Cancer Chronicles, Part 6

Sometimes sadness is just sadness. Not a result of a story from the past or imaginings of the future, but because it is. For years I’ve practiced inquiry—questioning and exploring the different beliefs, body sensations, thoughts and feelings that pass through. And I’ve practiced noticing the trance of my childhood stories and when what’s happening is not what’s happening now but what happened in the past.

Recently, I’ve also practiced taking in the good of what's around me. Rewiring my brain, establishing new neural pathways. When the cancer in my breast was diagnosed, I was shocked by the visceral understanding that it could happen to me. Not just cancer but that suddenly, my life could turn. Despite my father’s death, my friend Lew’s death, my friend Linda’s (pictured) death, my beloved editor Peg’s death and the death of dozens of people I know, there was a separation between them and me. Between their deaths and me, mine. A belief that I was apart from. Special. But with a cancer diagnosis, there is no keeping death apart from. There is no amount of taking in the good that outweighs the direct experience of knowing that I will die if not now then someday. And so I realize now that taking in the good can also mean taking in the goodness of feeling anything, everything, even sadness.

No matter how the cancer diagnosis and treatment has opened me, no matter what it’s invited me to see, there have also been many losses. The loss of my life before the cancer. I will never go back to that life. It’s gone. The loss of a left breast that resembles the right breast, that hasn’t been operated on, that isn’t scarred. The loss of a pain-free breast (the scars from the surgery are itchy and painful and the oncologist says they might be that way for years). The loss of feeling special, invisible, in control of what happens. And the losses that are accruing now, all around us, in so many. When I allow the losses to be what they are without trying to antidote them with how much I still have or what I’ve gained, when I don’t try to think happy thoughts but just let the sadness be, it unfolds quietly, swiftly, grateful to be welcomed as and for itself.

To read more in the Cancer Chronicles, click here.

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