This past Friday Noa and I decided to try something new and went to a sound bath and art therapy evening hosted by two Reiki practitioners. We were there with two other women plus the two women leading the event. We spent the first twenty minutes or so painting designs on each other's faces, arms and hands and then sat quietly in meditation while listening to the sounds of the crystal singing bowls. The sounds were soothing in their harmonies and we left feeling relaxed and more present in our bodies.
On the way home I said to Noa "if that heals my cancer I'll be totally pissed."
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"After everything I've had to endure over the last four years and it all comes down to spending an hour listening to singing bowls? Yeah, I'll be pissed."
We laughed about the irony of that happening, but it got me thinking. Maybe the healing they were talking about wasn't physical. Maybe it was mental and emotional. We had fun painting silly moustaches on each other and after more than two years of social distancing, it was nice to put a hand on someone else's shoulder or hold their hand while painting it. It allowed us to forget about all the craziness happening in the world for a little while, and we left feeling a little bit lighter.
I think that's the secret I've found as I walk this road with cancer, too. Maybe it's not physical healing that I need as much as emotional and spiritual. At first, it was all about getting better physically, desperately looking for the one thing that would cure me, whatever it may be. But after four and a half years of walking along this rocky path, it's no longer about that. I'm far more interested in fully embracing life while I'm here than worrying about the possibility of it being over sooner than I assumed.
I get contacted regularly by people who have seen Dosed2 and are curious about one thing or another, lately it's been about how much cannabis I took and want to. know the details so they can hopefully heal their cancer or someone close to them. I get that feeling of fear and desperation, but I've had something niggling at me in the back of my brain for the last week or two because something hasn't been feeling quite right, and I think I know now what it is. I want to tell everyone I still have cancer, but I feel like I've already beaten it because I'm living with it instead of fighting against it. Maybe the most important thing isn't what to do to not be sick and live longer, but rather what to do to live a full life while you're here, whether you have cancer or not. We're all going to die someday and probably sooner than you hope. Even if it comes when you're 99 1/2 you'll probably say "What? Already?"
First I had to accept the fact that I'm probably going to die, and that wasn't easy. It took a few mushroom trips and lots of therapy. But I can honestly say that I'm not afraid of that anymore. I'm even somewhat curious about what's next, but not in a hurry to find out.
Once the black cloud of cancer wasn't looming over me and around me every day I just wanted to be able to live my life and enjoy it as much as possible. I found that to do that there was a lot of stuff that I had to work through. Things that weren't feeling so good inside. I had to dig in and face my fears and most of all spend the time to figure out who I was. Someone said recently that they curate who they are to suit the people they're with, and I think that's a pretty accurate description of how I was living my life too. I tried to be everything to everybody, which left me with nothing. No idea who I was without all of those labels and masks, and it was exhausting. I was disconnected from any real and true emotions because they were just too big and scary to face.
Thanks to therapy I've been able to face them and work through a lot of things that were holding me back. I've figured out who I am and that I belong and have a right to be here exactly as I am. I walk around in a five-foot-three-inch frame but I feel ten feet tall. And most amazingly of all, I feel closer to the people around me. I was afraid of losing connection if I showed people the real me, but the opposite has been true - those connections are deeper and stronger than ever.
So yeah, I still take chemo and pay attention to how I'm feeling, and what I'm eating and make sure I get fresh air and exercise every day and try to avoid stress, but that's the only space cancer occupies in my life. The thing that's become most important is to make sure I'm being authentic and true to me. I do that by spending time meditating, reading and regularly checking in with my emotions, and when something doesn't feel right I dig in to figure it out instead of stuffing it down and ignoring it.
Whenever we go camping we borrow our friends' camping membership. It allows us to camp at any of this particular organization's campgrounds for free, the only catch is that I have to pretend I'm her when we check in. There were a few times this summer when we were going to check into a new campground and I had to ask Glenn "Wait, who am I today?" "Am I Laurie or am I Val?" because I suffer from a bad case of chemo brain and when too much is happening at once I get overwhelmed and can't keep up. I'm also a little bit afraid of being caught and getting into trouble, but it seems as though they really couldn't care less. I guess I'm not such a badass after all.
Anyway, all that to say that it was exhausting pretending to be someone else. It's much easier just to be me.
I do think that's the key to everything. Just be who you are. Don't worry about what everyone else thinks. Sort through all of your stuff in order to find authenticity and true connection with the people around you. Then worry about physical healing. It may or may not ever happen, that's just the reality of life. But if physical healing doesn't happen at least you can leave this life knowing that you've fully embraced life and who you are in it.