Orange for my stomach, green for lymphoma

Lately I’ve been meditating a lot thanks to a friend’s gift of a guided cancer-fighting meditation CD. I’ve done guided meditation before, especially in college, but it’s been a long time since I’ve returned to it. What was interesting to me is that the tape immediately suggested that I envision a safe place… I’ve been working on this imaginary safe place for years, and returning to it was exactly what I needed.

Meditation has helped me get through a lot of depression.

As to be expected, my mood’s been up and down a lot. The first feeling was obviously “Oh no! Death sentence.” Then some adrenaline-infused energy to figure out what to do next…and then I expended a whole lot of energy on reassuring everyone around me that everything was fine and I was fine and life was fine, when actually none of us can really know.

This caused such an enormous crash this past weekend that I sent dark emails to the people I love most saying things like, “I wonder how many years I’ll get to see my kid grow” and “I feel like I haven’t done anything worthwhile on earth, yet” and stuff. The darkness was tough to get through, and I admit that I spent a few days verging on tears, simply because I had no idea what cancer was going to mean.

Things got much better after meeting with the oncologist, simply because we had a plan of sorts in place. Tests, possible treatments. We still don’t know how widespread it is, but we’re going to find out.

Writing about my process here helps too, especially the list that shows my progress every day. Simply getting stuff out on the screen helps my mood enormously, because it pushes it out of my mind.

Meditation got rid of the depression because it cleared my mind of a lot of things. It struck me while meditating that in general, the older one gets, the more one’s mind resembled Times Square at rush hour. Focusing on the guided meditation reduced the mental noise down to a few things, and everything felt lighter after that.

Part of dealing with physical pain is dealing with emotional pain, and the meditation also helped find the source of sorrow in me and unravel it, reconnecting to a place that fills me with joy. This was definitely worth rediscovering. Even without a disease, shutting my eyes and thinking about a mental home fills my mood again like helium into a balloon.

So this is what I’ve done to fight cancer, yesterday and today:

  • Yesterday I took a day off from calling doctors and bugging them about my final two tests. I also went to lunch with my coworkers, laughed a lot, and bought some green ribbon to turn into ribbon pins for today’s (breast) cancer awareness day. I also did 20 minutes of yoga, meditated, and continued my vegetarian diet. Most importantly, I thought about the fact that I need to spend more time writing — just like I am right now.
  • Today I hunted down one of my “lost” tests, and found that the GI doctor had forgotten to send a note to the hospital about it. Gotta be on top of those damned doctors! I’ll call them again Monday to make sure they didn’t lose it, again. This is the work part of being ill.
  • I brought in lime-green ribbons for people at work to raise their awareness of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Many people wore the ribbons for me, and I was able to talk about something as “unsexy” as stomach cancer. Many of my friends also wore orange, the color I chose to represent intestinal cancer. This made me feel so loved. Thank you to everyone who wore the ribbon or wore orange today.
  • And tonight, I’m going to eat grits (part of a suggested diet of cancer-repellant foods), do yoga, and play with my kid. Whenever my mood gets dark, I will shut my eyes and reconnect to that feeling of love and home.
  • And if you believe in non-western medicine, here’s the report from Thailand from my mother:

Dear Tanya,

Na Kop talked to one of the Ajans (holy person, healer, monk), and was told that your issue is minor and curable. The Ajan said the issue is in your small intestine and is very small. You will be as good as new after the treatment. Without knowing, she also said the physician (she) is very capable.

I think it is very encouraging and I know that will be the case too.

Meditation, pray, exercise, and food, is the way to go.

Have a good day.



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  1. I hope I’m not annoying by haunting your comment wall … I want to be here with you.

    There’s a reason that people called cancer “The C-word” for so long … there is so much unknown about it, and living in that limbo sucks. You’re right about the mental noise; it can cloud our judgement and our feelings so easily. I’m glad you’ve found a way to minimize it, and quiet the depression.

    You know, of course, by the way, that there are many remarkable things you’ve done with your life. And though it’s true that there is no certainty in this life for any of us, I’m going to remain as optimistic as I’m allowed here that you will do many more.

  2. Achariya Rezak

     /  October 23, 2011

    🙂 Thank you Justine, you are so welcome to comment here. I always like your insight and wisdom. Love!


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