*April 2021* by Tess Taft, msw, licsw ©all rights reserved
“I’m in my dark place. I’m stuck in cancer thinking. I don’t want my life to be minor distractions from fears of my own death.” KS, coping with cancer
“If you see a piano falling, push me under it.” MR, struggling with recurrence
“The fair is in August. That’s all the fair we get.” MR
You EGFR Resisters are a very special community of people committed to stopping lung cancer in its tracks. When one of you dies, it may feel like a part of each of you died, too. It also can trigger all your fears that the next scan or test you face will devastate you. It can take a lot of effort to find your energy for the fight again. You may want to pull away from the support the group offers for a while to avoid the scary news others must face, but that will only serve to isolate you further. Cancer is lonely enough as it is. You can’t meet weekly or face to face with the other survivors who are fighting alongside you, yet they are there, counting on your support, as you have counted on theirs. You know the benefits of your online support: privacy, getting ideas from the group to help you stay motivated to manage the cancer in ways that can be added to active treatments, and you can lean on the hope of others when yours falters for a while, as it will. That’s normal. EGFR supporters are always available. Instead of stepping back, think about stepping further into the group support, sharing your feelings with others who can understand you more than anyone else, especially when times are frightening for you.
This is what can happen: When people, even online friends we have not met in person, die of the same disease we are struggling with, grief and anxiety collide within us. The low hum of fear which follows us like a shadow becomes a shout from within that feels beyond consolation.
We look at the death of a friend and dread the thought “I could be next.” Accepting the challenge and the mandate of this truth in the face of any life-threatening illness assures our path to peace. It means truly living, in spite of the threat. It means living well with uncertainty, working daily, if need be, to make it our friend. This is where healing begins and where our hearts that are broken open so the Light can get in. It’s a lonely journey to find or create a sanctuary of safety and peace inside ourselves that we can depend upon, even when people close to us die but is perhaps the most rewarding journey of our lives.
Ask yourself: what keyhole am I being pushed through right now? What do I need to learn? Deeply consider what you have learned about yourself since you were diagnosed and dragged through the fire of cancer, as you have been. Do you have more wisdom than you knew before all of this? More inner strength? More compassion for those who suffer? More patience? A deeper faith? A new and broader perspective on life itself? The roots of peace are within you, already seeded by living with cancer. These qualities will illuminate your path to peace if you allow them to teach you their power. Let’s take them one by one.