Short: 12 of 15 radiation sessions & 16 of 21 days of chemo completed; so far, I haven’t noticed any side-effects. My blood counts have gone down a little, but not to dangerous levels. After seeing an orthopedic doctor, I’m pretty sure the pain in my leg is muscular, not metastatic cancer.
When I was biking to radiation this morning in the warm sunshine, a large hawk flew above me in the same direction for a while, then landed on a tree next to the bike path. As the mask strapped me in place before the radiation started, the hawk carried me above the table. I thought about how having radiation zap and kill some of my brain cells fits into my larger story of how healing works. And how does taking a chemo pill of poison every night fit?
The two years before this fall were remarkably and unexpectedly stable. All the scans of my brain in that time failed to show any cancerous growth. My family and I got into a pretty normal rhythm. I went to lots of track meets and concerts. I invested a lot into building a healing story program locally and nationally. I felt like I could build my relationships and focus on supporting others. I made plans into the future, trusting I’d be there.
This fall when I found out cancer had grown in my brain again, and as I prepared for another brain surgery, I entered another stage, like some previous ones, of releasing and dissolving. Like the other times I found out about cancer growing in my brain, I had to hold all the work I was doing lightly, knowing there was a good chance that I wouldn’t be able to complete what I started. I shifted back to considering what I needed to say in my close relationships, in case I didn’t have much time to say it. There have been profound gifts in these times of dissolving and releasing. Don’t most of us wish for the opportunity to release all our commitments, and only pick back up what is full of life? Don’t we long for something to create the opportunity to say what needs to be said in our closest relationships?
These dissolving times sometimes feel like the ground beneath me disappears, and I’m in a free fall. In my relationship with Jenny, when I’m unsettled, I still always feel the unconditional love that surrounds our relationship. Today on the radiation table, as I looked up at the fake stars on the ceiling, both the poison of chemo and the penetrating rays of radiation appeared to be instruments of grace in the dissolving phases, breaking apart my boundaries to let in more of the unconditional love that is holding me.
Most of us, most of the time, have the privilege to see ourselves as separate, independent individuals. Radiation and chemo can break holes in that illusion of separateness, and knock me onto my knees, in need of the generosity of both skilled care providers, and divine healing that I can’t control or predict. In these dissolving times, I feel urgency to see and honor the ways I exist because of and through others. I see how I can’t live outside of relationship.
After radiation this morning, I spent four hours in the wildlife refuge next to the Minnesota River, reflecting on the rhythm of building and dissolving. At the river, I sat for a long time next two swans, who were in a small area of open water that swans return to each winter. I tried to listen for how they find the open water in ice, and how I can find what is life-giving in times of chemo, radiation, and other dissolving forces.
My oncologist has said he might recommend a more hard core, in patient chemo, after my radiation is done. I have a MRI and appointment with my oncologist on Jan. 29 to talk about next steps. Whatever he recommends, I want to investigate with him and others, what fits with the natural cycle of building and dissolving.
Because I’m not feeling any side effects, this week’s stage feels surprisingly stable and smooth. I want to place my hope not just in this stage of stability lasting longer, but I want to learn to trust and identify with the overall cycle of building and dissolving, moving with them, allowing both to open me up to the larger love that contains them.
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