When I opened my eyes to see my beautiful cancer surgeon smiling at me and saying “clean margins” and “clear nodes,” my spontaneous and drug infused words came so easily. “Thank you for every hour you have ever studied and every sacrifice you have ever made to be who you are.”
“Thank you” is all I can think of these days. Whether to the girl behind the deli counter who shares her secret for easy peeling of garlic or the good wishes and encouragement from you and so many others as I negotiate my first classes in the school of cancer. I would have had better sense than to have willingly enrolled in this school, but it recruited me, and I am learning lessons, some of which make me think I must be in some kind of special operations training for the mind as well as the body.
Part of my homework for recovery is walking, serious walking. This morning it was a masked walk in the huge hall at Union Station. I tuned my earpods to one of Jocko Willink’s podcasts. There’s nothing like starting the day with a Navy SEAL barking into your ears! Sometimes it’s soft music, sometimes it’s French conversation; lately it’s also been the autobiographies of people like Laura Bush and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Sometimes I dare pure silence and see how long I can focus on something other than breast cancer and treatment plans. Sometimes it is prayer, not asking for things, but understanding “the peace that surpasses understanding.”
Part of my passion for the privilege of being a therapist is knowing that it is not even so much the circumstances that we find ourselves in, but what we tell ourselves about them. Forming a narrative and finding meaning, and sometimes reframing, are the skills that help us to move from fear to understanding. This is the work of therapy. In negotiating my own journey through fear to understanding in this school of cancer I hope to become a better therapist, to pass my tests in courage, and to be able in all assignments to give thanks.