Two Sundays ago, I officially completed my final round of chemo. In some ways it's hard to believe the treatment is done, while at the same time, it feels like it's been the longest 18 weeks of my life. Fact is, as described in my last post, I'd had enough of the grind.
When I swallowed my last Xeloda tablet, an immediate sense of energy returned. Not a physical boost, but an emotional charge. The side effects linger on. Most noticeable is the numbness in my fingertips and all of my toes. My energy reserves are still low and the effects of chemo on my brain seem strong. I find I am forgetful in inopportune moments.
Yesterday, I exited the office of my Oncologist, Dr. X., with a bounce in my step as the results she delivered felt in alignment with how my body has been feeling this last week or so. My white blood cells are back to just below the very low end of normal. My red blood cells and hemoglobin are in normal range. The two major cancer markers in the blood we've been monitoring are well within acceptable levels. My CT scan was clear and has shown no indication of any remaining or new cancer.
This is great news.
Dr X. advised me that it will take 4-6 months before I feel back to any sense of normal. The effect of the drugs in my system will take a long time to wear off.
But, now that the chemotherapy is done, I can work on rebuilding my body to health, especially in light of an expected surgery in early September to reverse my ostomy. I am booked to meet my surgeon, Dr W. on the 22nd to determine and plan the next steps.
In previous posts I've alluded to the deeper meaning that this diagnosis and treatment has birthed in me. As time has progressed, these insights have grown stronger, although they are still evolving. As I talk to others, and even in what I write here, it becomes more clear.
Life is fragile and uncertain.
Despite all attempts to the contrary, this process has reminded me that I am not in control of the situations life or fate delivers to my doorstep. My belief that my health practices, vitamins, meditation, positive thinking and the like could somehow protect me from life's unavoidable suffering, proved to be more fantasy than reality. This in itself has been a humbling revelation for me.
I've worked hard in my life to be healthy, physically, emotionally and spiritually. It's clear that these practices have supported me in this journey and my treatment thus far. And I will continue to employ them going forward. The big realization has been that my intention and practice were not enough to keep cancer from happening to me or in me.
Thus, it's no longer an intellectual exercise to contemplate my mortality. Even with the good news from Dr X. this week, I've come face to face with the certainty of my impending death. When it may happen, I, of course, don't know. And, to be clear, it's not a morbid preoccupation for me. It is a reality-altering awareness that now permeates my perspective and thinking. This fragile fate brings clarity on what really matters. It's allowed me to begin to distinguish what is important and what is not. Most profoundly, I've learned this.
I am enough. Just as I am.
I've spent a lot of my life struggling to ensure that I am worthy and acceptable. I've worked hard to ensure that others see me as smart, intelligent, witty and wise. I've labored to create a persona of success and accomplishment. I've built businesses. I've been a professional speaker and consultant. I've produced and hosted TV shows. I wrote a book. I've studied and read and learned, almost fanatically, to gain the knowledge I felt like I needed to succeed. And, this pursuit translated into some cool accomplishments along the way.
But behind my public presence – when it's just me in the mirror or alone with myself in the darkness – the effort and struggle has not translated to self approval. I've been more prone to witness and pay attention to my failures and screw ups. I can recite much more succinctly the litany of bad decisions and stupid actions I've taken over the years. It's been easy to see in my life where I didn't measure up. I've built lots of muscle at comparing my "success" to others and coming up lacking.
But when the rug got pulled out from under me with my cancer diagnosis, and my life felt like it was on the line, the need for external approval seemed to lose its power on me. I had to be okay with me, as I was. No one else had a vote on this one.
In my darkest moments within the fragility and vulnerability, I chose to accept that I am worthy... I am of value. Nothing more is required of me than what already is, and who I am at this moment in time.
The person I see in my mirror every day is already enough. Just as I am. Valuable, not because of my accomplishments or success, a lack of failure, or approval of others – but just because I am.
Because I am here.
I accept that I am both my extraordinary muck-ups and my moments of grace. I am the result of this crazy and wonderful journey I've been on.
I am light and dark.
Flawed and flourishing.
Yin and yang.
And, if I'm enough, and accept this in myself, I can give up the struggle to somehow convince you of this fact. The pressure is off. The striving is gone. I can just be, as I am today.
A 52 year old man sans rectum, uncertain about the ongoing presence of cancer in my body. Tired from the battle of this last year and the side effects of chemo that don't seem to go away. Frustrated by this ostomy that is adept at humbling me daily and a little desperate to get rid of it once and for all. More likely to go for comfort food than health food. Often impatient. Prone to lazy. Confused about my next professional moves.
But at the same time more alive than ever before. Grateful to be here today. Relishing every moment with my beloved Becky as we live in these moments and plan the next stages of our "empty-nest" life together, including building a new home in Lewiston, New York, in order to be closer to our family. I'm having profound conversations with clients and others along the way. I'm spending time with those I love and cherish. Reading books that challenge and inspire me. I'm hanging out with dolphins and whales and pelicans on the ocean most weeks and capturing them with my camera. I'm walking and seeing things I never saw before. I'm okay with the silence and not knowing.
The more positive experiences live with the struggles. They both belong.
As I settle into this enoughness, I can share my journey with you and others along the way. There are times and places I know I'm lost and need help from you. There are other times, where I have a feel for this section of the road we're traveling, and I'm ready to help you.
In all this, if I can offer you one thought from this place where I am, it's this.
You, too, are enough.
However hard you are trying to prove to yourself, to someone else or even to an unnamed or unknown expectation that seems to demand something of you, I want to remind you to let it go. If I can be one voice reminding you that in the muckiness of what is your life, the screw ups, the failures, the lack of success, it doesn't matter.
You are enough. Just where you are.
You might be struggling with debt, or an addiction of some kind. You might have some pretty nasty things you've done that only you know about. You're afraid to let it out for fear of what it might mean and say about you. You might hate parts of yourself that seem unacceptable.
But if today was your last day, I'd want you to know and live and experience this last day from a place of enoughness... of being okay, just as you are. Because if I know one thing, it's this.
Much love to you today!