I realized today that cancer can be cured, but once you’ve had it it never goes away. not that I think about it much, for the most part I don’t, but sometimes in the dark of night, sometimes when you are suffering some new health problem… whatever the physical problem is, the real problem is always cancer. Having cancer teaches you one thing for certain, and that is that it can most definitely happen to you. Cancer isn’t just something other people suffer. Perhaps it is… but who knows who the other people are, and who knows whether or not you are one of the other people?
I have always been one of the other people. I belong to that tribe, the Tribe Of the Other People.
People die, people around me have both beaten and been taken by cancer. Once you’ve had it, cancer becomes the little devil of existential possibility in even the most unfounded and anxious worries over health. Cancer can turn an ulcer, cyst or ache into a tumor, at least in the mind, and what we think is our reality. if that ulcer is cancer, it’s cancer, and when it’s proven to be an ulcer and treated and healed… it just becomes the one that wasn’t cancer… but what about the next time? Once you’ve had cancer you know that not all of them always turn out to be ulcers, cysts or aches. Man, it’s brutal KNOWING that as an existential certainty.
No, I do not think about cancer all that much, but I had a long week and a miserable day to think about it again, and I learned a lot of things.
I looked around and learned that my life really would go on without me. Everything that was my material reality will still be going on. The sun will still be shining on all the people I love in Gainesville.
I know I am going to die. Not abstractly either, I know I am going to die. I can see it on the horizon, the only question is… who will I be when it comes for me? Will I greet death with grace or hysteria, with confidence or terror? Will I meet death at peace or in a panic? Will I meet death with a smile of contentment knowing that everything is perfect? That is my biggest fear, you know, it has changed. My biggest fear is no longer death, it is that I will not be ready to meet death with a smile, that I will not have mastered the art of dying. Will I greet death having attained Shiva?
I thought about Shiva a lot.
But I fear I failed this test. I panicked, I was not at peace. It feels like I have a lot of work to do before I will be able to stand back as the watcher and go at peace. But at least I had a plan, and I realized where I am. Panicky or not, my thoughts all turned spiritual. Whether or not I learn to die with grace, I know now that I will at least die a seeker with Shiva on her mind.
I thought a lot about Varanasi. Today, as I sat in the emergency room, I knew that I wasn’t going through it again. If it was cancer, I was going to Varanasi. I was going to let go of my body there. I saw myself on the cremation grounds well before passing. I saw myself learning to let go. I saw myself surrendering to Smashan Tara, to Shiva, to my own true SELF.
Yeah, a cancer scare is a helluva thing.
I suspect this will change me. I am hoping this has come to bring about a new clarity. I have a lot to sort through, but I know something has changed.
Perhaps what has changed is, from this point on, maybe, just maybe… the ghost of cancer has finally left me.