“Even when we are in the thick muddiness of our pain, despair, and tenderness, we can grow through it as long as we are alive and present enough to bear witness ” (Alex Elle).
“Sometimes what people see as darkness is actually where you find the voice of God and the voice of truth” (Joy Oldadkun).
Regular readers of this blog will remember that I am in the midst of a struggle with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that defeats the body’s attempt to fight infection. Currently I am in remission for the second time since 2014. The first time I discontinued treatment and lived a fairly normal life. This summer, my doctor’s revelation that I may be in remission was followed by a warning: you still need chemo, at least monthly. Also he reminds me, the current chemo “cocktail” will stop being effective and we will have to find a different treatment to try from among several that are available. I ask him if there is a treatment that doesn’t include Revlimid (which put me into several months of mental confusion and dizziness)? He says that he doesn’t think so, but will start doing the research. I tell him that if Revlimid is part of the cocktail, I will refuse treatment. He says he understands and agrees.
So . . . now I live in “muddiness” and “darkness.” Each month I wait for the explanation of my two blood tests to find out if the “numbers” show that this treatment will have to be stopped or that it has stopped being effective.
It took me few weeks to emotionally absorb the meaning of this information. On the one hand, there is still hope. On the other, death could be imminent. So . . . how should I then live? (to quote the title of a book by Francis Shaeffer, written and read long ago.) Several hours of exploring through contemplation and reading have led me to settle into some answers.
First, I will follow the plan that the doctor and I easily agreed on: continue with whatever chemo is available as long as it works, unless it contains Revlimid. Stop treatment if Revlimid is part of it.
Second, I will continue to live life as I have for the last several months, as independently as possible, but requesting help as needed – which will likely be more and more often. Asking for help has always been a sticking point because I was raised to be the helper. I’m working hard at recognizing that my self worth does not depend on my ability and choice to give – which I have done all my life. I am in a place where I require help and I’m learning to be okay with that and willing to rejoice in the help I am given rather than wallow in the fact that I’m not the giver. I have also been told so many times recently that I AM still a giver even as I become weaker and more needy. I am still growing even in the “thick muddiness of pain, despair, and tenderness.”
Third, I will relish the friendships I have – and be open to more. Since I am apt burrow into my ever more introverted nature, this means I need to make conscious choices to share rather than to withdraw. This means pulling my soul out of dark aloneness and relishing the time that friends and family offer. It means I will share what I can, listen to what is offered, and “rejoice and be glad in it.”
Fourth, I will “find the voice of God and the voice of truth” in the darkness. Daily I am learning to relinquish control and just live in calmness and acceptance. “Whatever happens happens” is rather trite, but it is the truth. For me it means taking my hands off the wheel and letting God be the driver. “Letting go” has been the path of my spiritual formation for the past twenty plus years and I am so glad I have so much practice! Calmness has not often been a trait of my emotional character. But more and more I can just rest in the peace of floating down the river instead of trying to control the current.
Finally, I will continue, as Alex Elle says in the quote at the top of this blog, to be alive and present enough to understand my body and my emotions and, just as importantly, to be spiritually alive as long as I can so I can bear witness to the process of living and dying in the hands of God.