Sunday, December 2, 2012

Die while you are alive

On the acupuncture table
"Die while you are alive and be absolutely dead, then do whatever you want." -Zen Master Bunan
A thought occurred to me a while ago, and it has reappeared. It's speculation - pure hell for the question mark cancer patient - but there it is. I thought: If I had been sexually active recently, chances are I would not be in the situation I am in. This is because penetrative sex would have been painful, and I would have gone to a doctor, and could have discovered the cancer at a much earlier stage. Which would put me, now, in a much less smelly kettle of fish.

Obviously, it does not help to think in this way. Still, sometimes I can't resist it. It might also be true that if I had never done X, or visited Y, I never would have gotten cancer at all. But then, there is how it actually happened. That's all there really is. Part of me cannot fully get that.

Based on past experience, I expect many will not be able to understand the rest of this post. 

My friend Mike asked me, Do you think it's easier to go through this because on some level you actually want to die? This was a brilliant question.

Angel in Mexico City
From the time I was about ten years old to my mid-twenties, I contemplated suicide during periods of severe depression. That time also roughly corresponds to my drug taking AKA self-medicating years. Until recently the depression I was so prone to had been slowly weakening. It was getting milder and lasting for shorter and shorter lengths of time, sometimes only a few hours. Then when I was about 47, and by some measures happier than ever before, it kicked in again with a vengeance. It was surprising. I could not find a psychological cause that made sense. I figured the origin was either karmic or hormonal (or both!) Long story short, a wise nurse practitioner suggested a low dosage of fluoxetine (AKA Prozac) which apparently helps with several perimenopausal problems including mood swings. And from the first day I took it, those troubles were over. (I have since stopped taking it and am not depressed anymore, probably thanks to medical menopause.)

Going back to Mike's question: Is it easier to go through this because I actually want to die (or at least because I have spent a fair amount of time wanting to die?) Probably. And in ways not related to depression and suicide, I have somehow kept life at arm's length, ready to let it go. I have been jaded in some way, unable to fully embrace life. And I always thought of my resistance to life - my taking or leaving of life - again, probably not consciously, as being my decision. But now the part about having a choice has been removed, because life, now, is obviously in charge, not me. That has made me love and appreciate it in a way that before was mostly theoretical.

Here's my email version of a "disease elevator speech". Everyone should have one! I composed it yesterday when asked about my health by our MBSR venue landlady (Bill and I are offering a course in February). A year ago I had canceled my reservation with her, told her I had Stage 4b cancer.
Currently I am feeling very healthy. The original cancer that I had - and there was a lot of it - is totally gone. I still have stage 4 cancer (metastases in my lungs) which may end up killing me (or not!) but I do not have any symptoms now, just recovering from last round of chemo (which, of course, didn't work!) So again I don't know how long I have to live - but much of the time that helps me enjoy my life, take good care of myself, and love people more, so it's all right. 
I think it's a pretty good summary, although maybe a bit too rosy? For instance, it doesn't always help me enjoy my life, it sometimes fills me with sadness and confusion.

There's only one thing on my bucket list: I want to finish this memoir as a book.

1 comment:

  1. I deeply appreciate that you are sharing your emotions and thoughts so clearly, and with such determination. You inspire me --- now, what I do or don't do with that inspiration is totally on me, to be sure, but if there's credit to be given, it'll go to you.