504158EF91EAA8A27A35DB2FC810D5BC

Have I survived yet? Part I

 

This is not a cancer blog; it’s a blog about my life. My life is about flowers and lace and words and languages. It is also about having only one breast and limited use of one arm, about periodically going to a place where they inject deadly poisons into my veins. Remember “We had to destroy the village in order to save it”? (See Ben Tre if you are too young to remember or old enough to have forgotten.) They had to mutilate my body in order to save it. They have to poison me in order to heal me.

Once again, my life is about mysteries and contradictions, about thread wrapped around air.

The vocabulary of cancer treatment is often very violent. We fight the disease, wekill the wildly proliferating cells, we destroy the tumor, we wipe it out. I hate that approach. It is completely foreign to my core values, to how I try to live.  I try not to use those words. I prefer to say that I am living with cancer. When I want to be French and Franciscan and whimsical, I even talk about frère cancer, borrowing a page from Francis of Assisi who wrote about “our sister bodily death” in the Canticle of the Sun.

I don’t use the vocabulary of war in talking about cancer because war has a winner and a loser and no one knows which side is which until the dust clears. I prefer the language of coexistence: living with. The cancer and I share space. That doesn’t mean I don’t treat the disease, and I’d have infinitely preferred not to have to share, but it does mean that I do not invest my mental, emotional and spiritual energy in battle and thoughts of destruction.

Our words inform our thoughts, and our thoughts shape our experience of reality.

Living with doesn’t always mean “liking” or even “getting along”. Successfully living with a spouse or a roommate or in a family means respecting each other’s personal space, not impinging on their rights, not imposing our own will on the other one without their consent. Sometimes it means speaking up, protecting our space and our rights because the other one doesn’t respect them. I didn’t invite cancer into my life, but in it came. Cancer is not good at sharing space, does not play well with others. Okay, then. That’s a reality I have to deal with. Cancer and I are living in the same body now, so how can we do that successfully?

Part II is here.

(I would like to thank Dr. Elaine Schattner, @medicallessonsauthor of http://www.medicallessons.net/ for the inspiration for this post.)

21 Responses

  1. margiehudson81 says:

    Excellent, thought provoking post. I will have to think on this for a while.

  2. Beautiful and as Margaret said, lots to think about. I believe you may be speaking of radical acceptance by having incorporated cancer into your sense of self. That’s really powerful.

    • Knot Telling says:

      Is “radical acceptance” the name of a system or theory or something? I haven’t heard of it.

  3. cherrypipes says:

    as always ((((((((((((((((dear knots))))))))))))))))) a wonderful share luv ya from Texas

  4. Maxine D says:

    Yet again you have nailed it Knots with you wonderful use of words, and depth of thought.
    Should I ever have an encounter with cancer I will try to emulate your acceptance and co-existence – not that I would welcome such an encounter!
    Blessings and prayers
    Maxine

  5. Melissa Ross says:

    I completely agree, and I felt that way from the moment of my diagnosis. Cancer is my own body not behaving correctly, it is not some foreign invader. I do not want to be at war with myself, with my body. I want to be at peace, and it is far easier to be at peace then at war. There are many things in life that come our way that we do not want, but that is life, and we must learn to live with them. Cancer is not the only example I can think of, the loss of loved ones, grey hair, loss of eyesight, memory, and generally getting old are all things that no one welcomes in most cases. After denying, mourning, and maybe some fighting, we learn to accept them, and move on. While cancer is certainly more significant than some of these, it is no different in this respect. I am living with cancer, not always agreeably, but with it just the same. I never liked calling myself a survivor, after all, no one gets out alive in the end anyway.

    • Knot Telling says:

      Hi, Melissa. I see that we agree in principle, though differ in details. Living in peace is so much more comfortable!

  6. Ann says:

    Thank you for putting into words what I have been unable to acurately express.

  1. 5 April, 2014

    […] Yesterday I wrote “Our words inform our thoughts, and our thoughts shape our experience of reality.” That’s not an original idea. Theories about linguistic relativity have been around for over a hundred years. A thinker who formulated similar ideas in a way that is closer to what I mean was Victor Frankl. In Man’s Search for Meaning he wrote: […]

  2. 5 April, 2014

    […] been giving it a lot of thought. After all, I could easily call myself a cancer survivor (Have I survived yet? Part I and Part II), a survivor of terrorism (My first bus bombing Part I – Part II – Part III), and a […]

  3. 6 April, 2014

    […] sign that the cancer is winning this emotional war of attrition. (You see? Sometimes even I use the bellicose metaphors in talking about […]

  4. 6 April, 2014

    […] “Brother Cancer” is not the companion I would have chosen. I don’t like him, but I am trying to live with him. The question I need to answer now is whether or not (following the images in the post I linked to) […]

  5. 6 April, 2014

    […] If you would like to know more about my cancer/uninvited guest metaphor, please take a look at Have I survived yet, Part I. […]

  6. 10 April, 2014

    […] much the same ones I use now. It is painful, though. I am diminished. This is more of the “we had to poison you in order to heal you” story that is cancer treatment as I experience it. Would it have been less painful if I had […]

  7. 24 February, 2015

    […] developed and changed. Two of my early posts, in October of 2011, were “Have I Survived Yet?” Part I and Part II. At that time and until recently I disliked—even resented—the label “breast […]

  8. 6 March, 2015

    […] developed and changed. Two of my early posts, in October of 2011, were “Have I Survived Yet?” Part I and Part II. At that time and until recently I disliked—even resented—the label “breast […]

  9. 27 April, 2015

    […] If you would like to know more about my cancer/uninvited guest metaphor, please take a look at Have I survived yet, Part I. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: