Wednesday, November 17, 2010

After Cancer - Chop Wood, Carry Water (by Susan)

There is a little anecdote I remember reading in a book about Zen Buddhism.  Here is how it goes:
Q:  What do you do before enlightenment?
A:  Chop wood, carry water.
Q: What do you do after enlightenment?
A:  Chop wood, carry water.

The meaning is, of course, that when you have a great mental shift, outwardly everything stays the same - it's just the way you experience it that changes.  It also means that the mechanics of daily life still must go on even when you are "enlightened".  You still need to work, still need to eat as long as you are a physical being.  You don't get out of these activities by being an enlightened person. 

The same thing is true of surviving cancer - you go through a huge shift in your perspective but no one can see it but yourself.  It seems that the doctors patch you up just enough to put you back in the saddle - they bundle you off back to work and then wave goodbye (if you are lucky).  You think "Wow - I'm a survivor!  I made it!"  and then you just have to go back to the mundane life of earning a living and taking care of your responsibilities. When I survived my own cancer ordeal I somehow thought that I should just get some lottery money, or the government should subsidize me as reimbursement for all of the pain and hardship that I had been through.  Sadly, this was not the case - as soon as I was healthy I was back working again.   The difference in perspective comes in when you treasure that moment of  talking to a friend on the phone, driving to the supermarket, or  drinking your morning cup of coffee and looking out the window at a new day. Activities that used to be boring or taken for granted become precious when you think that you could have lost them forever.

I think George has been going through the same thing lately.  It is part of being a cancer survivor.  He is really looking great - having his hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows back makes him look like his old self.  But it takes longer to feel like your old self on the inside.  It takes time to trust your body again and believe that you have time.  

As for me, I wake up every morning gving thanks for having George in my life.  Taking walks, going on bike rides or runs together, eating out and having him enjoy the meal - these are wonderful activities.   Just lately he has gotten his spark back - laughing more and being generally feisty and ornery.   We are so looking forward to a warm holiday season filled with loving friends and family to cap off our Fabulous Fall.

On the food side, I have been sticking pretty well to the vegan diet, and I have some good news.  I finally got my blood work done and my cholesterol has dropped 45 points from where it was a year ago.  This is all without any drugs.  I have not changed my exercise habits or lost any weight (my weight has stayed the same), but my cholesterol dropped dramatically.  The drop all came in the LDLs - my HDL and triglycerides stayed the same.    My cholesterol is now in the normal range.   I am still trying lots of new recipes and have become quite used to the vegan lifestyle to the point where I don't miss animal products at all.    When I do eat them now I don't even like them any more.  Dairy feels gunky and meat has a weird texture.  However, a really fresh salad can taste heavenly.  I have had some people ask me about my calcium intake.  The answer is that you can get plenty of calcium from leafy green vegetables, grains, and beans.  I am getting a bone density scan next month so I will see if there is any difference there from last year.   

Next week is Thanksgiving.  I will be bringing some vegetable dishes (but NOT eating Tofurkey).   No matter what you eat, the important thing is to give thanks for the people you love.    So maybe I should revise the statement to be, "After Cancer - chop wood, carry water, and LOVE it!"

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for such a beautifully written post Susan! I am REALLY looking forward to the holidays at home! Love, C