I’m feeling so angry this morning. I’ve been blessed by hearing from so many of you that you’ve screwed up your courage to go and have your innards looked at and delighted that you’ve had all clears. (Ok so I really think all those surgeons should be paying me a percentage for referrals, but the pay-off is the sense of well-being knowing that things are right.) So to hear last night from my precious friend that she got her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer on Tuesday, hit me right in the gut.
To try and explain it – I have to ask a rhetorical question. Did you ever have that sense of total recognition, when you met someone for the first time? Where your whole being ‘knows’ this person? There are no boundaries – just knowing? I’m not talking about falling in love, though I think we sometimes put it down to that. It’s more like – “Oh there you are. I missed you. I love seeing you. Now you are here. What are we going to do while we’re here together on the planet?”
It’s happened to me, maybe two or three times in my 50 years. Meeting Pat was one of these recognitions. N was another. (I’m using initials because for some people this is intensely private experience and my blabbing my processes shouldn’t impact on them.)
So I’m asking whether it’s really necessary that we do this cancer thing together also. She said it was hard to tell me because I have my own challenges, and thought I might think “what the f* – can’t you have your own unique experience?” It’s easier to deal with my own stuff – doing what comes next. It really is *no known expletive possible to describe* so much harder to deal with a diagnosis of someone you love.
Is this part of the purpose? I love that she went out and bought the chandelier, that she’s been eyeing for years, and rescued a teddy-bear from an uncaring retailer. I hate that her surgeon has gone off to a conference in the US, without referring her or her special family to other knowledgeable support. I hate that G, her hubby, is probably feeling as punchdrunk at Pat was 6 weeks ago, and that her young ‘uns must be terrified. I hate it so much that I want to pound walls and bitch-slap that wet-wipe of a surgeon (thanks for the image T!).
There’s no question that there is a huge spiritual journey in this. I’ve been wondering how to write about a strange experience I had over the weekend. Just in case I’m giving the impression of a lazy, light-hearted lady of leisure. I woke up at about 3am, and got up to sit in the lounge and drink some filtered, room temperature water (1,5 litres a day recommended). As I sat there in the dark, and heavy silence, I suddenly felt very tiny and insignificant – microscopic – compared to the size of whatever it was that surrounded me.
This is an unusual experience for me. Even though I know intellectually that I’m small in stature – I’ve never felt that way – might be the Leo bit of my Leo/Virgo cusp birthday! Talking to a hall full of angry union members doesn’t faze me. I reckon that after you’ve faced a class of angry 16-19 year olds who were in Grade 9 for the third time – you can face anything.
Whether what happened next was a drug-reaction, or a sign of the drugs clearing to show reality – I don’t know. I had the sense of looking down a long tunnel (I know, I know, you’re thinking of all those stories of near death experiences – well maybe – though I didn’t feel near-dead, I still don’t feel like a sick person) which was kind of inviting though mysterious – not scary. I thought about it a bit and then decided that I couldn’t make sense of it – so I went back to bed and slept like a log.
As I’d been sitting there before this, I’d been thinking of climate change, the COP conference, the economic meltdown, how a friend lives with chronic asthma knowing in the back of her mind that cause of death might be drowning in the carbon di oxide that she can’t exhale, and the account by Steve Job’s sister of his last day and last words, “Oh Wow! Oh Wow! Oh Wow!” (Read her story at http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/tech/news/hardware/Steve-Jobs-sister-on-lessons-from-her-brothers-life/articleshow/10565543.cms). So you could argue that I’d kind of set myself up – thinking about global and personal extinction – and all the weird ideas I’ve explored in my tinker’s life. (This is leading me to ask questions about whether philosophically I’m a physicalist or a dualist in terms of knowing – see Philosophy Bites podcast –
Frank Jackson is responsible for one of the most famous thought experiments in the philosophy of mind, one that was intended to show that qualia, the ‘feely’ aspects of our exprience can’t be explained by physicalism. This is sometimes known as The Knowledge Argument. http://philosophybites.com/2011/08/frank-jackson-on-what-mary-knew.html
I have to say that I disagree with Frank, and I do think that there are “more things in heaven and earth…than are dreamed of in our philosophy” (to misquote Hamlet), but it’s quite possible that I’ve missed his point. It makes me feel better to ‘know’ that there are bigger energies and purposes than I can conceive of, and that is what is heartening me in this journey that N and I seem to have decided to take together.
From the Sublime to the Gorblimey – as my mum would say, my latest side-effect is gas of note. To the extent that I’ve asked Pat for a pair of holsters for Christmas, so I can carry around a set of dueling cannisters of air freshener. It wasn’t the asparagus you brought yesterday, Ruth – thanks – we haven’t had that yet!
Now to juice – I’m going to try pineapple and beetroot this morning.