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Finding joy in life and death

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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

 

{ 107 comments… read them below or add one }

Helen January 24, 2014 at 4:41 am

Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. I think Cliffe summed up exactly what I wished to say. Everything we experience happens for a reason, for us to grow or to bring us closer to the truth. Peace and joy can sometimes feel challenging and elusive when faced with situations such as you are experiencing – but it feels like you have been able to face and transcend the fear that our world-based life brings and that as each day passes, peace and joy are once again present in your life. Much love and blessings to you Chris and profound thanks for all the wisdom and love your messages bring.

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Christopher Foster January 26, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Thank you Helen. You are absolutely right. I know that insofar as my own current experience is concerned, there is a great blessing in process of being “unpackaged” in me. Love to you too Helen.

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Evan Griffith January 24, 2014 at 10:30 pm

Christopher —

Isn’t it remarkable, this outpouring of affection for you?! You’ve touched us all so powerfully that each and all of us wish to impart healing energy back to you in some small proportion to what you’ve given us.

Seeing all these people respond from their hearts for you . . . isn’t it something beautiful to behold? Chris, you’ve sparked something deep and necessary in all who read you.

I’ll never forget when I first came across your site. There was something quiet and warm and inviting going on. I come back often to your words as one who comes in from the cold comes back to a fire.

Thank you for your wisdom — thank you for your vulnerability — thank you for being here and showing us who you are and who we are. Chris, may this healing propel you into more years that galvanize your soul — and ours.

With great affection,

Evan

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Christopher Foster January 26, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Thank you for sharing these thoughts, Evan. Yes. The depth of affection and appreciation I have felt emanating from so many in response to my article is both humbling and very uplifting both at the same time.

I think what it evokes in me most of all is a deep thankfulness, an affirmation let’s say that underneath the busyness of our lives there is a kindred spirit moving through all our lives that is not going to be defeated and whose name is love.

I’m very grateful for your words Evan and am proud to call you a friend. I am also, needless to say, very grateful for each contribution that has been made to this discussion.

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Barbara Zarrella January 27, 2014 at 11:50 am

Christopher… not a pleasant journey indeed, but the awareness that comes from the hearing of the diagnosis to the end of the treatment and beyond, is something special. Life becomes more precious, family and friends are more special, enjoyment from nature and the world around you is felt more deeply… it goes on and on. Keep putting one foot in front of the other as you move forward once more. My thoughts and prayers are with you… Peace!
Barbara

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Christopher Foster February 1, 2014 at 11:00 am

Barbara, thank you so much for your very helpful and kind comment. I’m sorry that somehow I missed responding to your comment earlier. But you are absolutely right about “keeping on putting one foot in front of the other.”

I hope all goes well and thank you again for your comment.

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thuantu February 4, 2014 at 4:20 am

We wish you a speedy recovery.

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Christopher Foster February 15, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Thank you Thuantu. It was very good to hear from you. So sorry for the delayed response.

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