Thursday, August 24, 2006

Naming the Relationship with Cancer, Part II

Since my post about whether to view the cancer as enemy or friend, I've continued to ask the question of how to name the relationship, my relationship, with the cancer that grows within me, and the cancer left when my surgery concluded in May. The responses of those who wrote in to this blog, and those of friends who emailed or called, were helpful as I continue to struggle with question. I absolutely get the perspective of the cancer as alien, dangerous and life threatening. And I have to recognize that those are my cells inside, gone haywire indeed, but my cells nonetheless. I am coming to think that the fallacy of the question I asked last time - Enemy or Friend? - is the fallacy of thinking I have to choose.

Dualism, making things appear to be exact opposites, forcing a choice between this or that, either-or, is something we do a lot in our culture. The problem with setting up that dichotomy, I think, is that life is so much more complex than a series of opposites. So, perhaps, it is with cancer and how I view it. Yes, I want it out of my body, and yes, I want to live. And perhaps I have to assume my "spiritual warrior" self to mobilize my energy, my focus, and my immune system to give myself the best quality and quantity of life I can, even with this diagnosis.

I have a young friend who seems to have straddled the question of how to name the cancer without needing to articulate the question. Lexie is the eight year daughter of my good friend Alice, and Lexie has a brain tumor, diagnosed when she was an infant. She has had surgery, and she is currently undergoing chemotherapy, no small thing for someone so young. Lexie's Reiki therapist helped her envision her tumor and a way of getting it out of her body, and Lexie and Alice work with the image each night before bed. After Lexie agreed that I could tell her story here, she described for me her process: "First, I use lasers to blast out the cysts which are in my tumor, making it smaller, and like a donut, with a big hole in the tumor. When the donut is left, I and pac-men eat the donut together, and after a while, all that's left are crumbs. Then the crumbs are rolled into my blood, and they come out my body in my pee. At the end, I imagine a nice, healthy brain." Alice comments that "in this image, Lexie and the lasers and the pac men all work togehter to 'eat' the tumor, which implies she is somehow owning it and making it a part of her in a nonharmful way, much as we consume food and it becomes part of us. So, I think rather than just blasting it out, she takes responsibility for consuming it and digesting it and eliminating it on her own." I think Lexie has chosen a perfect way to straddle this duality, and I'm grateful to Lexie and Alice for sharing these images. For Lexie, the chemo is hard, the tumor is resistant, and still Lexie is doing remarkably well.

Visualizing the cancer in order to mobilize the body's defenses was a technique proposed a number of years ago. The first proponents I know of were the Simontons. Even though I didn't have cancer at the time, and didn't know anyone close to me with it, I remember reading about their success in getting people to image the cancer, and then to use their body's immune system to fight the cancer. In the process, patients were asked to image the cancer, and also to image their immune system fighting the cancer. As I recall their approach, there was something organic about their thinking because it was using the body's natural defenses. I also like the idea that healing doesn't come just from the chemotherapy, and the efforts of others in reducing the size of the tumor and helping the body to get rid of these dangerous, wayward cells, but that it comes with full cooperation and active participation of the person affected.

So, perhaps I'll work on a visualization that seems effective to me, and works with my body's natural methods of healing. And, I've begun a conversation with my friend who befriended her cancer, but I haven't yet asked her how that worked for her. Please respond, if you have thoughts about all of this.

1 comment:

Cathy Turrentine said...

Lynne - I once worked at a retreat center where the Simontons held retreats with cancer patients and retreats with therapists. I'd love to talk with you about this sometime.
Cathy Turrentine