in another post, but suffice it to say that I am just starting my journey.

Feel so many questions hanging over me and so few answers coming through. So I have been given a gift of life, a get out of jail free card. Feel a pressure to make something out of this reprieve, to honor the gift. And have some thoughts and ideas…yet it would be so simple if this had never happened. I look around my community and sometimes find myself yearning to go back to 3 months ago…ignorance is bliss.

It is often said that you really appreciate what you have…once it is taken away from you…Certainly I appreciate the stability and predictability of the life I had. Everything was preceding on plan. Loving family, check. Healthy kids, check. Professional growth and opportunity, check. All of our needs and wants covered, check. Financially ok, check. My only real lament was the desire to have more time with family, in nature, and in my spiritual and service pursuits. Of course I am not alone in that desire.

And while I was restless about certain things, or felt I wanted this or that in different aspects of my life, I had it pretty good. Better than perhaps I realized. I looked into the future and could see a vision for what lay ahead, excited for each step in the journey. Now I feel like I have been knocked off of my safe trajectory, infused with a dose of uncertainty. And as I sit with limited energy, and continue my healing, I watch my family and the world swirl around me, I am uncertain of what comes next.

Doing my best to stay present in the moment, focus on my healing.  I felt like I bounced back quickly in the hospital, yet now I am humbled at how slow this part of the recovery is. The left side of my chest and rib cage is still numb and as it is waking the nerves are tingling and sensitive. Daily I am finding and unwinding secondary and tertiary tweaks in my muscles and joints. And as of late I have been having bummer headaches, light headed and fuzzy. And to date I still have not traveled more than a few blocks from our house.

I need to continue to be patient. I need to stay focused on the present. Step by step, day by day…

We join spokes together in a wheel,

but it is the center hole

that makes the wagon move.

We shape clay into a pot,

but it is the emptiness inside

that holds whatever we want.

We hammer wood for a house,

but it is the inner space

that makes it liveable.

We work with being,

but non-being is what we use.

– tao te ching

Non-being

We join spokes together in a wheel,

but it is the center hole

that makes the wagon move.

We shape clay into a pot,

but it is the emptiness inside

that holds whatever we want.

We hammer wood for a house,

but it is the inner space

that makes it liveable.

We work with being,

but non-being is what we use.

     – tao te ching

 

Two Thoughts on Practicing Kindness

Success is as dangerous as failure. Hope is as hollow as fear.

 What does it mean that success is as dangerous as failure?

Whether you go up the ladder or down it,

your position is shaky.

When you stand with your two feet on the ground,

you will always keep your balance.

 

What does it mean that hope is as hollow as fear?

Hope and fear are both phantoms

that arise from thinking of self.

When we don’t see the self as self,

what do we have to fear?

 

See the world as your self.

Have faith in the way things are.

Love the world as yourself;

then you can care for all things.

– Tao Te Ching

George Saunder’s giving advice to graduates and discussing the need for kindness and all the things working against our actually achieving it, and the risk in focusing too much on “success”.

http://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/31/george-saunderss-advice-to-graduates/?_r=0