Tuesday, April 30, 2013

In Search of the Authentic

Being weakened forces you to be introspective. Doctors only add to the process in that they won’t let you just passively lie in a hospital bed whilst anointing ministrations of highly developed science over your forehead or have their acolytes do it intravenously! Alas, I regret to inform you that the great mysteries of the caduceus will not be revealed to you under the auspices of some arcane ceremony. Nope, not gonna happen!

When you’ve gotten sick to the point of being hospitalized, the doctors are more concerned with the great subjective things like what your pain is on a scale of 1 to 10 and the color and consistency of your poop. And while I’m not making that up, and while it’s very true that there are a lot of highly confusing terms, abbreviations, and meaningless numbers (to us laypeople) on a lab report, it’s something you have to dive into to understand, seriously. And you really need to understand as much as you can…because after all, it is all about you and you’re pretty damned important if I do say so myself!

Far from being an exercise in ego or self-absorption, taking everything in, is essential to your healing and as I’ve found over the last couple of months as an inpatient, it’s essential to transforming into a more authentic person. Now, neither healing nor transforming into the authentic are mandatory, but I daresay that we all want to get and feel better at least. It’s no fun being in pain or feeling debilitated in any way. But I take it a step further. Why would I want to go through this hell if I’m simply just feeling as good as I was before I started? Let me go back to the beginning of this post to answer that – being weakened forces you to be introspective, to look within yourself. The key, of course, is what you do once you’ve gazed at what’s inside.

I’m not suggesting that there’s some great revelation, but there just might be.  More likely of what you’ll see is the real person inside and depending on how much we delude ourselves will determine how much of a surprise the ‘big reveal’ is.  If you’re at all like I am, it is like layers of an onion and over time, a new layer gets pulled back until you get to the core…and like any good sweet onion, there are a lot of tears involved. Oh yeah, there are tears involved. Shoot, I cry at the drop of a hat these days and it could be for just about anything – a song, a cheesy advertisement, or because maybe I’m overwhelmed with the magnitude of what I’m walking through. I’m not entirely unconvinced that the medications I’m on play with my emotions as well. What is very likely happening, is more the body’s response to the chemotherapy as much as the actual drug itself. The brain fog or “chemo brain” that I alluded to in my last posting is a direct result of the chemo drug. From what I’ve been able to find, studies show that as much as 80% of cancer patients deal with some sort of cognitive impairment as a side effect of chemo treatments. Other emotional responses hit us in a unique way as individuals.  How we respond to the diagnosis, our support network, the financial burden, and so on all make an impact on the emotional trauma and where any one of those stressors would be bearable, the sum total sometimes just becomes overwhelming and the littlest thing can set us off into our own China syndrome.

Part of my journey into cancer has pointed me in directions I wouldn’t otherwise focus; It has certainly opened my eyes to a number of things I wouldn’t otherwise see; and it has forced me to once again look within myself to figure out who I am. If you’ve been following my writing, you may notice some recurring themes and I think it’s fair to say that the reason for that is because my own ‘big reveal’ isn’t something that has happened all at once. It’s much like a play where there are several scenes that develop the character and prepare us onlookers for the big dénouement at the end where we all figure it out at the same time. If you keep following my stirring narrative, you may get a front row seat to watching my ‘eureka moment’ as well.

I don’t think being introspective has to be an exercise of ego any more than it is one of mid-life crisis. It certainly can be and if it is, getting beyond the self-centered nature of who we can meander toward as American creatures of habit is probably a good exercise. But what I’m getting at is more of an honest inventory of looking ahead and making the most of our life experiences up to this point. My bald pate, even under the clever disguise of a hat, is a great big flag to other cancer survivors and no matter where I go in public these days, I can escape the scrutiny and I should add the vocal support of others. In getting a spare key this morning, the person who assisted me at Home Depot was 15 years cancer-free and she didn’t let me get away with that key until she encouraged me in my own struggle…and it is there where I have to begin passing it on to someone else who needs what I have.

Sunday night, I was finishing up a post when I got an instant message from someone I have known for many years, but hadn’t reconnected with since returning to Utah. He offered his well wishes that I had just gotten discharged from the hospital and feeling well and in the next sentence was nervously volunteering the information that he was dealing with a tumor and all the unknowns that go with it. Introspection just became active and rather than simply spouting a lot of things I thought he should do, I could just be and let him be as well and let him get the nerves and the fear out of his system. It’s what I needed when I found out what I was facing. I’m sure he’ll come through it just as well as I’ll come through my own struggle, but it showed me in no uncertain terms that looking inward is a good thing if it brings about a change for the better. I’m hoping that the transformation continues to be one from one of fear and pain to one of offering friendship and solace; from one of self-reliance to interdependence; and from being the one seemingly with all the answers to the one with always room to grow. Yeah, there’s a lot left to figure out as I’m sure there’ll be quite a few nights where 3:00 a.m. and sleep won’t be matching up in the coming months, but it’ll be those nights where I’m thinking about myself, but there won’t be any pity party  invitations sent out, but rather I’ll be trying to work out who the guy is inside who is actually the authentic one.

Be well, stay strong, and much love to you all!

Today’s music from Alanis Morisette – Underneath
Look at us break our bonds in this kitchen
Look at us rallying all our defenses
Look at us waging war in our bedroom
Look at us jumping ship in our dialogs


There is no difference in what we're doing in here
That doesn't show up as bigger symptoms out there
So why spend all our time in dressing our bandages
When we've the ultimate key to the cause right here
Our underneath

Look at us form our cliques in our sandbox
Look at us micro kids with both our hearts blocked
Look at us turn away from all the rough spots
Look at dictatorship on my own block

There is no difference in what we're doing in here
That doesn't show up as bigger symptoms out there
So why spend all our time in dressing our bandages
When we've the ultimate key to the cause right here
Our underneath

How I've spun my wheels with carts before my horse
When shine on the outside springs from the root
Spotlight on these seeds of simpler reasons
This core, born into form, starts in my living room

There is no difference in what we're doing in here
That doesn't show up as bigger symptoms out there
So why spend all our time in dressing our bandages
When we've the ultimate key to the cause right here
Our underneath