This year I’ve heard all kinds of things said about cancer including that it brings gifts. Not everyone agrees about that. Cancer, in and of itself, is decidedly NOT a gift. But there are gifts to be found.
Cultures that have Shaman (what is the plural fer crying out loud? Shamii?) teach us that the Shaman comes to their power through mental and/or physical illness and hardship. It’s very clear to me that this has been my path. I’m not your typical Shaman however. True to form, I tend to reject status quo. Yes, I own a drum. But that’s about as far as it goes. I no longer take psychotropic drugs to induce altered states and back in the days when I did it wasn’t to be a Shaman. I don’t look like a Shaman. I look like a mostly normal 54 year old rocker unless you look closely.
All that said, make no mistake that this has been a year of altered states and a journey of the Shaman. I am walking the path. For myself and for those who didn’t beat the cancer, for those who love us. For myself. For life.
I am not who I was a year ago. Pretty much everything has changed. Yes, many of the people and the job are/is the same but I, my Self, am far different from a year ago.
One year ago this night I felt a BIG HARD lump that I knew was cancer. My friend Erica calls this a breastiversary. I KNEW it. It was a few more weeks before western medicine confirmed what I knew to be true but my instincts were right on. I’ve spent years learning to trust my very accurate instincts and intuitions, giving them validation even when others would not. There was a time I could not do that for myself. This time all the dots lined up. There is a knowing deep within me that I can trust to lead me, through the bright days but definitely through the dark days.
Christopher Walken, on Inside The Actor’s Studio, when asked the standard, “If there is a heaven, what would you like God to say to you at the pearly gates?” replied, “You were right.” I’ve never forgotten it and to this day it cracks me up. I’ve heard it said that those are the three favorite words of humans, not “I love you” but “You are right.” This was one time I did not want to be right. But there was no denying that for once I was so right there was no other way to bend it.
My boss was standing there with me with his hand on my back and my favorite co-worker doing the same on the other shoulder as I spoke with the doctor who confirmed what I knew in my soul already. I blithely went home and started making plans for how I was going to manage this. I prefer to live in the solution rather than the problem and this was no exception. I figured I’d be out for a month for surgery and two for chemo and back by April. I called my sponsor and she said, “be ready to turn over a year of your life to cancer.”
WHAT?!?! Are you fucking kidding me?!?! And here it is. A year. I didn’t return to work in April, chemo was 6 months but nausea was much longer. Radiation… A year of my life. I return to work on Monday. I needed every day of this year to be able to do this. Thank you to my work peeps who had my back, kept my job, and paid my medical benefits.
So, what am I rambling on about? What does this have to do with gifts?
Cancer itself is not a gift. It’s terrifying, debilitating, painful, brutal, and deadly. We all die from something right? I’ve never really asked why me. Why not me? Right? I had some very dark days, there were the days when I sat with every pill in the house in my lap wondering if it would be enough to kill me. But there were days when my loved ones gathered around me and loved me when I couldn’t see myself any more.
On this day of Thanksgiving here in the U.S.A. I thought I would see what I can put on my gratitude list. What are the gifts that I received because I was sick enough to let them in. Too sick to fight anything other than cancer and not myself, not the universe, not Spirit. I was cracked wide open and flooded with love. Who knew.
- I’m grateful to be alive first and foremost. There was a time in my life when I was certain I’d never live to see thirty and who would want to anyway? I’d seen others do over thirty and it just wasn’t attractive to me. I couldn’t see my future or an inkling of why that might be a good thing to strive for. Evidently my spirit and Spirit had other plans for me. I’m so overwhelmingly grateful for this life. This one life. It’s been a challenge, sometimes daily, but as I watch this morning’s fog ebb and flow amongst the trees outside my window, the patches of sparkly blue come and go, I feel this peace, this amazing knowing, that this moment is what it’s all about. To just sit and look and maybe, if the ankle would permit, dance. So I’m letting my heart dance as my senses do a reel. I cry all the time. Sometimes tears of rage or sadness but mostly tears of gratitude. Believe it or not, my second thought after “damn it, I was right ” was “I’m so grateful.” I don’t know why but in that moment I was carried and flooded. And I became a warrior, I started fighting with every fiber, every atom of my being, to be here. To stay. Just a little longer please, just a little more time. I need to see the beauty instead of the pain.
- Bacon. Oh yes, bacon is cooking in the oven as I write this and my senses are reeling and jigging over that! 4 pieces of thick, juicy, bacon. Thank you, oh blessed pig for your sacrifice. I know it was harder for you than my cancer has been for me. I’m still alive and part of it is because of you and your gift. Sustenance. We are connected forever because of it. Thank you.
- Thank you Goddess for my friends and family. Yes, even the very, VERY, few who think I’m crazy or mean. Fighting against that ugly mindset makes me stronger. It brings me, step by baby step, to the realization that those are not my truths and while sometimes they do manifest in me, they are not ME. I am a being of light and love just like you are. We are all trying to survive, thrive, live, in the best way we know how. If you need to think I’m stupid or worthless, I’m glad to have helped. Sincerely. You will find your way back to love, of me and of yourself. For you are lovable and I love you oh so very, VERY, much. For the very, VERY, many who share your love with ME, bless you, for it is how I know I have worth even when the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee decides to hold a meeting in my head and tell me I don’t deserve to be here. I do. So do you. And I love being here, sick or well, happy or sad. It’s the contrasts that bring value and shape.
- Nature, I’m so glad to be here, to witness your beauty, your red of tooth and claw, your gently rocking waves and mighty crashing oceans. Your heights of purple mountain’s majesty and depths of deepest, coldest, blue. Your crows who land in the big sugar maple and look in at me, wondering if today I have sustenance to sacrifice for them. I do. Blessed, blessed crow. Mama, in so many ways you are the metaphor for my life. The Upper World, the Under World, and all that lies between, what an amazing blessing to be here. To see the sudden gleam of gems illuminated for a moment in the utter darkness. Flare! Then gone but never forgotten.
I could go on and on but these are some of the gifts that have been illuminated for much more than a moment as I try not to let the ugliness of cancer kill my spirit. While I reach to live and be strong and share this precious gift of life with you.
I am a leaf on the wind, watch me soar.
~ Wash, Serenity