Shifting Sands and Chronic Illness

The last two years have been like standing at the ocean’s edge, trying to keep my balance as the tide comes in. I take a step and the sand seems solid, but soon my toes lose their grip. I sink into the wet sand, even as I brace for the next big wave. Exhilaration and fear–all in one moment.

In the last two years or so, what we assumed was solid ground was not. The waves have come at us so fast that we struggled to balance before the next one threatened. Climate crises, partisan divides, cruel and foolish leaders, police violence, civil unrest, COVID, insurrection, and, now, war.

In the midst, in January, 2021, Dana, my daughter, was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. The news threatened to knock us all over in a heap. But, taking our cues from her, we are learning to step into each oncoming wave. There is still the fear and sadness around what’s coming, but we are trying enjoy each salty splash of the ocean against our legs.

Dana has become the teacher. She is teaching us how to think of her illness as a chronic, treatable condition. She can’t eliminate the cancer, but she can act each day (and each moment) to build healthier connections both inside and outside her body. Those connections have kept the cancer at bay for now, but, more important, those connections bring joy to her and to all of us who love her.

So that brings me to some questions I’ve been thinking about. How is the current state of the world like an incurable but treatable illness?  How can I learn to live a full and generative life, in the midst of the frustration, the pain, and the grief? How can I work to keep the disease in check while I build more generative connections with my family and the larger community? What do hope and love have to do with it? In fact, what is “hope” in the face of a threat which is ultimately insurmountable? What patterns do I want to generate and sustain in this troubled  world?  Finally, how do I invite others into a shared inquiry around these questions?

It occurs that my answer to this last question is to post this short message here.  Please join the conversation.

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