Tuesday, May 13, 2014

An Intimate Relationship with Cancer

Are you prepared for cancer?  I wasn’t, neither was my husband or our kids.  Like the emergency evacuation plan in case of a house fire, preparation for cancer was not on my to-do list.  Why would cancer come knocking on my family’s door?  We ate healthy food, I managed an organic food coop, I studied nutrition, I cooked from scratch, my kids played soccer, my husband liked to work in the yard, we donated to charity. 
How did we become a target?
When a diagnosis of cancer is spoken, the world immediately slows down to the thickness of molasses and the mind desperately begins searching its memory banks looking for a connection, looking for an anchor, a file to make sense of what it has just heard.  I distinctly remember the moment, the doctor and the room became fuzzy and I retreated into my mind retracing every step and every decision that could have led us here.  

The mind wants to know why?  The mind wants an answer and there is no answer.  There is only the molasses that threatens to swallow you whole.
Everything that was our life no longer existed.   The door to our happiness with friends and family, dinner parties, soccer games, family outings, movie nights, birthday parties, and Saturday breakfasts were now a thing of the past.   The little things that make a family hum along were left behind as we were rudely shoved into a medical system we didn’t understand.   A week later, I dropped my husband, Mike, off at the cancer treatment center for his first infusion of chemo.  
And then cried in anguish for the loss of our life,for the terror in our daughters’ faces, for the overwhelming feeling of helplessness, for the possibility of losing the man I loved.        For all the time I had spent studying nutrition, for all the dinners I had made from scratch, for all the food wisdom I had acquired, I felt at a complete loss to help Mike.  In the evenings while he fitfully slept from the exhaustion of chemo, I poured over the internet looking for answers.  Well-meaning friends sent emails and made phone calls with cures – drink juiced asparagus, take him to Mexico, give him coffee enemas, try this machine that oxygenates the blood.    

I was desperate, grasping for solutions, feeling like I was in last place in a marathon event that would never end. 
Finally I stopped the frantic internet searching and settled into the only thing I was sure of – organic whole foods.  It was all I could do, it was what I knew.  So I cooked and Mike ate.  And within eight months his cancer was nowhere to be found.  

And again I cried, but this time from a deep exhaustion that flowed like the river Nile, a continous flow of release from the months of living on the edge of a cliff.
Was it just the organic whole foods?  I don’t believe so, but I do know it was a very important piece that allowed his body to overcome death.
Unfortunately I am now prepared for cancer; I can check that off the to-do list though I still do not have an emergency evacuation plan in case of fire.

"A Keeper's Promise" painting by Autumn Skye Morrison

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