I’ve been on drug (LDK378) again for over two weeks now and my liver enzymes look great. Business as usual, but with a less than subtle change; it is increasingly obvious that my formerly sunny attitude has lost some sparkle.
Sustained stress can be a real buzz killer, and we are attempting to address several sources of anxiety on the home front. However, even as the potential for greater serenity becomes a reality, I am aware that something else is missing.
Somewhere along the line, between work and worries, joy has been neglected. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines joy as such:
a : the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : delight b : the expression or exhibition of such emotion : gaiety
: a state of happiness or felicity : bliss
: a source or cause of delight
As I read these words, joy seems very far away indeed. Although relieved that I could stay on trial, I cannot shake my unease as to what is next. With scans every six weeks, and automatic expulsion from the trial once statistical progression has been reached (20% by RECIST standards), I am unable to settle.
It has been my intention to channel the underlying angst I am feeling into proaction; I am staying very busy, with particular focus on researching and realizing some opportunities for Peter. Last night David expressed gratitude for my hard work, and to have his recognition felt good.
However, even a flurry of productivity isn’t always enough to keep sadness at bay, and on those occasions when depression simply flattens me, I grab a book and head to bed.
Pema Chodron, a Tibetan Buddhist nun, is the author of several books in which I found great solace following my initial diagnosis with lung cancer. I am reading those books again, starting with When Things Fall Apart–Heart Advice for Difficult Times. The following paragraph offers apt resonance:
“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. And then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
The word joy shines like a bright jewel at the end of that passage. Regard the company it keeps; grief, misery, and the somewhat pedestrian relief. All mixed up together.
I think, perhaps, I have become preoccupied with fixing things. In a rush to identify what is broken, my perception has become selective. Seeing what is wrong, I am missing what is right. It seems obvious, and simple really.
But it’s not. Life is complicated and so am I. However, a determined student, I find myself ready and willing to take my lessons when and where they come. I shall start by welcoming joy back to the table; to let wonder and delight be part of the conversation again.