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Finding joy in life and death


Receiving a diagnosis of cancer – or any other major illness – is a life-changing event no matter what our age. I’ve been quiet on this blog for a while because 6-7 weeks ago, after a routine colonoscopy, I was diagnosed with colon cancer.

Coming events do sometimes cast their shadow, I believe, though of course we don’t always realize it at the time. But looking back, I realize that the first indication I had that something was amiss was two months ago when my wife, JoAnn, and I took part in a tour of historic homes in Denver.

I love walking. Heck, I was born in England and I’ve walked all my life. So it was a bit of a shock when after walking only a few blocks and visiting only two or three homes I realized that I was becoming exhausted while JoAnn was continuing on fresh as a daisy.

How could this be? As I say, I walk every day. JoAnn does come for walks with me sometimes but she doesn’t share nearly the same passion for walking that I do.

In any case, a routine colonoscopy a few weeks later did indeed show that I had cancer, and since that time I’ve felt as if I have been and indeed still am in the midst of a whirlwind.

I’m 81, and I’ve faced a few adversities in my life as we all have. But something about this particular challenge at this particular time has brought me closer than ever to two apparently contradictory experiences – the reality of joy and the reality of fear and death.

I was admitted to hospital early December 26, and the three-and-a half-hour surgery began at 7.30 that morning. I’ve been home for two weeks. It has been a challenging time, without question.

There are so many things I can’t do. I have felt weak as a kitten, and still do compared to my normal self. At times I feel as if don’t have a drop of energy. In other words my recovery has fluctuated, and it still does fluctuate.

I started walking outside for the first time five days ago, and this is a lifesaver. I can feel it nourishing me in a deep way. JoAnn bought a walker for me to use if I needed it, but I didn’t want to get involved with that. Whatever walking I’ve been able to do so far has been on my own two unaided feet.

I mentioned fear, and fear has definitely been emphasized in my experience these last few weeks. But what I want to share with you, and this comes from a very, very grateful heart, is that during these last several weeks I have also become increasingly conscious of something else that is present with us besides fear that we can depend upon implicitly.

It is a sense of deep, timeless peace that never fails and is untouched by any of the outer events of our lives. It is the source of joy and is the greatest gift that life offers to us.

And so, strange though it may sound, I have found a great blessing in the midst of my suffering as if a door is opening to a deeper connection with the love at the core of my being.

I hope all goes well for you and send you greetings and best wishes after what feels like a long absence. If there is anything you would like to say about any of the above I would love, really love, to hear from you.

PS The surgeon said the cancer was detected early. He doesn’t think I will need further treatment but he has referred me to an oncologist for her evaluation.

Picture credit: kavehfa


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