I was reading When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron while waiting in the oncology office for my friend. I was getting to the part about facing fear…
Her illness isn’t about my fear. And after the first shock when I learned of her breast cancer, my feelings about her illness are not wrapped up in fear. I feel positive for her. I follow her lead and expect her to come through her chemotherapy, be well, and then continue to live her life.
But underlying all of my love and concern for her is a pool of shaking, quaking, quivering and mind-altering fear for myself. If it can happen to her, it can happen to me. And I would be faced with choices.
I realize this is borrowing trouble from the future, and that decisions would be (perhaps) the least of my worries, but choices are not my strong suit. No decision is a decision of sorts and that is my primary path in life…to wait it out until the universe answers the question.
This is the basis of my fear. That I would be called upon to sit in a room, watching a video that tells me I will be sick, and miserable, and that I could have permanent damage from a medication necessary to maybe, or probably, or certainly, save my life. I would have to sign papers saying that I understand that my hair will certainly fall out, that my heart can stop, that my hands and feet may go numb and that I will call quickly with particular symptoms that indicate that I am having allergic reactions or that my kidneys are failing.
It’s the maybe, probably, certainly that stops me cold. Would I have the courage to make that decision? My gut wrenches with regret at not having comprehended the magnitude of the options facing my sister. How did my niece and nephew make such a momentous choice for their child? And how did my friend come to her conclusion? It’s a test of personal courage and there is no cribbing or cheating. The buck stops without mercy.
Having sat with my friend through “the talk”, I have compassion and great admiration for the people who bravely navigate through this …no matter what they decide. They aren’t just faced with a threat to their lives; they are faced with a grueling journey toward restoration of health.
So I’m going to finish Pema’s book. I’ll be confronting my own fears as my friend walks through her recovery. I want to be with her, knowing that I can’t offer very much from the sidelines. There are phone calls, visits, help with appointments, encouragement and the ever-present necessity for food. And there is the positive affirmation of health and healing. She is bravely doing her part and I am working on mine.