On our last visit with our regular oncologist, a substitute doctor filled in for most of the appointment. As we discussed future treatment options, she shared a known-but-nonetheless-startling clarification that hadn’t yet been so clearly defined to us. she shared that the upcoming CT/PET scan that I was to undergo would finally indicate whether my cancer was curable or not. Essentially, if it had spread further, beyond the lymph nodes, the cancer would be considered incurable because at that point, it could pop up anywhere and chemo, radiation, surgery wouldn’t be able to catch up to it and predict what next. It was quite an awakening.
It was also revealing to me about our human nature – well, at least mine and my loved ones. Although what she said was not exactly headline news, we had already created one version of our future – based on the best possible scenario: my cancer being stage 2 and one year of treatment would highly likely cure me.
How often do we create a story about ourselves and live in it as if that is the ultimate reality? What the doctor simply and straightforwardly revealed was just another story which to be sure was just as likely. Ever since, Håkan and I in our separate heads were living that new story as well as our more favourable version.
That got me thinking more about labelling. We label ourselves all the time – I’m a procrastinator, I’m lazy, I’m overweight, I’m a loser, and so on. These labels are self-limiting. Perhaps these labels were given to us in our childhood by adults.
Of course, we have good labels as well – I’m smart, I’m a visionary, I’m a leader, I’m a doer… These self-expanding labels are supportive of growth. I’ve come across both versions for myself as well as with friends and clients.
So we live in the story with labels that are self-limiting and also self-expanding. The good news is this: we can change our self-limiting labels. We don’t have to live with these that were given by others who didn’t know any better. We don’t need to live their stories of ourselves, now as adults.
Am I still a procrastinator? The first question to ask is, “Am I – always? “ “When was I not procrastinating?” Our answers should help guide us to revise this label and also allow us ways to not procrastinate. There would have been elements that supported us to get things done in a timely manner. Next time, we could say, “I’m an ‘on-timer’ and I have tools to help me.”
Back to our vastly different stories: On Feb 24, I had a CT/PET scan and the result came out a few days after and it turns out… ready? My cancer is indeed curable. By the time our doctor called to share the good news, I was a bit taken aback and I didn’t feel the sheer happiness one might have expected in this situation. I thought about my reaction afterwards. The alternate worst-case scenario story had already taken root. And often we don’t have an alternate better story that we offer ourselves. If we do, we quickly disregard it because we have our self-limiting labels about ourselves.
With a plethora of unpleasant side effects to the chemo treatment showing up one after another, it did occur to me that the incurable scenario may give me an out from these invasive methods of treating cancer, as irresponsible as it may sound to my loved ones. Startling, eh? The strong Linda looking for a way out.
Speaking of my loved ones, I’ve emphatically reconnected with my story of returning to health and living a long ‘happily-ever-after’ story to Håkan’s joy and happiness at the news.
So I am curable. No guarantees, yet the odds are good. With a bit of adjustment to my chemo dosage to help ease the side effects, we’ll proceed with chemo #3 today. The steroids that I take from one day before chemos almost certainly bring me sleepless nights. So here I am, at 3 am typing this – way too early and with a feeling of dread for the day and days following.
So I remain sitting in front of the screen counting my blessings to replace the dread:
My loved ones: you specifically, joining my journey and supporting me and cheering me on.
My meditation practice: which has given me equanimity that I couldn’t have afforded otherwise during this time. Staying true to all things, seeing things as they are, understanding the impermanence of all things, and being present and enjoying the moments.
My appetite: other than the first week, I want to eat – often food that I wouldn’t normally crave. Towards the end of the chemo cycle, I’m eating just as much and that helps me back to my normal weight.
Daily walks: my favourite activity that helps me decompress, be in the fresh air, and unite with nature, and be active.
My clients: the best clients one can ever have, so accommodating and encouraging. They keep me in ‘normal’ life and help me feel useful – this cannot be underestimated in a time like this.
My empathetic oncologist: he could choose to be a technician without empathy. His humanistic and caring heart makes a world of difference.
All the medical support team: their earnest intent to help! I can feel their care right across the plexiglass. Bless them.
And so much more …
Despite some misguided individuals in this world, we are all intrinsically connected, not only with other human beings but with all things in nature. I’m blessed with being a part of it all. With this privilege, I am responsible for doing my part to be a positive force.
Still dark outside the window, but the light is just behind.
Much love! ❤️