Since the cancer first hit a couple of years ago, or three? Hard to believe… Since the cancer hit there have been several periods where the efforts to rid the body of the disease have dangled it on the edge of expiring, the edge of death, only to be given a chance to try again. And again. And again. Several times on this road I have pondered “Why am I staying?”
What if we just let it ride? There were days on end that I thought if this is what staying is going to be, then no thank you, please. Please. One time I laughed aloud as I was walking looking around the street, the people, the city, the time, the activity so constant… and I felt that the body expiring would be like going home from school early. I mean, ask anyone over 70, life doesn’t get easier, though it may stay beautiful depending on one’s mind, outlook, understanding. (Bless Mick & Keith, Stevie Nicks, and Jimmy & Rosalyn Carter). I’d get to skip all that. The thing is the decline of the body, if I stopped treatment, let the cancer run its course, would not be pretty I imagine. That’s the hard part, the painful losing of energy and ability gradually that I have felt, and that I imagine what the final stages may be. I am watching each system in the body gradually misfire, at times the lungs and gut more-so, as well as tissue growth and regeneration.
It’s this decline and increased physical limitation that is hard to endure, not the parting of the body. I know being is not of the body, and am at peace with the change. Though of course the mind loves to be, and being is now experienced through this body and heart/mind. It’s a beautiful place for all its craziness.
[May 9 original draft] I found out the tumor markers numbers are climbing, they go up and down often enough; though this time was significant enough to warrant an increase in dosage of treatment, which will make already challenging days more-so. In the last few days I have run into people on the street who ask how I am, and say some folks ask how I am, that maybe I was clear since I am teaching weekly discussion groups at home and such. So perhaps that’s a partial motivation for this personal update. Hard to say what the recent climb means really until we see a trend of climbing or declining. We have been able to manage it since last July. Regardless the dosage will increase and the cycles will be more challenging. Hopefully we can reverse it again. This could go on for a couple or more years. Or more. Or less. Or maybe, the little bugger will tire out for good, though the statistics don’t favor that option. We’re working on it from many fronts while at the same time moving with the stream as it is as best we can.
health, cancer update June 10:
The cancer went into the brain, and I had to get three rounds of radiation treatment… ride the power and order of Agni, Fire to keep the body in its order of continuing. I had three treatment last treatment today. Now we watch and see. Certainly challenging, though times are good and my spirits are high, and the richness of the community around study and teaching defies language…
So as I lay to sleep, the question again came: Why am I staying? Day to day I watch the body’s systems misfire, bowels malfunctioning for days, winded,digestion off, appetite erratic, constant fatigue and more; it’s like living in a dilapidated shack with holes in the roof and it rains at night you get up with it all crumbling around you and you wonder “Why I am still living here? Why don’t I move?”
Or maybe it’s really “Can I go now”? Before it gets really gnarly again? Please? The mind seems to entertain all sides; generally uncertain as to what is to be done now that known patterns of work and so on are not an option. Free will which option to land on, and based on discernment, not impulse.
In other places today, or other times, I would not have survived that first bout in 2010, and didn’t think I would. It has taken so much effort from so many to keep this body going. I am so aware that it is by the kindness of so many, and grace that I am still here. All the nurses, the doctors, the insurance company, friends, family, extended community, government services… It’s amazing. And is that not always the case? That we are able to be here and continue and do things by the grace and work of so many? Good to have the mind contemplate that daily. I am so conscious of all the prayers, love and care that help hold me up. So why all this? Is it time? When is it time?
It’s interesting, cuz it implies I think I have a choice; which those of you who have heard me talk of free will, choice, duty (dharma), and laws not under my control (karma), have perhaps some sense of the strangeness of the idea of choice in this area. Understanding ourselves within the order that is Consciousness-Nature, Isvara, means we see a more intricate web of cause and effect, seen and unseen causes, know and unknown causes – but always a cause; and a result subject to order and laws I move within, and move within me, and within this body, idam sariram… Laws beyond my control. Is it free will to swim upstream?
When we know what is the right thing to do, when we know what is to be done, there is rarely really a choice. Whether running a red light, or going with your gut, we know what is right; what is to be done. And we feel it when we do what is not to be done, consciously or no. Interestingly, we exercise choice when not doing what is to be done, driven by conscious desire, or unconscious filtering.
This is called dharma in the vedic teachings, a combination of what American culture might call duty, appropriateness, responsibility, and universal values. Dharma is a term describing core of values that drive our actions, our choices. Dharma is by definition moving within the order and laws of Consciousness-Nature, with what is, and so it moves us closer to our own essential nature, not an outside imposition, nor a culturally specific term, value or belief. Adharma, not-dharma or against dharma, is moving against that order; driven not by seeing what is but rather by a projection of what we want or don’t want from the world.
All this to say behind my personal feeling of “Why am I staying?” where I land is “because that is what is to be done.” This body, this life given is to be cared for as best we can. I’ve asked the doctor about making the final days as comfortable as we can, and of course they all want that. He says we’re not there yet. I know it could hit fast.
One time when I was really, almost, sure this was it I was struck with a smile and thought that I’d know when it was time, and the body would know. So I need not fret about it now. Strange how tears of laughter come in those times. Laughing at the mind and where it will go.
So I had more days in store after all, once again we brought the body back. Days to do what is to be done, whatever that may be. Knowing myself within this larger order, dharma is seeking to respond to what the stream brings us, rather than seeking the world to bring what we want. An din receiving what the stream brings, dharma, moving with what is, with Isvara, is being driven by the desire to do the best we can in that response, to learn and grow as best we can. Interestingly what surfaced is more study, more teaching of self-knowledge, and more music. So…
And that order, that stream of endless cause and effect brings a lot of love and caring when all else falls away. And our love and caring is always with the current, with the order and does much for our growth, emotionally maturity and understanding of of what is true in the self, in “me.”
Renee Heidtman comes to mind now, a friend who just passed recently, she too was dealing with cancer in her body. I knew her after my body too got sick, and we spoke and walked often. She would stay on the phone with me in 2011 when I was in Indiana for two rounds of hi-dose chemo and bone marrow transplant. Our time was unique for me. We could just sit or walk and know so much in just being there for each other, to hold each other. She gave so much, to each day, to celebration, to caring for others. There are no words to contain all that. She was full of what is to be done each day, and it seemed to always include love and care. At first of course sadness comes in her passing, wanting to see her one more time. And another recent passing from cancer, Tina Chen, a friend of friends, also comes to mind, how this touches so many, every day.
Do we feel sad for the one passing or for our loss? I sat with the thought of her, of her being here, of her passing, of our time and talks of living and when we would not. For a long time I evoked her dialog. (I was going to write a remembrance of her, but it’s coming now).
A few days after she passed, she came to mind, felt; and I felt my body relax into an acceptance, cuz I know if she went it was time. And I trust that she knew that too.
I suppose I also want to tell the people who will stay when I go to know it was the time, just because it is. I wish I could say not to be sad to those who might; but really it’s not that we should expect there not to be sadness, rather allow sadness to do its cycle, receiving it as human experience, without it defining our own full sense of self, of being alive and full. We learn to allow the heart/mind to go through what it needs to go through paired with the knowledge, the viveka or discernment, to know what is not me and what is truly enduring me. (My other writings go into all this stuff and the audio from the weekly classes). The sadness I have in leaving you, possibly sooner than later, and leaving here, comes to my heart/mind but metabolizes more fluidly these days into the comfort of the knowledge of being. I will not be worse off, nor will I be able to be sad at a loss. Know me to be reabsorbed into the larger stream in which we all move. The knowledge unfolded in the Bhagavad Gita revealing there is no true thing lost, no real loss to grieve is not fancy or belief; but a rational result of inquiry into the direct experience of being.
Desire to inquire.
We have now, and that is so cherished. Hope my now meets yours shortly. It’s not that I will miss you as much as I want to envelop myself fully in every moment I can with you. I love to be here.
We stay until we don’t. That’s why we stay. Cuz we’re here today. And there are things to be done today; dharmic loving caring things.
So I stay.
Thank you for sharing this road.