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Never Really Done with Cancer

I have written many cancerversary blogs over the past twelve years since I was diagnosed, and sometimes I feel as if I’ve processed everything there is to process about my cancer experience and said all there is to say, but of course that’s not true because we are never really done with cancer. For some it’s because of a terminal diagnosis, for others (like me) because our cancer keeps coming back, and for others the emotional scars remain even if the physical ones have healed. There are always reminders of what we have lost, or on-going issues that we have to deal with.

This cancerversary, my thoughts aren’t very organized, and I’m not quite sure how I feel. In the past I have felt celebratory, triumphant, hopeful and sometimes fearful, alone or frustrated. Today, I am feeling doubtful. Not alarmed or overly afraid, but uncertain. I feel like I’m at some sort of crossroads, and I’m not sure which direction I’m headed. It’s a bit disconcerting, but I also trust that it will all work out for the best. If F. Scott Fitzgerald was right that “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function,” then I’m in great shape.

The uncertainty permeates many different areas of my life, making it even more complicated. Some long-time friendships suddenly feel shaky. My professional life involves lots of work that I enjoy and do because it makes an impact, but it is all over the place pulling me in different directions and making it difficult to focus. My financial situation is actually better than it’s been in a few years, but my health is once again in question. And sadly, finances are always at the forefront of any health concern for me. I wish it weren’t that way, but sadly in this country, it is.

I am grateful that I have many mindfulness practices to keep me centered even in the midst of this doubt. I know that the present moment is all we have and I can keep bringing myself back to my own centeredness when things get too overwhelming. I can work and dream and have lunch with a friend and laugh at a television show and forget my worries. And I can do the next thing that is in front of me to do, as we all can. Sometimes it feels like all we can do.

This week I am having my first scan in the two years since my oncologist told me there were some tumors beginning to grow again in my abdomen. I have avoided scans for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that I didn’t have health insurance for the first time in my life last year. Mostly, though, I didn’t feel the need to obsessively watch what was going on in there. I knew that if and when they grew too much I would experience some problems, and that seems to be the case recently.

Another reason we never really leave cancer behind is that the more immersed we become in the cancer community, the more of its members we get to know and care about. I lost a member this year that I cared deeply about, even though I really only saw him in person twice – once very briefly. But we were kindred spirits – both desperately desiring to make something positive of our cancer experiences in order to serve others through theirs.

Gavin Robertson founded Cancer Cooperative http://www.cancercooperative.organd Coach Cancer to spread the power of coaching, which made such a difference for him, to as many people as he could. He made a significant impact on my life in a short period of time, and I know he had the same effect on others. He survived three bouts of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma before succumbing to the fourth in March. His fledgling organization may not survive beyond him, but it is the hope of those of us who knew and loved him, and appreciated his work, to raise enough money to present at least one annual scholarship for a cancer survivor to access coaching services. I can think of no better tribute to Gavin and his work than that.

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