Thursday, June 12, 2008

An Incredible Wake Up Call

I am so grateful for all of your emails and blog comments. Many times, the simplest message from someone I least expect to hear from can turn my day around. If you can imagine yourself in my shoes... Well that's a start right there. I never was able to do that.

I would hear that someone had cancer and I would do my best to imagine what it was like - usually how terrible it must be - and then I would turn my mind away from it because I didn't want to even imagine something like cancer coming in to my life. And, I thought I didn't need to worry about cancer. Other people get it. Like old people and sickly folks and those who don't take care of themselves. Now that I look back, I can see that my thoughts were actually quite arrogant. I thought it was a disease that showed up in other people. And I generally avoided talking to people with cancer. Too intense. I don't know you well enough. Or I discussed it from the perspective of a interested and thoughtful observer (Arrogant!!!).

Now I look at my life and the lives of other people with cancer and I am inspired. I saw Kris Karr on television today and suddenly remembered where I was emotionally and spiritually before this chemotherapy knocked me down as it has. I thought of my friend Bill, who recently died after a 16-month battle with brain cancer, and the incredible opportunities we took advantage of as we simply sat and talked about anything - the incredible camaraderie we felt always with the knowledge that the other had been branded with a diagnosis of cancer and faced complete uncertainty. I never thought having cancer would be like this. I never imagined my experience would be filled with so much joy and transformation. It never occurred to me that so much beauty, happiness and peacefulness could show up in my life and in my mind & my heart as a result of being told by a doctor, "Mr. Scholl, I'm sorry but you have Stage II Rectal Cancer." [I still can't believe it had to be in my rectum. Nobody wants to talk about their rectum!!!] Anyway...

I thought people with cancer trudged along, doing their best to stay hopeful - always afraid - with death keeping a close eye on them, watching them from a distance. I have no idea where I got these images and ideas from. Probably television and the sad but quiet stories I would hear when folks spoke of someone they knew who was diagnosed with cancer. Nothing from someone who was actually dealing with it. Again, I avoided those conversations like the plague. Check please!

I had no idea that shortly after diagnosis Daniela & I would be dying laughing, having a wonderful time being inspired by the countless gifts and new relationships that this diagnosis provides us. I never imagined our 10 year old doing a silly "cancer dance" that would have Daniela & me rolling with laughter and that I would be doing that same dance days later at my benefit. I had no idea that Daniela & I could have such a powerful relationship to cancer and that as a result of that relationship, so many new and wonderful people would come into our lives. And the more beauty we discover in this journey, the more beauty we experience in our relationships.

On a different note, I didn't think that one of my dearest friends would all but disappear from my life once I went public with my diagnosis. However, that was how I responded to someone dear to me once I learned of her diagnosis. Having responded that way myself allowed me to be compassionate (though I will confess I do feel a touch of resentment now and again) in response to my friends decision to "disappear." Yeah, perfection is indeed a wee bit far from my grasp.

And I'll tell you something else. There is no way I am going to simply go back to my "regular old life" once I am cancer-free. Healing myself of cancer has been a gift of immeasurable proportion that has lifted me up to heights I would never have imagined and I would be out of my mind not to do everything I can to share this gift with the world. Yet, however much I am able to appreciate this gift, I sure as hell ain't lookin' forward to anymore gifts of this type and I'm hoping none of you ever find it under your Christmas tree [non-Christians please refer to your traditional gift giving holidays.]

As I reflect on it right now, cancer is by no means the gift. Cancer created an opening and that opening allowed us to choose a perspective or a context that is incredibly empowering, thus bringing the extraordinary into our lives. Daniela has little card on top of one of our three refrigerators [Gerson's footprint] that says, "LIFE ISN'T ABOUT FINDING YOURSELF. LIFE IS ABOUT CREATING YOURSELF." When became aware that I had cancer, I heard a little voice say, "Okay, You have cancer. Now what are you going create with that?" And THAT inspires me.

Having to heal myself of cancer reminds me of how in the past I would push myself to do more and more with little rest. Finally I would begin to feel sick and stressed with hints of cold & flu showing up in my muscles and joints - the impact that being so driven had on my body. Eventually, I would give in and rest and soak myself in a nice hot tub. And as I relaxed and let go of my need to push myself to no end, I would hear this little voice in my head say to me, "Do I have to make you physically ill in order for you to slow you down and soak in a hot tub and experience some peacefulness?" Cancer has done the same for me in countless ways. An incredible wake up call.

There are still days where many tears are shed. Sometimes from me. Other times from someone telling me they love me. And it only makes the experience that much richer and felt that much deeper in my heart.


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