Cancer the Song

News of my need for further surgery slays me. Feels like a punch to the gut. Phooey. Is this why people speak of cancer as a battle? A little one sided if you ask me. I don’t remember punching back so much as I remember having pieces of my self excised. I don’t like the metaphor which suggests action, drama, activity. Fighting how? I haven’t found a way to raise a fist to my own breast. I prefer the metaphor of cancer as a song, filling my ears but not my eyes, effecting my rhythm but not my rhyme. Cancer is a song, like the annoying invasive kind that gets stuck in my head and won’t go away – inanely playing over and over while I’m trying not not think about it. . .

Yesterday, my students be like “Yay!” When they see me they assume I am better. I missed last weekend for my first surgery. I take no pleasure in reporting my need for a second surgery. I read disappointment in every face. I let ’em all down. Last week they had sent me light, love, healing energy. Not at my request. My friend, bless her heart, admits she asked them to pray for me. Ouch. She hopes I am not offended. I’m not offended. I am sad. I mean, ok, pray if it makes you feel better. I’m suspicious, however, that prayer makes people generally feel worse.

Prayer makes people feel worse? Surely you’ve lost your marbles, Kumari! I mean holy crap, what about “there are no atheists in foxholes?” Yeah, yeah, since I’ve got your attention – allow me to carefully explain. Disclaimer: it is not my intention to ruffle anyone’s feathers, au contraire, I am doing this for the basic human good. Prayer makes people feel bad because prayer seduces. Prayer trains people to believe they have power over outcomes that they have no power over.  Which otherwise, I mean without prayer, they would not be duped into believing they had any control over.

Specifically when people pray for my health two possibilities of outcome are 1) I get better and 2) I do not. If I get better concurrent to these well wishes, prayers, and reiki healing vibrations, the participants are likely to interpret my health as the result of their efforts. And that’s bad. That’s a very dangerous assumption to make because if I do not get better (which I didn’t) it means the participants are likely to interpret my illness as some imperfection in their efforts. And that’s not true. I do not need this second surgery because of any deficit in people caring. Far too many people care about me for me to believe that for a second.

While we’re at it. If there is a connection between prayer and health than how come cancer isn’t 100% fatal to people without prayer partners? To people without friends? Why is it my dear friend Scott, who died when I was young from cancer, died? He died because mutant cells replicated and destroyed him, not because we didn’t care enough. Honestly if he/I didn’t die from cancer he/I will die from something, eventually, so I’d really rather not pray. I’d rather experience what’s happening in real time.

I know. I know. “Sometimes it works.” There’s always someone who wants to point out how prayer made them feel better when their cat recovered or their mechanic had a lower bill than expected or the Cubs won the playoffs and surely that was due to their hopes and their prayers. Surely. I suggest the two happened concurrently but that don’t prove the prayer was proximate cause. I might have been playing loud rock music in lieu of praying and no one would argue my loud rock music made the Cubs win the playoffs after 108 years of not winning.

Let’s back up the truck for argument’s sake. Say for example a person wakes up in the morning and prays for good weather. Good weather ensues. Next she prays for a parking space close to the door of her office. Voila! A parking space is available. Two events, maybe four. . . doesn’t take much for a person to buy into believing she creates the results. After all – her co-workers don’t seem so lucky. One might argue that she is not statistically more lucky, she merely pays more attention but that’s a whole other blog. I am on board with healthy recognition of positive events, I’m only against magical thinking. Why?

Why? Because Bad things happen. When bad things happen the magical thinker is prone to believe because she causes good things she is equally responsible for bad. This world view supposes no one else has free will. Yes, Virginia everything happens for a reason – but not the reason magical thinkers assume. My husband didn’t leave me so I could meet a better partner. My husband left because he is an early adopter to opioid addiction. I didn’t lose my house to foreclosure so I could meet a better partner, I lost it by not paying the mortgage. I didn’t lose my belief system, faith, religion and friends so I could meet a better partner – although you know what? I did meet a better partner.

Whenever I meet someone who chirps “Everything happens for reason!” while I sit here in my cancer I feel intensely annoyed.

The fact that I have a much better partner and the fact that I have cancer are two unrelated facts which have no causal relationship. The fact that I have cancer and lots of people kindly prayed for me are also two unrelated facts that have no causal relationships. It’s NOT THEIR FAULT I’m sick. Do you know what I mean? As much as I don’t like blame the victim (think positive!) I don’t like blame the by-stander either. If cancer could be cured either by positive thinking or warm thoughts there’d be no such thing as cancer.

I went out hiking a couple times since my first surgery. The first time I had to turn back early on because I didn’t have enough range of motion in my upper left side to make the journey. Prayer wouldn’t have increased my range of motion but moving did. The second hike went much further. I enjoy hiking. If this next surgery is the last I’ll be back to the trails pretty quickly, but if more surgeries are necessary? These might be the last hikes for a while. I prefer to do what I can, as I can, for a higher quality of life rather than sitting at home hoping for better.

I sincerely hope you, even if you don’t have cancer, do the same. Think of all the time you spend wishing, wanting and hoping for something you don’t have and how your life might be more enjoyable if you went and did something you like with all that time instead of wishing wanting and hoping. Time spent praying is time NOT spent doing something else. And while I’m on my soapbox, Cancer is not a battle. It’s more like a song. I get to listen, I get to hear it as it is something happening, happening to me but there’s no fighting back. I am effected by music, not any one note but the combinations, the whole piece.

Sat Nam