Down the Rabbit Hole

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On the same day a colleague, Trish was doing her first Ironman, I walked at least 2 km instead of just 1. This is quite the adjustment to what I have been used to being able to do physically. My greatest sporting accomplishment, outside of ice hockey, was completing a Half Ironman, after just turning 40 years of age. It was an accomplishment because my body was designed for more interval, anaerobic exercise. Preparing it for the more aerobic, longer distance activity took a great deal of commitment to training. Completing the event took physical stamina and mental focus. I followed Trish virtually, as she swam, cycled and ran through the Cowichan Valley, always with a smile on her face, even when it started to rain (the first good rain here in two months) part way into her cycle.

People have commented on my strength as I deal with the effects of stage IV colon cancer. Honestly, I am not certain if it is strength or just pure stubbornness. To not get sucked into the vortex of an illness mentality isn't always easy, especially with the diminished physical stamina, fatigue, weight loss, and discomfort serving as constant reminders. A Course in Miracles states that "Sickness is a way of demonstrating that you can be hurt. It is a witness to your frailty, (and) your vulnerability..." I feel both frail and vulnerable at times.

How do I practice wellness, instead of focusing on the illness at hand? I first had to recognize that I was being sucked down into the dimension of illness. The more pain and fatigue I felt, the less desire I had to write, meditate, do yoga or even walk. It became easier to focus on what I could no longer do than to be grateful for what I could do. I felt like I was 54 years old going on 80.

Depression cloaked me in its heavy coat of darkness. I started to wonder what was the good of living this way, if the outcome of death was inevitable. Following my joy seemed to be impossible with how I was feeling. Joy for me used to come when I played hockey, went kayaking, cycling or hiking. It came when being around friends, enjoying a great meal and conversation. While I am still able to enjoy visits with friends, my body seems to be rejecting much of the food I put into it and requires daily naps.

My great aunt May, who was over 90 years old, wondered what she was still doing here on earth. I told her, that her job here obviously wasn't done. Mine apparently is not finished either. At one time, I thought my purpose was to physically fix people. That was my role for the past 24 years working as a Physiotherapist. Or at least that is what I thought it was. I am now in the process of retiring from physiotherapy. Perhaps, my purpose has more to do with inspiring other people, than fixing the physical issues. Although I continue to hear the message, "give up the need for meaning and purpose" during my morning Entering the Castle mediation.

"The Journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step." While on the path, we are only required to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes, I feel alone on the path, surrounded by darkness, and without any clue of where exactly it is that I am going. I can only focus on each single step, the right now, else I will fall. My path has been undulating, but not a hard climb until now.

I also know that I am not alone. I have the support of those who know me. I have friends who are caring for a loved ones facing their own illnesses. These friends still find the time to check on me. Other's are dealing with losses of their own. Each day, we get to wake up and take another breath, we will likely be met with some sort of challenge. The choice is ours on how we face it. Don't forget to ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness (no matter what our Wounded Ego's tell us - and mine is very vocal on this one). Recognizing that my lack of motivation was less from the fatigue and more related to feeling depressed, I reached out to a nursing friend who works for Hospice. My plan is to speak with someone at Hospice about how I am feeling. I have also been honest with people about how I am feeling. Even posting it in this blog feels vulnerable for me.

We are all in this together. My body may be giving way, but my Spirit does not have to follow it down the Rabbit Hole into despair.