Monday, July 30, 2007

Jeepers weepers

Since I was diagnosed with cancer, I have been blessed with lots of new communications challenges. With my husband, I've launched into a new phase of constant truth-telling, which is combined with lots of checking back to make sure he isn't overwhelmed with the task of listening to ever-emotional me. Even before cancer, I was a weeper. If I had been born in the time of the Pharoahs, I could have hired myself out for funerals. I'm told this was a real job that was valued by those whose tear ducts were challenged. Tear ducts for hire were just as good as producing a few of your own.

Other family members and friends have to go through their own sense of shock and dismay at the C word. Each person has their own giftedness and quirkiness (just like me) that they bring to the task of communicating with a newly diagnosed cancer patient. They respond variously with avoidance, advice, sympathy, empathy and acceptance. I have to learn myself how to accept the full range of responses, even though there are some I like better than others. Too much sympathy can make me feel angry and weak; too much advice can make me feel resentful. Too much conversation makes my head spin. You would think that everyone is in a "no-win" situation when it comes to communicating with Martha. But I am flabbergasted by the prevailing sense of love and support, and that is truly wonderful.

The third group of people I need to communicate with is the health care provider, from the oncologist, to the nurse, to the receptionist. Here is where my weeping qualities become problematic. I am a continuously expressive person living in a culture that does not generally value feeling and expression. For some people, tears call forth a sense of calamity, for others fear or contempt, for others, the need to fix. Here is my dilemma: I am a weeper and I can't change that. Pharmacologist Candace Pert says, in Molecules of Emotion, "I belive all emotions are healthy, because emotions are what united the mind and the body. Anger, fear, and sadness, the so-called negative emotions, are as healthy as peace, courage, and joy. To repress these emotions and not let them flow freely is to set up a dis-integrity in the system, causing it to act at cross-purposes rather than as a unified whole. The stress this creates, which takes the form of blockages and insufficient flow of peptide signals to maintain function at a cellular level, is what sets up the weakened conditions that can lead to disease. All honest emotions are positive emotions."

I am not criticizing my health care providers. In the midst of all the negativity in the press about the health care system, I have to say that the health care providers I have worked with have been wonderful.

The fourth level of communication is with oneself. If anyone is at home with Martha the weeper, I am. Fortunately, I have been keeping a journal since 1978. My journaling habit is a wonderful resource and offers a location for no-holds-barred communication of every type. It is one of the assets I bring to my illness. I also have ample communication with my imagination and can express it through visual work. This is another wonderful gift that has become clear to me through my illness. The painting on today's blog is by me.

The fifth level of communication is between the self and the universe. Here I am blessed too. Signals keep pouring in from all quarters, synchronistic communications with crows, fox, trees, wind, and the universal divine force, not to mention the prayers that many people say they are whispering on my behalf. In the midst of such trials, such personal challenge, I experience so many gifts! Jeepers weepers!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

When the shit hits the fan

Since my last entry here, my life has been turned upside down. It recently became necessary for me to have surgery, and the surgeons discovered a tricky cancer inside. They removed as much of it as possible. Now, however, I am faced with the necessity of chemotherapy, and my mind is suddenly a swirling brew of feelings, reactions, ideas, hopes and fears about the healing process.

Today I talked to a friend of mine who has had cancer 4 times. She is one of the most positive thinkers I have ever met. She emphasized the importance of getting exercise, continuing your normal life, laughter, and maintaining a good attitude.

As readers of this blog might have observed, I am very interested in sustainability issues. Everyone has read about global warming, some people are aware of the possibilities that peak oil could drastically change our lifestyles; and there are many other limiting, unbalanced areas of our lives that can make one feel very pessimistic. Many people are thinking about what we will all do when the shit hits the fan.

Then, bingo, life intervenes, and the shit indeed hits the fan, and suddenly you want to shut out all the news, all the popular culture, and you want to jettison all of the difficult or uncomfortable areas of your life. Suddenly, all I can think about is healing, about prayer, about poetry, about beauty and beautiful music, about gratitude, and all those other former preoccupations are burned off in a new resolve to live in a better, more pure, optimistic way.

What I am wondering is, if this new attitude I am bringing to life is the one I should have adopted all along? If we all prayed unceasingly, created beauty unceasingly, strove for compassion, what kind of world would we be creating? Change may be happening one person at a time, one cell at a time, it could even be starting with me.

All for now. Thanks to those of you who have told me you check in from time to time.