A fascinating piece in today's New York Times about cancer phobia; cancer tops our lists of diseases we dread, for good reason. I never think of myself as a cancer survivor, because I didn't go through a long, drawn-out chemotherapy battle. That's only because there is no known chemotherapy effective against kidney cancer. A surgeon removed my kidney--the only treatment due to the size and location of my tumors--and I was lucky that the malignant cells had not spread out of it.

More than five years later, I finally realize (accept?) that I am a survivor. That the surgery was a shock to my system, but more important, the cancer was a shock to my psyche. I still haven't fully absorbed it. But knowing that my body freely hosted deadly tumors--unbeknownst to me, as I was asymptomatic--has had a great deal to do with my growing awareness of the toxins we are hosting in our air and water and in our stuff.

Cancer anxiety for me is focused on something that isn't covered in the Times article, what I call Cellular Anxiety. It's the place of low-grade panic my mind goes--before I can rein it in--whenever I feel a twinge in a lung or a throb in my head. Ah, of course. A rogue cell did escape. I have lung cancer. I have brain cancer. 

As I said: before I rein it in. I don't let my mind wander around in fear. But it takes a certain discipline. I am a poster child for preventative screening--though I know that the trend now among doctors is to urge fewer tests, fewer screens. The chances are really slight that I will have any other cancers. But not a day goes by that I'm not thankful for slight chances. For those of you who live with cancer survivors, be aware of this shadow anxiety, and tolerant of it, please.

Cancer did leave behind a gift. It is one of the central reasons for the Slow Love Life--a life of carving out even small moments for daily appreciation and absorption in the mundane and wondrous blessings of this beautiful world. 

No comments: