Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lung Cancer and Life

In April I was diagnosed with lung cancer when the doctors discovered a 4 cm adenocarcinoma on my left lung. The good news is that I caught it early and that it originated and is confined to the lung.

Monday, I completed the second of four courses of chemotherapy designed to shrink the tumor and keep it in its place. After the chemo is completed I will go into surgery. Because the tumor is located in the fissure that separates the upper and lower lobe of the lung it looks as if the entire lung will have to be removed.

Many patients talk of fighting cancer, of battling and struggling against it, and these are valid approaches that reflect the individual temperaments of these patients.

My approach is different. I embrace my cancer as an integral part of God’s creation, for all of creation is grounded in death and the truth we all face is that the leading cause of death is birth.

On this surface, this could easily be misconstrued as surrender. It is anything but.

Life is one big non-linear paradox. So my embrace, rather than being surrender, is a challenge to embrace my cancer and pass through it, and in passing through it to realize and accept that not only will it change me but it will always be with me. It will forever be in my soul, but by embracing and passing through I increase the probability that it will strengthen my soul instead of curdling it.

It will remain is my body, as well, in remission, but the truth is that cancer will probably be my ticket out of this world, hopefully some years from now. In one respect, we are all children playing in the sand, and with our plastic shovels and buckets we build sand castles, forts and other intricate structures. And, yet, the time comes for all of us when we must pick up our toys, take our father’s hand and go home. And after we have left the beach, the tide comes in and washes away all we have built. However, by the time that happens we are safely home and sound asleep.

This is actually my second bout of cancer. Ten years ago I was diagnosed with an indolent lymphoma. Happily, for the last six years, it’s been behaving itself. On that occasion I wrote the following poem:

requiem
Bury me, if you would, in a shroud
That my brothers and sisters
The worms and microbes may enfold me back into the earth,
That one day,
Years from now or generations from now,
A young girl may squat before a gaily-colored flower
And in leaning forward to inhale its scent
She will inhale my Spirit.

One of the upsides of cancer is that it gives you time to compose your epitaph. After much thought and meditation I wish the following to be carved into my tombstone below my name and the dates of my birth and my death:

SHIT!

After all, it does piss you off a bit.

5 comments:

Suzan said...

My sister's lung cancer is wrapped around her pulmonary artery, so it's inoperable and terminal.

Lucky you.

We are finding it difficult so far to embrace it too much.

Thanks for your uplift.

S

So my embrace, rather than being surrender, is a challenge to embrace my cancer and pass through it, and in passing through it to realize and accept that not only will it change me but it will always be with me. It will forever be in my soul, but by embracing and passing through I increase the probability that it will strengthen my soul instead of curdling it.
___________

Case Wagenvoord said...

I can well understand your feelings. I will keep you and your sister in my thoughts and prayers.

Seinbeetre said...

I think your point of view is excellent and admirable.

Most people fear the end of life so much that they forget to live.

Our society is saturated with the war against this, the war against that, fight, fight, fight...

The negative emotions harm your body and mind as much as anything else.

I wish you inner peace and the best of luck. We all meet our end at some point, just like the hundreds of generations of ancestors before us.

Case Wagenvoord said...

Seinbeetre

Thank you for your kind words. I quite agree that negativity is counterproductive in the long run. We must begin with acceptance and work from there. Another one of life's non-linear paradoxes is that acceptance is a far better platform for launching effective action than is agression or struggle.

profacero said...

Wow - had not realized this was going on. I'm glad the outlook is this good, and you have a great attitude. Still, dealing with all those doctors and things can't be exactly fun -- take care of yourself, try to do something Neat to counterbalance all those hospitals, OK?