Sunday, July 24, 2005

A friend of mine has been diagnosed suddenly, unexpectedly with a serious cancer. She's one of these types who eats healthy, exercises and is in uncommonly good health otherwise. She is lucky in many ways, if one can use the word luck and cancer in the same sentence. The fact that she IS so healthy is why she's still with us. They also got out all the obvious tumors, which were not yet in any organs, only on. They seem to be ahead of the game.

I want to be careful what I write about her. This is her situation, her life, her suffering. Though there is probably nothing more humanizing than the suffering of someone you know, I don't feel that I have much claim to what is happening to her and I don't want to extrapoloate too much from her experience as if they were happening to send a message to ME. As a writer, sometimes you do have to draw the line. I also want to protect her privacy.

Still, the reason I'm even writing this, is that she said some things that hit me profoundly, and also--and this is really rather creepy--there is a character in the novel I'm writing who has precisely this kind of cancer--coincidentally. And I see that I got so much wrong because I was guessing and imagining. And it kind of freaks me out that the writer in me is already at work, seeing my friend's illness, and applying to my own novel information I would not otherwise have gleaned. In other words, the fact of my friend's illness has helped me to clarify and write a more believable character in my novel. And I feel sort of sick about that.

I went to visit her yesterday and was surprised how good she looks. Though yesterday was the first day she had the feeding tube out, so I think this gave her exceptional good attitude. From all that I've ever heard from cancer-survivors (and god, how many of us know a bundle of them), there is a HUGE spiritual component to the disease for those who can go there. It seems to offer a kind of possibility of understanding something on a spiritual level that others do not and will not get. She said to me, "If I could impart something to others not going through this, it's that regular life is where it's at. That's it. That's the good stuff." This, as the simplest thing, like getting in and out of her hospital bed by herself, were attempted. She also said she had no idea what kind of suffering others went through, that she had never even come close to imagining it. She talked about her assigned values to things, how she'd overly-identified with her body. This is a woman who used to teach dance before her writing life took over, and who is very in touch with her body.

I understood the things she said in my own way. Regular life as she put it, the life that I have both come to appreciate deeply since I have been able to take advantage of it by working at home, and that some days seems to trap me in a bubble of despair, that life is IT. And it can easily be squandered, and shouldn't be. Maybe there really is no point to this yearning for success and wanting to be recognized. Maybe that just comes if you give enough attention to the work and put one foot in front of the other. The constant yearning, if I've learned anything in this past year, actually keeps everything at bay. Cyndi interviewed Lee Martin for Word by Word, and he quoted someone, I think Isak Dinesan, who said something like, "One should approach writing with little thought to hope, or failure."

He reiterated that idea that if you simply give the work all that you can give it, and don't think about success or failure, you sort of point yourself more in the direction of success inadvertently.
So here I am talking about success, when my friend is working hard on surviving this illness. I think she can do it. She has the health, the willpower, and the support of friends right now, who are turning out in droves, to do it.

I know it's a cliche that the suffering of others makes us think about our own lives differently. But it does, and it should! I was also affected by her comments about the body, how we see it, treat it. I realize how much of an ambivalent relationship I have to my body. How I'm kind to it sometimes, but most of the time I'm unhappy with it, whether how it feels or how it looks, and how silly this is in the grand scheme, that our vehicles for consciousness consume so much of our time. How much time and energy we lose in paying heed to vanity. How often we let our impulses for alcohol, sugar, heart-stopping foods run the body instead of giving it what it needs. Or worse, assuming we ARE our bodies...

I'm just rambling now. This is all just a kind of frenetic musing that isn't going anywhere specific. All I can say is that if you've stumbled onto my blog to read this post, though you don't know my friend, imagine that you do know her, and send her a prayer, a thought, a rush of white light to speed her on the healing way.



At 7:54 AM, Blogger P. A. Moed said...

We have seen too many loved ones battle cancer--some lived; others didn't. It's so true that there's a spiritual element when fighting the disease. Some would argue it's the main focus. The lessons you mentioned are so valuable, no matter how you learn them. As a writer, you'll use those lessons to help teach others. That's not stealing. It's sharing wisdom.

At 7:26 PM, Blogger Sharon Hurlbut said...

I agree with Patti - passing along those lessons is a tribute to your friend, not a theft of her situation. Healing, positive thoughts are on the way.

At 8:20 PM, Blogger Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Thanks girls...I'm still deciding, but I like that you don't think I'm a horrible person.


At 2:41 PM, Blogger Perfect Virgo said...

Sometimes rambling allows the right words to slip out naturally. No filters to mask the original sentiment, just plain language shot straight from the hip. Thank you for an honest, moving account, healing thoughts are speeding across the Atlantic.


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