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Posted Dec 11 2008 8:30pm
Many thanks to my precious sister, Taryn, and my dearest friends, Dani and Joe for posting in my absence. It is good to be back here ... writing again.

I am in a particularly good place now, but this has not always been so over the past weeks. I've been trying to decide how to step back a few weeks and honestly write about what I was feeling at the time and if I should even go there.

The answer to my own query is, of course, 'yes, you must go there' -- I must honestly tell what I was feeling and how I moved through it. Please do not mistake what I write in the present moment as indicative of how I am feeling now. Others who are now going through or will go through cancer treatment, God bless them, need to know that they are not alone in feeling despair, desperation, and grief.

Let me try to look back: I was doing very, very well after my first hospital stay. I felt good, was recovering in record time, and my attitude was good regarding the major life change of a permanent colostomy. No cheerleader jumps, mind you, but a very good attitude.

Then, in the span of a week, right around my birthday (which I feel is not a coincidence), I started to have pain and then my energy declined and in the end I was in the Emergency Room, in so much pain that I literally prayed to God: "Please, please let me die."

I was admitted to the hospital a second time, and the infection, which I was told beforehand could happen, had me laid pretty low. I cried every night in the hospital, and the prayers for death kept coming from me. Over the course of this second round of treatment, and the ultimate second surgery, I learned from my surgeon that this depressive state is very normal. Depression sets in when a major, major surgery occurs, and it is a part of the body's healing process. I did not know this going in, and it would have been helpful to know.

So, I dealt with an overwhelming depression. People who know me know that I'm not a depressed person. In fact, I'm pretty upbeat all the time. Doctors, friends, and acquaintances encouraged me to take antidepressants. I resisted because I had taken them during my divorce and did not like the effects when I came off of them. Besides, I had learned to meditate since all of that, and it takes the place of pills. Problem was, I couldn't even get myself to meditate.

When everything seemed to be closing in on me, and once returned from the second hospital stay, I had to stay in the bed 24 hours a day. Very difficult for an active person like me. However, I did not want to return for a third visit to the hospital. My veins couldn't take anymore and I couldn't take anymore. It was time to get it together.

I pulled out my trusty book, "No Death, No Fear" by Thich Nhat Hanh, knowing it would help to center me and to avoid taking a pill to make my mind feel better. Here is what I read:

"... [I]f you are committed to an idea about truth or to an idea about the conditions necessary for your happiness, be careful. The first Mindfulness Training is about freedom from views: Aware of the suffering created by fanaticism and intolerance, we are determined not to be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory or ideology ... [mindfulness] teachings are guiding means to help us learn to look deeply and to develop our understanding and compassion.... This is a practice to help free us from the tendency to be dogmatic. Our world suffers so much from dogmatic attitudes. The first mindfulness training is important to help us remain free people. Freedom is above all else freedom from our own notions or concepts. If we get caught in our notions and concepts, we can make ourselves suffer and we can also make those we love suffer." [Emphasis added.]
From "No Death, No Fear," by Thich Nhat Hanh, Riverhead Books - 2002

It didn't take much for me to realize that not only was my 'thinking and analyzing' about my situation causing me to suffer, it was also causing my family and friends to suffer. I may be willing to go through some suffering myself, but I would never inflict any self-imposed misery on my family and friends. At least I would not knowingly do this.

So, I requested prayer from my work prayer group, my meditation group, and several other sources. I also contacted a support group for ostomies (thank you, Anne and Anice). I also received letters of support from Rebecca, Jen, Melna, and dear Ginger. These things helped, and turning my mind into an ally instead of an enemy also helped. No pill can take the place of constructive self action.

Finally, I cried. I don't mean the crying I described at the hospital. I'm talking full-on sobbing, and I did sob for a long time. I never cried before, not once. No tears when I was diagnosed. No tears when I was afraid of procedures. No tears during chemo, radiation, surgery, or even the unwanted colostomy. You see, "I had to be strong." Something I imposed upon myself. But, what is strength, really?

What would happen if the mighty Oak tree or the frailest flower had to be so strong that it could never receive the rain that would cause its growth?

I now realize that my tears were the rain my body and spirit so desperately needed during a time when I was going through so very much. Once the tears flowed, I was able to water my own new seeds so that they could grow. My tears were the rain I needed for my own growth.

This is an honest account of what I was feeling only a few short weeks ago. I hope it is useful information for someone else. I also hope that whomever reads this sees that those low feelings are impermanent. Everything is impermanent. There is a comfort in that knowledge.

Let yours tears be rain.

"Every blade of grass has its angel
that bends over it and whispers, '
Grow, grow.'"
~The Talmud~
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