When I awakened yesterday after a restless night, it was seven degrees outside, the wind was howling and I still had the sinus headache I’ve had for several days. It was also my day to drive to Boston for a CT scan. I dutifully sang my little song, “I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive,” before stumbling out of bed.
Slightly revived by a cup of coffee, I realized that not only was it the winter solstice, but our son August’s 24th birthday. So that was a good thing. When it was time to go, David had already started my car and turned on the heater. Which made me feel warm inside and out.
I popped Cat Power’s “Free” into the CD player and I started down that long and windy road.
When I am a passenger in a car, I almost always fall asleep. However, if I am driving, I am not only alert, but also in a mode very conducive to thought. Ideally I would learn how to utilize a recording device, as I’m pretty certain many of my most creative ideas come to me while behind the wheel. Maybe I should have been a trucker cum artist–it might have proved a good combination.
By the time I arrived at the imaging center, I was itching to get inside and jot a few ideas down. I selected a seat in the waiting room next to the thick plate glass windows. The glass kept the wind out but admitted sunshine, and when I was done writing I closed my eyes and enjoyed the warm sun on my face. My phone rang. It was Jose and the first thing he said was “Why are you answering your phone? Isn’t there a sign that says no cell phones?” That’s Jose. He was calling to wish me a good scan and a Merry Christmas. Moments later, my name was called.
After changing into your johnnies, you place your belongings in a locker. There were three lockers left: numbers six, eleven and thirteen. I made a mental note to grab eleven (half of my lucky number), but when I came back around the corner a gentleman was already placing his belongings in that spot. So it was six. As I joined him in the waiting room, I made a comment how nobody wanted locker number thirteen. He concurred that prior to a scan he was looking for all the good luck he could get. We discussed the fact that we were both, perhaps against all reason, superstitious. I shared with him that as I enter the CT scanner, I always visualize my lungs as clean and healthy. His scan was of his brain, but he has been doing the same thing for eleven years now. I think maybe he needed that number eleven locker.
Whether or not I actually believe in magic and superstition (for many people prayer would replace my chants and visualization), I do have faith in the power of these beliefs. The comfort of ritual is part of the equation. But more than that, the possibility that all evidence to the contrary, there just might be a miraculous solution to a seemingly hopeless situation. Call it hope if you will.
When I was diagnosed with lung cancer I was well aware that my survival was a long shot. Once my cancer had spread to both lungs, it would have been very easy to lose hope. This is where my imagination has been useful. Since childhood I have enjoyed fairy tales and fantasy novels and films. At times I picture myself as a character in one of these sagas. A character faced with insurmountable obstacles who will nonetheless prevail.
It is fantasy, this dabbling in magic thoughts. But as it involves positive imagery, because it is comforting, I will continue to believe. If not in magic, than in the power of hope and of a strong will to live. And the very real possibility that this attitude manifests in a stronger immune system. It’s a heady mix; science, medicine and a belief in otherworldly sources of power. Yet it is possible for these different approaches to be complimentary as well. It works for me.