Thursday, March 31, 2011

Given Life Again

Yesterday's post felt incomplete, but I wanted to put something on this site. Today's reading had given me an opportunity to finish what I began!

Will you not give us life again, that your people may rejoice in you?
Psalm 85:6

            During the meeting with my gynecologic oncologist that focused on the chemotherapy regimen he was recommending, he told me, “This isn’t your whole life. It’s just going to feel that way.” I also remember the session with him in which I said that the chemo regimen was beginning to feel routine. This pleased him; apparently, it was a point he wanted all his patients to arrive at, some integration of treatment with one’s life.
He was also happy, however, about three-and-a-half years after I’d finished treatment when I said, “I feel as if I’m getting my life back.” “That’s where we’ve all wanted to be, you especially,” he told me.
For me, getting my life back meant I wasn’t afraid to look ahead further than the next doctor’s appointment. I could begin to make plans, with just a whisper—rather than a roar— in my head of “What if the cancer comes back?” I felt well; I took on some long-range commitments. When asked to teach at church (we plan the year in advance), I no longer responded, “But what if I’m in treatment?” I took on a part-time job.
The psalmist says the point of getting life again is to rejoice in God. I didn’t exactly act the part of an ingrate before my cancer, and I don’t walk around all day shouting hosannas now. For me, rejoicing is made up of noticing the little stuff—I just looked up from the computer in time to see a cardinal swoop by, a bright spot on a gray day. I consciously thank God at each meal, not in the perfunctory way I had before, but for each component on my plate, and the growers and producers. (This is really easy to do once the farmers’ market opens—I’ve been buying fresh produce from some of the growers for years.)
After cancer, some people are eager to get back to their old life, old ways of doing things. I’m not here to fault anyone’s coping mechanisms, but I wonder if that’s the most effective way to spend our renewed lifespans. I jettisoned some activities that had become burdensome, and facilitated the revival of my writing group, which had died of apathy. Hosting the group in my home has been a source of great joy (it also helps me clean once in a while!).
Each of us must find our own way after treatment. But for all of us, rejoicing in God, in whatever form that takes, must be a regular part of our maintenance.

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