The plane hurtled down the runway increasing speed as I watched the lush green mountains of Gumbaynggirr country rise up behind Coffs Harbour Airport. The plane wheels lift up off the ground and we are airborne.
What strangeness is it that, without any hesitation, I put myself forward and pay money to get into this metal box created by a science that I don’t understand, maintained and steered by strangers whose state of mind and capacity I am unclear about and with a sense of blind trust, I sit back and enjoy the view. I smile and almost laugh out loud at the bizarre nature of being human in these times.
In two days, I will do the same when I receive a dose of anaesthesia and hand my body over to a surgeon and a team of staff, whom I trust implicitly, even though I don’t know them, to operate using the best science they have been trained in and do things to the inside of my body that I also don’t understand. If I had to watch it I would most likely faint. Fortunately, I don’t have to and again, I sit back and enjoy the view… inside my own drugged state of being.
Since receiving the diagnosis, two days before Christmas, of a large growth on my ovary I have felt a sense of liberation. A sense of freedom, of truly walking into the unknown.
The mystery of not knowing is alive and well inside me.
It’s funny how I had ideas and plans for this year that have all dropped away, with ease and acceptance. I acknowledge my state of privilege that gives me the space and freedom to do this. I am doing what needs to be done in the moment.
At my first visit the oncologist said that there was a 50% chance of the growth being either benign or malignant. A middle path. I either have cancer or I don’t. An opportunity to be in the moment of not knowing and not guessing. I chose to prepare for the upcoming operation in the best way I knew how. I changed my diet only slightly as it is already very healthy. I revisited my Advanced Care Directive and rewrote my Enduring Guardianship and Power of Attorney documents… and completed my tax. I cleaned out my cupboards. Practical things that have brought me ease, order and a sense of timeliness whatever the outcome. I meditated more, had time with my family, went for early morning swims naked in rock pools and walks on my own as the sun rose. I weeded the garden as usual and sat quietly watching the birds come and go.
As I was walking the headland one morning I realised that even if I had been given the odds of 90/10 or 10/90 it wouldn’t change the fact that I still either have cancer or I don’t. What might have changed is the level of energy I may have given the greater figure – either way.
With much gratitude, I have received so many loving messages of support, care and best wishes, including reassuring messages from five women who shared their experience of having an ovarian growth and for each of them, it not being cancerous. I could feel their joy and the reassurance in their sharing.
I watch myself leaning into the hope, maybe expectation, that I, too, will not have cancer and I can list many reasons as to why that would be so – I am healthy, I meditate, I live a good lifestyle. Yet, what also comes to mind, are the funerals of four women who had a very different outcome to their diagnosis; who did all the best things to change their prognosis and yet life or in their case, death had other plans.
I have observed in my life that expectation can lead to disappointment and, on the other side of the coin, how optimism has helped me climb mountains. And, I recall those people who have overcome their terminal diagnosis. I breathe and smile at the strange nature of navigating this life being human.
I stop, breathe and lean into awareness and feel peace in this body and a joy at this simple act of kindness of deep listening. Not trying to figure this one out. Feeling the wobblies, the peace, the uncertainty of the future and the absolute certainty that life is a mystery and, in this moment, I can relax into that.
There is an ease knowing that I enjoy living, I have a lot to live for, a lot of love embracing me and also that life and death will have its way with me all in good time.
‘May I awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of my own presence. May I have joy and peace in the temple of these senses’. John O’Donohue