I don’t feel much like posting today. It’s a gloomy, drizzly day in the desert. Mostly I’m dealing with the news this week that my oncologist believes my tumor is showing signs of growth, and we’re looking at a change of treatment. She wants me to get a second opinion from a specialist at UCLA. As the day for that appointment draws closer, a handful of CDs with all my MRIs in a shoulder bag ready to take with me, I feel a little apprehensive. I continue being positive, but I’m not as strong as I’d like to feel.
With cancer, you don’t just find out who your friends are. You discover what a friend is. One of our neighbors—the one who drove me, the car, and dog Zoe off the mountain when my wife Lynda broke her arm last month—has offered to take us to UCLA, a round trip of 250 miles. Meanwhile, my next-door neighbor Cory was offering the same, telling me to “rest assured” that he’d find a driver for us “by hook or crook.” I cannot tell you the relief both of them were able to give me with that simple commitment to drop everything and help us.
|New wall mural in town
Cory is also a church-going man who practices his faith in ways that put my meager spirituality to shame. A year ago, when I was in the hospital’s intensive care, he got past the family-only visitors requirement by bringing along his pastor, who wouldn’t of course be turned away.
Over the past year, I’ve shifted my opinions about the power of prayer. I remain unconvinced that entreaties to the God one believes in either can or should alter the Will of the Almighty, but listening to Cory’s and his pastor’s thoughtful prayers over me have softened my heart. Cory has a men’s prayer breakfast at a local Denny’s once a month, and I have often gone with him. There, a dozen or more men from his church regularly gather for a homily and sometimes prayers for individuals dealing with family problems, illness, and other difficulties.
It’s a good-humored, congenial bunch, young and old, employed and retired, with life experiences that would fill a phonebook. I was included among those they prayed over on Saturday, and I could feel the honest warmth of their collective concern. You can’t be unmoved by something like that. Not me, anyway.
|Me talking, as usual; Faith listening
Also deserving of mention here is my old college friend, Steve, now retired and living in Palm Springs, who was my personal chauffeur last week, getting me to/from the Cancer Center and my other doctors (and dentist; happy to report I have my front tooth again). Also helping to keep me fed and entertained was another family friend, Faith, who flew out from New York for 10 days, driving for Lynda and lightening the mood with her wit and laughter. Tears were shed when we finally had to say goodbye.
Pema Chödrön often speaks of our continuing, and futile, efforts to get solid ground beneath our feet, only to have it give way time after time, like having a rug pulled from under us. This new uncertainty about my cancer treatment has followed many months of “progress,” and I’d become trusting and mostly confident that I could look forward to an indefinite period of more or less smooth sailing.
These setbacks of unsatisfactory test results and broken limbs, and relying on friends have forced me to an awareness of how tentative and temporary everything always is, and I learn again to surrender to my vulnerability. The choice is to (a) be discouraged or (b) to cherish the best moments of each day as fleeting as they may be. Well, to heck with (a); I plan to take each of those (b) moments I’ve got coming to me.
And so life goes on.
I’m closing again with a video. This one called “Blessed Quietness,” by jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut.
Previously: Quoth the raven