Saturday, November 12, 2011

Intergration, Not Military Mobilization

One ~ 

I definitely spoke too soon yesterday.  By evening I was in a state of complete disarray, and my most wonderful family sat with me at the kitchen table for hours, reviewing all possible options and consequences and associated feelings.

Two things in particular came up.  The Lovely Daughter asked me point-blank whether I trust my doctors, and I responded immediately with an emphatic "NO."

This has nothing whatever to do with the doctors. They are outstanding physicians at a university medical center; they are progressive, up-to-date, articulate, compassionate, and skilled educators.  

This has to do with events in my childhood. 

When I was seven and lying in a hospital bed with major injuries and begging to see my mother, I was told that she was asleep down the hall.  The truth, that she was dead, came out pretty quickly, but the impact of that outright lie on my subsequent management of my health care has been profound.  In both good and bad ways.  I look at a medical building and I am filled with suspicion and distrust.  Those feelings, along with my natural inclination to leave no stone unturned, have gotten me, and my children, excellent medical care and a lot of information and support.  They are also, in these weeks in which major decisions are required and little time is available, something of an obstruction.

Two ~

The second thing that came up for me, and I'm not sure that we even got to it in our hours of conversation last night, is that it is sinking in that this process that has already gone on for two months will not be complete until at least three, and quite possibly six, more months have passed.  You don 't just pop an implant in.  For me, the person whose blood pressure rises into the stratosphere at the sight of a hospital, there will be weekly visits and one or two or more surgeries after the big one before everything is complete.  All of which means that this is not just a burst of a crisis that will subside.  This is months of living my regular life with the need to plan and show up for medical care as a new constant.

And then the shadow of cancer will follow me all the days of my life.  As does the shadow of suicide.

Three ~

I know that this part will be controversial, and I welcome all comments and insights.  But here's where I am at the moment:  I hate the military terminology that we use with respect to disease and loss.  The fight battle victory defeat wage war terminology.  (All of those, I might add, are words that I use, because God forbid that I should ever view consistency as a virtue.)

But I just don't find it all that helpful to view my body, or my family, as a war zone.  I am going to have to live with the realities of cancer, just as we have to live with the realities of Josh's death.   So the word that I am beginning to play around with is the word integration.

I have no idea what that means, in a practical or physical or spiritual or intellectual sense.  I do know that, while there have definitely been times in the past few years in which I have felt as if I were fighting to survive, I have been better off, whatever that means, which I have been able to meld the complexity of the whole in some kind of metaphorical architecture that makes room for both the horrors and the goodness of Josh's death and, more importantly, life.

Integrate, it turns out, comes from Latin for to make whole.


  1. I NEVER use the word "fight" in conjunction with the word "cancer." Dealing with cancer is not a fight; cancer is a sneak attack, an invasion, a mugging. A fight, to me, indicates a fair playing field, possibly some rules and some kind of order. Cancer is not like that. So I like your word "integration."

    Words like "treatment" and "care" are positive ways to view what you are about to go through. People have spent years developing the methods with which to treat patients who have cancer, and to devise ways to care for you, through love, compassion and goodwill. I try to think of that love and intention for healing in each nurse, technician, and doctor's hands. Each person, each medication, and each procedure has at its root and reason for touching you, YOUR healing and well-being. I hope this viewpoint will bless you as you go for your surgery and as your body heals from it. Sending love to you!

  2. I haven't been keeping up. I am so sorry - I hadn't realised things had come to this. I can't DO anything. I can't really say anything that hasn't already been said much better than I could by people who have far more right to say it than I have. But I can pray, and I will. And I'll keep thinking of you, now that I know.

    Much love in the blogosphere


  3. I am quiet but I am still here. I am with my daughter for parents' weekend, praying from closer but still far away.

    I like what you say about the battle imagery. I respect that need/ desire to have your body be a place of peaceful intervention, of care. Yes, integration.

    Much love.

  4. It takes careful listening on the part of people to "hear" the language that works...for some it is the "fight"...for others it is visualizing the healthy cells dancing the cancer cells away. The "fighting...winning the competition" totally shuts me down.

    Here's the rub: most people really do not listen to what is being said...and do not pick up on the images we use.

    A simple example: I use gender neutral language for one notices.


  5. I too wonder about integration... and mostly am clueless.

    But about the war terminology.

    I lived in a war, indirectly fought in one. And my experience tells me that there is nothing good about war, that it is ugly and bitter and filled with loss. I am left determinedly pacifist though I watched the British Memorial Day from London on TV this morning partly because I too don't always view consistency as a virtue but mostly to honour the war dead, and to recognise the contributions of my own family who have answered the call to arms of the British Crown down the generations.

    But also for this reason. I learned in war's own dirty business that mixed in with the dross of ugliness and evil is courage and hope and faith and self sacrifice and love and joy and comradeship. Here, amongst individuals, life asserts itself even in the most unpromising and most unlikely of places. I have come to beleive that in part that goodness flourished because soldiers lived from day to day, accepting what each moment brought with more or less grace. They knew very well that life is a risky business and might just be snuffed out tomorrow.