The Wake-Up Call

Tonight I went to the last formal meeting of my post-treatment cancer support group. Unfortunately in our case, the term “post-treatment” is a misnomer. Two of our seven members have been re-diagnosed during our year together and one woman died. Tonight I learned that a third member of our group just found out that her cancer had returned and is inoperable.

I walked into tonight’s meeting full of my own concerns about failing memory, post-cancer loss of identity, the lack of compelling passion in my life, how sick I am of taking pills and all my health regimens. I came in tonight aware of slipping back into busyness and too many lists. My life running me instead of me enjoying my life. This week, I’ve been going down old neural pathways I thought I’d left behind.

When I heard the news, I was immediately jolted out of this preoccupation with myself. My laundry list of concerns instantly seemed petty and insignificant. Someone I cared about was sick and scared and facing cancer again. And I knew damn well that with a slightly different roll of the dice, it could have been me. All of us sitting in that room knew it—it could have been us, it could be us tomorrow. I could be thrown back into the underworld, all of us could, just like that.

In the face of that reality, and in response to the news, my energy immediately dropped from my head, where a little man with a whip had been keeping me on task, into my body, my belly and my heart. I sat inside my breath, grateful to be alive, grateful to be cancer-free (for now, as far as I know), grateful for my life and this moment to live it. I sat there in our circle with compassion for my friend who has left the ranks of the healthy. Again. And for all of us who have crossed over before, in our tender vulnerability.

It’s such a thin line we walk, all of us walk, largely oblivious to our fragility. But tonight I am sitting with it. It makes each moment precious.

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