Well … it has certainly been an eventful week. As mentioned in my last blog entry (Nov 23, 2014: “The Plot Thickens”), after the enlarging dura lesion was seen on a brain MRI on Nov 18th, I was advised to undergo three high-dose stereotactic radiation treatments to try to shrink it down and hopefully eradicate it completely. This kind of radiation procedure is a true wonder of modern medical technology, but not easy to prepare for or undergo.
My radiation and medical oncology teams moved heaven and earth to make it possible for me to get this done quickly, and I’m profoundly grateful for their efforts and work on my behalf — particularly given the extremely serious nature and location of this lesion. It feels like a miracle to have been able to get this done during the Thanksgiving holiday week. I’m glad to report that the treatments were completed yesterday as planned, and went well. Although it is too soon to say what the ultimate results will be, I am already noticing what seems to be signs of an early response. I had developed a slight anomaly in my left eye, which the doctors thought was related to the dura lesion slightly pressing on the visual cortex in the back of the brain. Fortunately, the visual anomaly seems to be a bit better, and the headaches seem to be better too, which are hopeful signs.
It is hard to adequatley describe my experience with the deep physical and emotional vulnerability that has arisen in dealing with cancer. But I feel over today to share a few additional thoughts.
One of the great paradoxes of life is that we are all, in my experience, a mysterious blend of being extremely powerful, and at the same time, ultimately vulnerable and powerless in so many ways. We are capable of thinking, planning, envisioning, creating, and accomplishing such great things in life. Even beyond that, I believe we are eternal beings, intimately and inseparably connected with the Divine, and to what I — and so many others — believe is the most powerful force in the world: love. At the very same time, we are also mortal, and ultimately, completely exposed and vulnerable to forces and events that lie far beyond our control. These events, as we all know, can occur both in the outer world … and within our own physical bodies. Illness and infirmity — not to mention so many of the utterly distressing events happening in the world around us — make our vulnerability abundantly clear.
Part of what makes the confrontation with deep vulnerability even more difficult is the extreme emphasis that our culture and world places on of “doing” versus “being.” As I think we would all agree, our world honors action, accomplishment, and achievement … and tends to shun weakness or vulnerability. There is an almost overwhelming pressure to be healthy, strong, happy, and successful. We tend not to feel comfortable making space for the stillness, silence, and the simplicity of pure being. Even more, we do almost anything to avoid the dark and more difficult aspects of life, including fear, pain, suffering, illness, depression and vulnerability … and least of all, our mortality.
Without a doubt, my own ordeal with cancer, and all that has been consumed in my life as a result, has made these issues of vulnerability and loss of control more personal and real than I could have ever imagined. Being stripped of the ability to engage in the deeply meaningful work that I loved so much, to plan and control my schedule, to be more connected with family and friends, and to do so many other things that I loved, has been very painful. Before being diagnosed with cancer, I was blessed with incredible physical health and stamina. I worked for years with barely a cold or flu, and was so blessed to be able to help and support so many others on their cancer journeys and to be a source of love, comfort, compassion, and support for them and their families. It’s not that I was ever immune to great personal suffering and loss in my life; like so many of us, I experienced a great deal of pain, loss, and heartbreak. But I was also very fortunate to have a powerful and inspiring vision and purpose for my life, and a profound spiritual path, all of which I followed with my whole heart and soul. So much of my life, and my identity, was as a “doer” and “helper.” The cancer journey has forced me into the underworld of human existence: where pain, suffering, sadness, loss, vulnerability, uncertainty — and the need to be open to surrender, and receive — reside. Now, I so much more intimately know and understand what countless people throughout the world are experiencing deep on the inside when their health and the illusion of control have been stripped way. As painful as this process has been for me, the deeper compassion, understanding and connection with these more difficult dimensions of life has been a profound gift.
There is so much more that I can and want to share about all this, but I will finish for today with two final thoughts.
First, many of you have shared with me the pain of feeling at a loss about how to help me more as I traverse this rocky terrain. I understand, and wish there was more as well! I will reach out when something I see something tangible you can do.
In the meantime, however, please know that your thoughts, prayers, and expressions of love and caring are profoundly healing and meaningful in and of themselves, and mean the world to me. The comments you have shared on this blog in particular have been and continue to be a great comfort for my heart and soul. They help me to feel more connected, which was one of my intentions in creating the blog. So, it is working its magic. Thank you for taking the time to sure in this way, and please continue to stay in touch as you feel called and inspired. It is a great gift.
Wishing you all a joyous and wonderful day of Thanksgiving …